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By Theresa de Valence - Posted on 21 April 2007

WHY CASEY HAD TO DIE is the second instance of an ARC (uncorrected proof) seriously impinging upon my enjoyment of a story. For half of the book, I did not realize I was reading an ARC because the cover was a finished shiny colour photograph—in spite of the fact that the colour looked like the book had been left out too long in the sun—that painful deterioration of red and yellow caused by the sun leaves a harsh blue purple like this. Moreover, the presentation of the text struck me as unprofessional and problematic: double justified formatting of four to six word sentences, plentiful use of ellipses formatted incorrectly, poor choice of fonts for chapter heading versus text, a distracting method for delineating one scene from the next, and the author’s misuse of ‘less’ versus ‘fewer’ spoke to me of an extremely amateur production. Imagine my surprise when I learned the author had been a creative writing teacher for many years!

The tone of this story felt bizarre, the language stilted. It occurred to me perhaps the author emulated a terse style from earlier hard-boiled detectives. After going to the library to read two Raymond Chandler stories, I didn’t end up feeling said ‘style’ might excuse the storytelling of this book.

I didn’t find the characters very believable. Harry and Carol Bronson, the main characters have been married for something like 34 years, yet she misunderstood him like they were newlyweds. They were both shallow characters, though again this may be part of a hard-boiled genre with whose rules I am unfamiliar. Harry engaged in banter with his old work buddies but no one else, not even his wife. Carol’s repertoire covered minimally restraining Harry’s sugar intake and ineffectually bleating at him to curtail his police activities. Chauvinist Harry referred diminutively to her as ‘the little missus’ and her spunk appeared only toward the end of the book where she gained oompf but didn’t actually do anything meaningful.

Half way through, I knew I would have a problem writing my review and perhaps might not even finish the book. However, round about then, the story developed a serious plot twist—we dipped and resettled our riding gear, and we were off!

The premise is patently ridiculous (we will terminate someone you love in 6 hours and 46 minutes unless you perform a convoluted dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin routine—find clues hidden by geocache). It’s a thriller in the true sense of the word with an emotional draw for the reader to follow the roller coaster of events until they reach resolution. That nothing makes sense (dissect the plot backwards, I dare you!) is irrelevant; the story works. You may discard character depth, logic, probability, and be left with only the convoluted plot—and you will continue to turn the pages—as did I. This story, despite weaknesses, will draw you page by page to the end.

Once begun, some books demand to be read—and this one does. By many definitions of good writing, this is one.