Author: Chris Brosnahan
Received for review from The Pigeonhole
Summary (from The Pigeonhole website)
When journalists Gemma Masterton and David Levy start investigating their colleague’s untimely death, they uncover a world of sex, violence and murder.
I’m somewhat enamoured with the idea of serial – novel writing done like comics or episodes of a television series. Unfortunately, I’m yet to read something that proves to me that the serial form can be better than the novel as a whole work. Deadlines isn’t the one to break that trend, but that’s not because of the serial thing.
It’s because it’s terrible.
Brosnahan won a competition where he wrote a novel in a weekend. Deadlines feels like it was written in a weekend. Full of lazy writing, poor characterisation and some downright terrible flaws in presentation of police procedure, it stinks of first draft.
The concept of the story itself isn’t bad – a journalist dies, leading to suspicion that he was investigating something worse than what he let on. The race then becomes to unravel his story before the bad guys that caught up with him catch up with our protagonists. This is good – and could be particularly good for the serial form, with lots of juicy cliffhanger potential, and page turning action.
Unfortunately, the characters are far too flat to carry it. Typically, thriller characters don’t have to be all that rounded. Think Robert Langdon of DaVinci Code fame. When I try to describe that character all I can think of is that he knows lots of stuff about ancient symbols. He’s not exactly about to leap off the page, but he’s a perfectly serviceable vehicle for the plot. Gemma and David aren’t just flat – the only characteristics that define them are unpleasant. Both come across as condescending and preachy about things – clearly channeling the author’s views about particular topics. It’s okay for the author to hold those views, but I don’t want to hear about them through his characters so directly, especially when it doesn’t really serve the story at all.
Worse, Brosnahan often relies on flat telling the audience what the characters are feeling. ‘She was scared’ he writes, as Gemma has a gun pointed in her face. Well, duh.
But the most unforgivable thing is the appalling presentation of police procedure. Early on, the police allow the newspaper Gemma and David work for to break the news of the other reporter’s death. Before the family have been informed. Just… NO. It’s hideously unprofessional and just wouldn’t happen. Police do have a constant battle these days to find families and relatives before social media plasters the news all over the internet. I know of several people who’ve found out about the death of a loved one on Facebook before the police could get round to telling them. I would have believed that. But there’s just no way the police would break the news on a newspaper, especially as at the time in the story, they thought the death was because of a mugging – so they have no reason at all to break protocol.
Because of this, I questioned the validity of anything Brosnahan said. If I hadn’t heard of something, or thought something unlikely, I flat didn’t buy it. In almost every book we allow our disbelief to suspend for a while, but we are able to do that because we trust in the author and the world they’ve created. The world of Deadlines was a nonsense, and it just annoyed me all the way through.
I’m really disappointed that my first book from The Pigeonhole was such a bad one, because I do love the concept and the app is great – very easy to use and clean to read on, even on my iPhone screen. With better content, I think they could do a lot for the world of fast paced thrillers. But Deadlines isn’t the best foot to start with.