Gecko Publishing, £8.99, ISBN 978-0955972607
Harvey Barker kills people using bad feng shui. No, I’m not kidding – he’s not called the Feng Shui Assassin for nothing. Then again, “feng shui” in this story isn’t the benign art of rearranging space and repositioning chi so that you will benefit from good luck. It… well, read the story yourself if you want to find out more. It’s free from the author’s website if you want to obtain the electronic book version. It is the hardcover that costs £8.99 while the Kindle version is $0.99, I believe. I personally find the whole concept of killer feng-shui a little too over the top and therefore more hilarious than anything else, but you may have a different opinion.
When the story opens, Harvey uses killer feng-shui – snicker – to kill a stockbroker by causing the man to jump off the window to his death. Our heroine Amanda Morgan, a Detective Constable with the Metropolitan Police, is on the case. But there is more to the case than meets the eye, however, and soon Amanda realizes that Harvey is more of an ally than an enemy as demons, imps, and a whole lot of bad chi come her way.
Well, Mr Hall has a kernel of a good idea and the imagination to go along with the execution. Feng Shui Assassin is better edited than most examples of self-published efforts I’ve come across, but it is at the same time riddled with point of view problems. There are many instances when the author tells the story from a certain character’s point of view, but he also includes details that this character should not know about. For example, on page 13, we have this:
Amanda caught her reflection in the pale blue background of the computer screen and wistfully tucked a curl of blonde hair behind her ear. A childhood habit. As she thought of her youth an unbidden memory sprang uppermost in her thoughts, the last influences of fading chi.
She was nine years old, standing in the cold playground surrounded by a ring of older girls. They were singing a made up rhyme, with nasty words replacing the repetitive chorus. She knew they were nasty words because her father used the same words when he was drunk. But it wasn’t Amanda who they taunted with the casual callousness of schoolchildren. Her best friend, Danielle, stood next to her, and it was her that they mocked.
Amanda tried to grab her friend’s hand and push through the circle of grey uniforms, but her friend pulled away and fell to the ground. The other girls closed around Danielle, singing and poking fingers into her shoulders and back. Amanda was calling out to her, trying to reach out to her, but she couldn’t break through the closed circle.
A knock at the door pulled Amanda from her melancholy memories. She was surprised to find her cheeks wet with tears and pulled her sleeve up to wipe her face.
Given that Amanda isn’t aware of the “fading chi” in the above scene, it shouldn’t even be mentioned at all.
The writing also suffers from information dump that does little to advance the story. In the above example, Amanda’s flashback doesn’t add anything to the story. No references to her childhood is mentioned again after this, Danielle doesn’t turn out to be the bad guy in the end, and Amanda isn’t exactly suffering from PTSD from the event that she recalled. That scene therefore is just pointless padding.
Characterization could be much deeper, because as it is both Amanda and Harvey are just superficially-drawn characters with little depth. The pacing of the story, however, isn’t bad at all, and perhaps some readers can overlook the cardboard characters to enjoy the action.
One more thing – judging from the ending, I suspect that Mr Hall wants to create a sequel. While that is fine with me, using incomplete sentences to end a story is something that I find more pretentious than anything else. I’d have preferred a simple and straightforward cliffhanger ending without childish gimmicks like incomplete sentences.
Feng Shui Assassin has an interesting premise and it’s a readable story. Unfortunately, very obvious flaws in the technical aspects of the execution prevent this book from being anything more than a decidedly very average read with plenty of intriguing possibilities. Still, let me know when the author has polished up his craft and come up with a sequel or something. I don’t think I can easily write him off yet.
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