Review: “Gingerbread Man”

Ebook Review: “Gingerbread man” By: Maggie Shayne

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Run, run as fast as you can.  You can’t catch me, I’m …  yep, that’s right, the “Gingerbread man.”

The “Gingerbread man” is a romantic mystery/thriller and despite the silliness of the title, I downloaded it for a modest $0.99 because 1) it is Halloween, the time for mystery, scares, and gore.  2) I love mystery/romance novels.  Why?  What’s more exciting than trying to catch a killer or solve a mystery?  Well, when the heroine is in the arms of a dark and mysterious hero – yum.  And finally 3) as a result of reading countless (and I mean countless, because I’d be embarrassed to try to assign myself a number) romance novels, I’ve become used to ridiculous titles.  If I’m at a brick and mortar bookstore, I usually thumb through a few pages to see what the writing looks like.  However, a drawback of my love affair with Amazon is that I can’t thumb through enough of the book to get a good feel of the author’s style.  As a result, I gave in to my $0.99 and average Amazon review of 4 stars rule….and bought it.

In the beginning of “Gingerbread man,” Vince (a Syracuse detective) and his partner, find the bodies of kidnap victims.  Vince, who is torn apart by this discovery (especially after promising their mother that he would find them), is told to take a mandatory vacation.  At the scene of the crime, Vince finds the children’s book, “The Gingerbread man,” which was taken from a small town library in 1983.  Vince tells his department he’s on vacation and travels to this small town in search of clues.  It is here that we meet our heroine, Holly, who is dealing with her little sister’s kidnapping 18 years earlier.  Vince comes to town and stirs up Holly’s emotions on her sister’s kidnapping by telling her that the man who confessed to her sister’s crime lied and that the killer/kidnapper is still out there.  Vince presses Holly to remember details of her sister’s kidnapping and the two try to find clues to uncover the real killer/kidnapper.

When I started reading this novel, I thought (based on the $0.99 price) that it was the work of an emerging author.  The idea of the story works for the genre and the pacing wasn’t bad, but the writing wasn’t tight – the dialogue for the detectives didn’t sound quite right and there was a lot of repetition.  Basically, the things that you might see in your own writing after the first draft.  It happens to all of us and it just means that in the second draft, you have to focus on trimming the fat.  Or, bribing friends and family members to help you edit.  However, this author is listed as a New York Times and USA Today Bestseller.  So, I’m not really sure what happened here.  Maybe her editor quit? ….or hates her?  The repetition got so bad that after getting halfway through the book, I started to worry that reading this entire novel would impact my own writing.  As a result, I skimmed the rest of the book, mainly because I’m stubborn (I paid for this book, dammit) and I wanted to see if I was right about who kidnapped the sister (I was, ha!).

Outside of a tightening of prose, there were a few things that bugged me. 1) The heroine’s name is Holly (because she was born on Christmas) and her sister (also born on Christmas, but years later) is named Ivy.  Ugh.  This might have been cute if I wasn’t already cranky with this author’s writing style.  2)  There weren’t a lot of “clues” as to who the real killer/kidnapper was.  This is important in a mystery novel – you should leave the reader with some clues (even if they’re crumbs) to either figure out who did the crime before your big reveal or upon looking back, will realize that it couldn’t have been anyone else.  That isn’t the case in the “Gingerbread man.”  I figured it out because there are a finite number of people in the book and I’ve read a lot of mystery novels.  3) I saw the “big surprise ending” coming.  Boo.

I give this book 1 star out of 5 for annoying repetition, bad editing, need of better dialogue, lack of clues, and overly cutesy heroine/sister names.

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