Friday, April 1, 2011

THE MARK by Jason Pinter ✰✰✰

My path to reading this book was an interesting one. This novel, a thriller, was the first published manuscript of the author. Recently, Jason Pinter released his very first manuscript online in ebook format. It caused quite a stir, as it appeared as if it was published in its raw, unedited state. Since Pinter is a best selling writer in this genre, and I had never read one of his novels, I was curious as to what a polished product of his would be like.
The plot revolves around a promising young journalist, thrilled to have landed his dream job working at the same New York City newspaper as his idol. As a result of a number of twists, he finds himself on the run from both the law and the mafia, and with the help of a beautiful young woman (of course!), he struggles to regain his identity, his job, and his hold on mortality.
I enjoyed the plot, found it well crafted and reasonably believable, and stayed up late to see how it ended. Were I to rate the book based solely on plot, I would have given it four stars. However, as is inevitable when reading a genre book, I could not help but compare this one with other thrillers I have read. Focusing on major elements, the one which disappointed me the most would have to be characterization. All the characters were very one dimensional, stereotypical, and failed to evolve at all throughout the novel’s progression. Overall, the style of writing was devoid of that extra something special that would lead one to call it prose.
One mechanical element consistently drove me batty. Perhaps I was influenced by someone else’s remark that Jason Pinter needed help with proper comma usage, but even in this edited manuscript there were issues, and I could not help but notice them. Foremost among them, conjunctions. When two complete sentences are joined with words such as “and” or “but” the writer needs to put a comma before the conjunction. If one complete sentence and one fragment are joined together you do not put in the comma. I do not mean to be snide, but my fourth graders know those basic rules. Somehow both Mr. Pinter and his editor seem to have missed that lesson, as correct usage of commas with conjunctions was patchy at best.
As a purely personal thing, I do not like books in which part of the narration is in first person and other parts are in third person. Chapters concerning the young journalist, Henry, are written in first person, while those dealing with the law or the mafia are written from a limited third person viewpoint. My preference would have been an omniscient third person narration throughout the novel, giving it, in my opinion, a less choppy feel.
One further warning: The language in this book is very strong, so if you are sensitive to the “F-word”, among others, this might not be the novel for you. As an overall summation, this is definitely a plot driven book. If that is the element that makes or breaks a read for you, then this is likely a book you would enjoy. However, if you like well fleshed-out characters, settings that you can visualize, and decent grammar usage, this is not one that you need to rush out and buy.

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