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Tuesday 15 May 2018

The Man on the Roof by Michael Stephenson

Well. I have rather mixed feelings about this book. A young boy is found murdered in a street, nine of whose residents are the immediate suspects. It’s up to Detective Cady Lambert and her sidekick to find out the connection between the suspects and the victim and which of them had sufficient reason to want a young teenager dead. Probable causes are many: drugs, theft, abuse…and more. So many secrets. For a whodunnit, however, the detectives make few appearances.

The book is rather long: too long, especially when it’s extremely hard to feel anything for any of the characters. There are chapters in third person POV, punctuated with chapters in the first-person POV for each of the suspects. But they are nameless…they are merely Suspect 1, Suspect 2, etc. It was very difficult to apportion any sympathy, dislike even, for anonymous characters.

More annoyingly, there’s a plethora of howling errors: spelling and grammatical. Annoyingly, because the author is actually a not-half-bad writer: his descriptions of people’s mannerisms in particular were very good. But the dialogue was inconsistent, the plot is rather convoluted and there is some very clunky phrasing. I just didn’t like the constant use of inverted sentences like ‘to the back she went’, which seemed totally incongruous to the author’s otherwise intelligent style.

I suspect that this was self-edited. I would urge the author to find a good technical and developmental editor, who could shave twenty percent off this novel and tighten up the errors. A lesson in the difference between 'lay' and 'lie' might well be at the top of the list, as well as when to use ‘they’re’ and when to use ‘their’, that thirst is slaked, not slated. Perhaps a dictionary would help solve the enigma of spelling words like cacoughany (yes, really).

I would also recommend checking a few facts. Us Brits do actually use electric kettles, Mr S. We’re quite civilised. We have pavements on roads and everything.

A half-decent plot, some stylish writing, but the frayed edges need some heavy-duty trimming. 


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