Bob Goodwin, $3.99, ISBN 978-1370277896
In many ways, authors are performers. Their job is to entertain their paying audience, and it can be thin line to trot, balancing their own vision for a story and giving readers what they want. When the author gets too carried away with trying to impress the reader, instead of entertaining them, that’s where the author runs the risk of the reader rolling up their eyes, muttering, “That doesn’t impress me much…”, and losing whatever connection the author has established with the reader.
That’s what happens in Bob Godwin’s debut effort Strike Me Dead.
There are two main threads in this story.
James Champion, at 26, still lives with his mother, as she is keeping an eye out on him after he’s had two schizophrenic relapses. Of course, in such stories, schizophrenia along with autism and other mental disorders are actually superpowers; we ignorant fools are the bad guys for forcing them to take nasty pills instead of letting them wear spandex and go out to save the world with their powers. In this one, James may be the only one able to piece together the clues to locate a missing teenage girl.
Seriously, who needs cops these days? Sack them all—sic un-medicated people with autism and schizophrenia on the trail instead.
The other thread takes place in the past. Morgan Finn hears the voice of God that tells him to not-so-Christian stuff. Ooh, what can this fellow’s connection to James be, hmm?
It takes a while for me to figure out what is happening on the pages because the author is very eager to show off to me that he has plenty of skills. For a big bulk of the story, every chapter feels like I’ve stepped into a new story altogether, as the author introduces new characters, new scenarios that feel unconnected to previous chapters, sometimes even both. The poor missing girl is out there, but the rest of the characters here seem far more interested in wanting to show off how quirky or odd they are, and how they are certainly not like every other character in other suspense stories out there.
By the time the author finally decides to get things back on track, there isn’t much of a story left, hence things happen at a rapid pace compared to the chapters up to that point. Some key characters undergo rapid changes in personality, and I am left going “Hmm…” by the time the story ends. Yes, I’m not sure whether that is a good kind of “Hmm…” or a confused kind.
I mean, on one hand, the author’s narrative is easy to read, and he can definitely set up interesting scenarios. However, he doesn’t succeed in linking these scenarios together to present a compelling story. I often feel like I’m instead reading a collection of short stories as I turn the pages, wondering whether the author is going to do anything soon to link these short stories and advance the plot.
Bob Godwin reminds me of those new film directors believe that throwing 10 jump scares at the audience every 15 seconds is a good way to make a horror film; he seems to believe I’m here for the flash and the fancy gimmicks and will be impressed by these things. Sometimes, a good old-school deftly told story would suffice, and in fact, I’d be happy with getting just that. If I’d wanted to see cartwheels, acrobatic tumbles, and magic tricks, I would have just gone to the circus for that.