To tell the truth, I don't know why I downloaded this. It was on Booksy's free list this morning. Psychological thrillers aren't usually my cup of tea.
A 1994 Buick Regal with one broken headlight and a half-rusted chassis rocketed between the concrete barricades to the side entrance of Garrett County Hospital, slipped into a space near the door, and screeched to a halt.
Waldron, Kimberley. The Butterflies (p. 1). Vellichor Press. Kindle Edition.
Let's start with that publisher. Vellichor Press has no website, no internet presence. That tends to diminish credibility.
This opening sentence is all screwy. First of all, the chassis is the frame, the underlying structure, not the body. It's unlikely, therefore, that an ordinary observer would be able to tell if that part of the vehicle was half-rusted. So here I am with not even a full sentence read and I'm questioning the writer's ability to use the right words.
Before the end of that sentence, this vehicle rockets (fast) between concrete barricades, slips (slower) into a parking space, then screeches (fast) to a stop. Nope, it doesn't make sense. Where are the barricades relative to the door? Does the vehicle have to turn at all?
I'm tired of bad writing. When the very first sentence is fucked up, why should I read any further?
The second Maggie Mulgrew stepped out her front door, she knew it would be a wild hair day.
Wind blew off the English Channel, cold and crisp—and it played havoc with her already unmanageable red waves. Like everything else in her adopted village of Holmestead, she had learned to adapt to the almost constant wind by wearing her hair up when she ventured outside.
She had already tucked her hair in a messy bun, and resigned herself to having stray waves floating around her by the time she reached her shop in the high street.
“Good morning, England.” She smiled as she looked up at the clouds racing across the achingly blue sky. “It’s good to be here.”
She slung her oversized leather bag over her shoulder and danced down the porch steps, eager to start the day.
Dean, Cate. Ghost of a Chance (Maggie Mulgrew Mysteries Book 1) (Kindle Locations 40-48). Pentam Press. Kindle Edition.
In three short paragraphs: three "hair" and two "waves."
Then there's the awkward syntax of "Like everything else in her adopted village of Holmestead, she had learned to adapt to the almost constant wind by wearing her hair up when she ventured outside." Is this supposed to mean that everything else in the village has adapted to the wind by wearing its air up, or that Maggie has adapted to everything else in this manner?
The sentence structure is no less ambiguous in the next paragraph: Has Maggie resigned herself to the fact that by the time she reaches her destination her hair will be floating, or is said resignation a result of arriving at her destination and discovering her hair is floating?
Very few readers will notice any of this. I'm now convinced that too many readers are too accustomed to too much poorly written crap to notice anything. But reading an opening like this sets me on edge, to the point that I expect plot holes and flat characterization and errors of fact. This is bad writing that desperately needs either a competent editor or a writer willing to learn the nuances of good writing.
One page. That's all it takes to ruin what might conceivably be a decent story.
Disclosure: I acquired a free Kindle edition of this public domain work.
Although a bit dry at times, Edith Birkhead's 1921 study of gothic fiction is still a valuable resource for anyone wishing to understand the evolution of the genre. Her insights remain relevant even a century (almost) later.
She starts with Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto and moves forward into the novels of Mrs. Radcliffe, Matthew "Monk" Lewis, and others at the end of the eighteenth century. The connections she makes between the authors and the books they read as well as the books they wrote was interesting. Too often, literary analysts seem to assume the books write themselves and evolve one after the other without human intervention.
Many of the books and authors cited have of course been classics for a very long time, but others are less well known and less available even in this age of digitization. It's going to be fun tracking down some of these unfamiliar titles.
One aspect I found particularly interesting, and again given that this was written nearly a hundred years ago, was that Ms. Birkhead recognized the integration of aspects of the gothic story into other genres of fiction, whether bringing elements of the supernatural into the mundane setting such as The Picture of Dorian Grey, or allowing natural fear and terror to heighten the reader's excitement and interest, as in The Prisoner of Zenda.
The edition I obtained is complete with footnotes and index, which will be very useful.