Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Review: The Dead Key

This was the second of the free books I got from Amazon as part of my Prime trial membership, if anyone else here is thinking of doing the prime membership I highly recommend doing it so it falls over two calendar months (especially a 15th-15th if you can) so that you at least have the option of getting more than one book from this deal.

The Dead Key by D. M. Pulley

In 1998 Iris was a promising grad student whose now stuck doing extra work on weekends in a spooky old building for her engineering firm. In 1978 Beatrice is lying about her age to get a job at the First Bank of Cleveland and her aunt's urging, but it seems like this old bank has more mysteries and conspiracies than either of them would have first imagined.

This book was weaker than The Mermaid's Sister and really felt like it had an inexperienced writer who had a good idea or two for a mystery but not the skills to execute it well. Beatrice, our point of view character from the past, was the more interesting and relatable of the leads, even though with her own personal secrets she's not very much like the readers. But those secrets gave her background and motivations, something that modern-day Iris is woefully lacking. Iris is a pretty good example of the kind of "young adult" that I find a lot in fiction and abhor; she did well in college, got a good job fast and yet has no goals and no personality. Oh no she doesn't like her job after all! And she's not trying to get a better job, put her head down and use this as a learning/saving up experience, or just doing anything interesting with it, she just complains! Oh no she doesn't have any friends, except that bartender she keeps talking to and feels like maybe she's a friend! Hon even in the 90s, and in a city like Cleveland, you have no excuse not to try and go out and meet new people one way or another. See why this kind of character is annoying? The author thinks that if they have so many "problems" in life that the audience will resonate with at least one of them but a character with problems is only likable if they get over them, makes for a more interesting story and one that you can better connect with emotionally since then it gives you hope.

Iris also practically refuses to interact with the story she's been pulled into, the mysteries behind the decaying First Bank of Cleveland which closed one day with no warning (which really did close in 1978 due to defaults, although the real life explanation is different than this fictional one, fewer bodies for one). Beatrice didn't intend to get wrapped up in the mystery as it was coming closer and closer to it's doomed day either but once she starts investigating a only tangentially related thread her caution and determination to see this through to the end make her half of the story by far the more interesting one. The eventual pay off however, for both stories, is rather convoluted and doesn't seem to cover everything it should, it definitely doesn't stick the landing.It also has a rape scene that's really downplayed earlier in the book. There was non-consensual sex, ie rape, and it felt both a bit out of place AND like the author kinda regretted it and tried to retcon it (which is silly since that's not how you write a story but honest to god that's what it felt like). Also made me distrust Iris more since she doesn't even make good choices in her own life if she's still interested in that guy, emotions can be confusing but this was excessive.

So in short, nope, don't read this, there are far better suspense/mysteries out there and I'm sure I could find some better stories set in Cleveland too if I tried!