Finished Reading “Darkside” by P.T. Deuterman

This was my book club’s book for November. We’re meeting tonight – our 50th(!) meeting – to discuss. This is the kind of book I think the other members of my club will really like, while I will be forced to give a “minority opinion.”

***Spoiler Alert!!***A brief summary of the plot: A plebe at the U.S. Naval Academy plunges to his death from a tall building in the opening pages. Suicide? Murder? Accident? We don’t know, and we won’t know even at the end. We assume murder. The curious thing is that the plebe was wearing the underwear of a female “firstie” (“academy speak” for senior) Julie Markham, who is the daughter of another main character, Everett (“Ev”) Markham, a teacher at the Academy. Ev, a widower, retains the services of a thirty-something attorney, who also happens to be a bombshell (surprise!) who happens to be attracted to him (surprise again!). Investigating the case are Jim Hall, from the school’s security, and two NCIS agents, one of whom bites the dust early so his bombshell (surprise!) partner can work with and hook up with Hall.

Julie Markham denies any involvement with the dead plebe, and admits only to working with him some during the normal course of events at the academy. The administration of the school (the titular “dark side” as they are referred to by the midshipmen) wants the investigation to go quickly and with the desired conclusion of “accident” rather than the less palatable alternatives. While the investigation is going on, we also get glimpses into the thoughts and emails of the ‘presumed killer’, a sociopathic senior star swimmer nicknamed the Shark (I pictured a young Greg Norman on steroids… Not really). For kicks, The Shark sneaks around in the vast tunnel network found beneath the academy (this network is loosely based on fact, but greatly exaggerated for the purposes of the novel), using it for clandestine trips into town, where he hangs out with some young girls in the “Goth” crowd using them to lure victims whom he would attack while wearing a vampire get up(!)

Hall and Special Agent Branner (the tough as nails bombshell NCIS officer) learn about The Shark from Hall’s familiarity with the tunnels and The Shark’s graffiti, and from Julie’s ex-boyfriend who reveals that she once had a fling with Dyle (The Shark’s real name – I’m tired of typing “The Shark”). The last hundred pages go really fast as Dyle clearly becomes known as “somehow responsible” for the plebe’s death. Meanwhile, the administration – at the Insistence of the secretary of the navy, apparently – decides to close the case, with a judgment of suicide. Hall & Branner continue to investigate on their own and in a climax scene clash with Dyle in the tunnels, which end up flooding with water, apparently drowning Dyle.

Of course he shows up later, popping out of the water like a dolphin, to terrorize Markham some more. He is finally killed, however, and Julie graduates with the rest of her class. THEN, at the very end of the book, we watch as she sneaks down to one of Dyle’s lairs in the tunnels to retrieve and destroy her own “goth gear”, shockingly indicating she was much more involved with Dyle than we’d been led to believe for four hundred pages. The end.

Now, I enjoyed reading it, and it was a page turner, but I found it kind of weak in many areas, especially the awkwardly cliched “twist” of an ending. We have the “Big Sigh of Relief Because It’s Safe Now” when the villain is presumably killed in the flooded tunnels, after which all the hard-boiled investigators suddenly lose their doggedness and incredibly accept that he is dead. Even a dull reader like me knew he would be back. Then, even worse, when he does come back and is about to kill Ev Markham, we also are treated to the obligatory “Well, Now I’ll Explain Everything To You Since You’ll be Dead And It Won’t Matter” scene (this happens to James Bond a lot too) which I found annoying.

I DID like the interludes early on where the reader is treated to glimpse of the killer via entire sections of italicized text, revealing his thoughts and motives (at least partially). I did NOT like all the sections of the book where Hall & Dyle (and others) were playing hide and seek in the tunnels. I found it hard to picture this “landscape” to the point that all these sections seemed the same to me. I really found these scenes tedious.

I also did not particularly like the early characterization of Ev Markham, just turned fifty, as kind of a ‘grumpy old man’ caricature. Perhaps this was done, however, to additionally emphasize how his relationship with Liz DeWinter (the thirty something attorney) breathes new life into him. Much of their relationship I found less than credible, though. I couldn’t believe that she taped her conversation with Julie, then played the tape back for him (doesn’t that violate some “lawyer code” or something?) Fortunately I have two attorneys in my book club. Maybe they will explain this to me. It also seemed too “convenient” to me that this guy Markham just ends up with this successful, stylish, sexy, attorney thrust in his lap by the author. Although, as a middle aged guy myself, I have to admit this sort of thing “happens to me all the time”…NOT.

What else did I want to gripe about? Oh yeah, the chapters were VERY long, providing few natural breaking points for the reader. I’m not sure why the book was done this way, but I’ve rarely seen a book with chapters this long. I also got annoyed at the use (overuse?) of academy jargon, often without explanation. Sometimes, the jargon was explained via context later, but in the case of one term that I remember (“hundredth day”) it’s referred to for pages and pages without explanation until finally a character admits he doesn’t know what it island we are finally clued in. What’s up with that?

OK, so overall a negative review, which is somewhat rare for me. I don’t regret reading it though. As part of the “creed” of my book club we are bound to read books outside out normal comfort zone, and legal thrillers/mysteries are out of mine. I expect a backlash from my club for this harsh review, but maybe it will generate some lively discussion.

Advertisements

Next Year’s Project/Progress Report

PART I

I need help! Suggestions, input, recommendations, anything. You see, each year I try to have a personal reading “Project” where I focus on a particular author or genre or subject. Like 2008’s “Project: Shakespeare” or this year’s “Project: Civil War.”. I have a few ideas for next year but nothing definite yet. Some things I’ve kicked around:

1) Project:Kerouac (or would that more appropriately be called “ProJack Kerouac?”) I almost did this a few years ago, but wasn’t organized. On the down side, I’ve already read a lot of his books (not that I wouldn’t enjoy reading some again). On the upside, I would really, really enjoy it, as I love his writing.

2) Project:Scotland (or Project:Sir Walter Scott) where I focus on Scottish authors or books set in Scotland, or even Scottish History. I really enjoyed the Sir Walter Scott books I’ve read this year, but on the downside, they were very tough going for me. Worth the effort, but I worry that I will lack the perseverance to slog through some of his work. On the upside, I’ve become really interested in Scotland of late and am eager to learn more…

3) Project: History of England – here I would make it a point to read several books on English History, which is a relatively weak spot for me (often pointed out when I’m watching Jeopardy! on tv, or participating in Buzztime trivia at the local bars). Downside: reading non-fiction is not as entertaining as reading fiction. Would I stick to it? Upside: I’d really like to fill in this embarrassing gap in my knowledge of history and this might “force” me to do it.

4) Project: Epic Poetry. Now this would be really ambitious. Read or re-read The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and maybe throw in Dante’s Divine Comedy, Milton’s Paradise Lost, the Song of Roland, the Epic of Gilgamesh (I’m not sure all of those would qualify, but how cool would it be to be able to say I’ve read all of those?) downside: how HARD would it be to read all of them?!?

Help me out with some recommendations please. 🙂

PART II

I need to get cracking if I’m going to complete my “required reading” for this month. I have two books to read for book club commitments. The first is Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night, form which we are having a meeting next Thursday, 11/18. At this point I am still hopeful that I can attend (I’ll read the book whether I do or not, though) as I have some software training related to a systems upgrade at work. The training is currently scheduled for 11/15-11/18, so I would have to miss part of the final day’s session and I’m not sure how that would fly at the office, or even if I should ask to be excused from it. I guess I’ll kind of play it by ear and see how things look next week. I would really hate to miss a meeting, though.

The second is for my personal book club’s meeting on 11/23. For that we’re reading P.T. Deuterman’s Darkside, which is 407 e-pages long. My fellow book club members assure me it’s a quick read, though, so hopefully I can knock it out out late next week and weekend.

Completing those two would give me four books for the month (my “par score”) and I would feel pretty good about my November reading accomplishments. What’s missing is my 11th Civil War book, though. My goal of finishing one Civil War-related book per month in 2010 may be in jeopardy. The book I’ve chosen has been ordered from Borders, but I may not receive it for another couple weeks. Hopefully I’ll get it in time to read over the long thanksgiving holiday weekend. Well, I guess I’m working that Friday (sometimes it doesn’t pay to be a banker), but I’ve been toying with the idea of taking Monday the 29th off. That would give me “plenty of time” to read my Civil War book. We’ll see…

Progress Report

Well, here it is almost the end of October already. I’ve read most of my required reading for the month, with the exception of having the second half of Cold Mountain yet to finish. Boy, is that book ever slow going for this reader!

To divert myself, I’ve begun reading Thomas Hardy’s Two on a Tower. It is proving to be a great story and I can’t wait to finish it and get something written on it for my fellow citizens of Bibliophilopolis. I read all the “major” Hardy novels years ago, and am very much enjoying my reintroduction to him via this book.

Upcoming for November, I plan to read another book related to the Civil War, about the West Point class of 1846, which included several key generals in the war. I also plan to read the November selection of my primary book club – P.T. Deuterman’s Darkside. That should be an easy, diverting read for me. I also have Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns in the queue. This is a borrowed book, so I’d like to get to it soon, and I really enjoyed the other book of his that I’ve read, The Kite Runner. I’ll also have another Vonnegut title assigned by the KVML book club, but I won’t find out what that one is until tomorrow, when we meet to discuss Welcome to the Monkey House. These books, along with finishing Two on a Tower, would give me a count of five for November, one better than my par score of four, and leaving me at 46 total for the year, where I’ll hopefully be able to get my par four in December to make 2010 my most prolific reading year to date. Hurrah!

What about you? Are any of these books on your to read list? Have you read any of them already? Let me know your thoughts or suggestions for future reads..

Sent from my iPad