Roadside Crosses, by Jeffery Deaver

>> Sunday, February 13, 2011

TITLE: Roadside Crosses
AUTHOR: Jeffery Deaver

COPYRIGHT: 2009
PAGES: 397
PUBLISHER: Hodder & Staughton

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Mystery
SERIES: Part of the Kathryn Dance series

REASON FOR READING: I think I read a review somewhere and thought it sounded interesting.

Roadside crosses are appearing along the highways of the Monterey Peninsula, not as memorials to past accidents but as markers for fatalities yet to come . . . and someone, armed with information gleaned from careless and all-too-personal blog postings, intends to carry out those killings. Kathryn Dance and her C.B.I. team know when the attacks will take place, but who will be the victims? Her body language expertise leads her to a recent fatal car crash, and to the driver, Travis Brigham, a gaming-obsessed teen who’s become the target of vicious cyberbullies. And when Travis disappears, Kathryn must lead a furious manhunt in the elusive world of bloggers and social networking, where nothing is as it seems...
A roadside cross, of the kind used as memorials for people killed in car accidents, appears at the side of the road. A passing police deputy has a look and thinks the mourners must have been so distraught that they wrote down the wrong date: the following day.

But when on that following day a teenage girl is discovered in the boot of car on the beach, left to drown when the tide went up, and very close to where the cross was left, things take on a creepier tinge. Kathryn Dance, a police detective who specialises in body language, investigates, and soon realises cyberbullying might have played a part.

It was a really interesting subject and concept (both the cyberbullying angle and Dance's body language thing), and I wanted to know what happened, but I just couldn't stand to keep reading after about 80 pages. The writing was simply too bad.

This is not something that happens often with me. I'm not usually at all fussy about writing. I appreciate it when it's good, but competent is more than good enough for me, as long as the storytelling is good and has engaged me.

Deaver's prose, however, just grated. Awkward phrasing, pedestrian omniscient POV (not used for effect, or anything like that, it felt more like the author couldn't be bothered to describe things from Dance's point of view so he just told us so and so had brown hair, so and so was slim, blah, blah, blah), and worst of all, constant info-dumps. The disappointing bit is that the information in those infodumps was really fascinating stuff, made dull by the lifeless, textbook presentation. Dance first classified people on their Myers-Briggs type. Extroverts were this, introverts were that. She then gauged what kind of liar type they were. High Machiavellians were this, adaptors were that. And on, and on, and on. My favourite?

"...Now before I go on, it might be helpful to know a little history of blogs."

"Sure."

"The term comes from 'weblog,' which was coined by a computer guru in nineteen ninety-seven, Jorn Barger. He wrote an online diary about his travels and what he'd been looking at on the Web. Now, people'd been recording their thoughts online for years but what made blogs distinctive was the concept of links. That's the key to a blog. You're reading something and you come to that underlined or boldface reference in the text and click on it and that takes you someplace else.

"Linking is called 'hypertext.' The H-T-T-P in a website address? It stands for 'hypertext transfer protocol.' That's the software that lets you create links. In my opinion it was one of the most significant aspects of the Internet. Maybe the most significant.
Never mind that that is just wrong (the key to a blog is hypertext? really?), the worst thing is that it's such lazy, lazy writing.

MY GRADE: DNF.

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