Thursday, March 12, 2009

In the Company of Liars

Last night I finished David Ellis' novel In the Company of Liars. This book is very hard to describe, much less evaluate. In essence, it is a legal thriller involving murder, terrorists, government intrigue, FBI operations, and courtroom drama. But Mr Ellis decided to tell the tale in a unique manner: backwards. He begins the book at the end of the story and every scene in the entire novel takes place one or two days before what you just read. Now, I am normally not a person who goes in for gimmics. Too often authors like to prove how smart they are by fooling the reader with a gimmic of some kind. However, I had high hopes for this one (I knew about the backwards thing before I ever began to read) because of the author's first published novel, Line of Vision, which is one of the finest legal thrillers I've ever read.

I really struggled through the first third of this book. Most stories build up the plot and develop the characters in a logical progression, allowing the reader to absorb each new element one at a time. But here, since we are starting at the end, we have to see how all of the characters end up. We read about a suicide by a character but have no idea at the time who she is and why we should care. It's confusing to say the least. And to add to the confusion, the author frequently uses flashbacks of what the character is thinking...thoughts from their past...which we will read about in upcoming

But then, suprisingly, it started to jell. But the time I was half way through the book, I knew who the main players were and what their motivations were. Now I wanted to know how events got to be the way they were. I'm sure that's how the author was approaching the whole book. The ending (beginning?) was quite good and went a long way in overcoming my initial objections to the "gimmic." I will admit to going back and re-reading the first 20-30 pages to see those events from the different perspective of knowing the whole story. That provided good closure for me. I would definitely classify this work as "smart" fiction, as the writing itself is well done, and obviously every aspect of the plot is well engineered. Overall, I am both happy to have read it and glad that it is behind me.

I also completed another short story from the More Twisted collection by Jeffrey Deaver. This one was called "The Poker Lesson" and was a good one, if not quite living up to the rare air of the previous two entrys. I knew there would be a twist, of course, and correctly assumed it would revolve around just who was teaching a lesson to whom. Only two more to go in this collection...

Next up: a return to fantasy with number 3 of Naomi Novick's Temeraire series: Black Powder War.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding short stories: It's hard finding collections that aren't creepy. I wonder why so many short story writers are into creepy stuff.


Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire