A Game of Greed and Deception, by John Mathews (7:42)

IOD-GameGreedDeceptionToday I learned that a hiccup in the rhythm of the story can throw a reader out, all by itself.

What I gleaned about the story: Stephen is going skiing in the mountains with his pre-teen daughter and his new wife. Yes, really. Stephen. On skis. Can you just imagine? But new wife Tammy has convinced him this will be fun and says she has everything under control. Any moment now, I’m expecting her to pull off the mask and chuckle like a villain.

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Note: With no embedded cover, no table of contents, no dedication or copyright notices or even a title page, the packaging of the file gave me a very low expectation.

WTF #1: Conspicuous dialogue

Analysis: After asking his wife if she checked the weather forecast, she responds with: “Ya baby, of course I did, and we’re gonna get a real snowfall this weekend. But what else would you expect for a mid-January trip to Fraser, Colorado? It’s one of the coldest places in the nation! That’s what makes this weekend both romantic and exciting.”

Note: I’m haven’t triggered the WTF for this utterance alone, but it’s emblematic of a series of exchanges in which the author has tried to fold in some exposition. Unfortunately, the resulting speech is stilted and awkward, as though his wife is the spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce in Fraser, rather than a wife answering a simple question. Just about everybody who speaks on this first page does so in what feels to me like an old Vaudeville routine, heavily over-acting so that the people in the back won’t miss any of the subtleties. And that exclamation point in the wife’s announcement particularly sells it.

WTF #2: More overacting

Analysis: That’s the best way I can think of to describe it. Like a highschool play cast by all first-time actors. The dialogue continues to feel forced and unnatural. There were also several echoing headword clusters that cropped up in this same section. A double “She,” which was followed later in the same paragraph by a triple-“She.”

Note: And did I mention that the opening scene made me extremely suspicious of the wife? She’s planned their entire vacation and wouldn’t even let him see the brochures, taking him way outside his comfort zone. Methinks something is afoot. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, for a thriller, but if it does turn out to be the bad wife trope, I’m going to be annoyed that it was telegraphed so blatantly on page one.

WTF #3: Brick-wall scene stop

Analysis: I was cruising along, reading about how Stephen and Tammy had met, and about the things she’d confided in him that first night. And then—Bam!—the scene ended and we were on to the next one. Not quite in mid-sentence, but in mid-thought. It felt so jarring that I went back and checked to be sure I hadn’t skipped a page. But nope. Just a case of bad rhythm. More than enough to jar me out of the story.

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About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is uniquely unqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.