Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review of And Then You Die by Michael Dibdin (Faber, 2002)

Inspector Aurelio Zen is recovering from a car bomb attack, hiding out under a false name in a small beach resort, waiting to testify in a mafia trial. His peace is disturbed when a man is found dead occupying his beach lounger. It seems that his anonymity is not as well protected as the police believed and he is immediately moved. The problem is, wherever he goes, people keep dropping dead in mysterious circumstances. When the mafia trial falls apart, it seems that the threat to Zen has disappeared, only somebody has forgotten to tell his would be killer.

And Then You Die is a novel of two halves. The first half is an enjoyable enough read. A little slow, but interesting enough, with some nice prose and observations, and solid characterization. The second half was very disappointing. The plot, which had been okay, suddenly becomes ridiculous. And rather than there just being one strange flaw, the rest of the book is full of them, compounding the problem (and the issues are not just small, niggly things, but crucial plot devices that are simply not credible). The pace shifts from being steady and sure to a mad rush to the end, and the charactization swaps to caricature. I really don’t understand the reason for this. It was if the author had made it half way through the manuscript and then suddenly stopped believing in the story and wanted to get it over as soon as possible. A real shame as the first half was good. The second half though was a real let down.

1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - I know just what you mean about a book that seems very promising during the first half and falls apart in the latter half. I'm sorry you were disappointed...