Sunday, March 2, 2014

SemiautomaticSemiautomatic by Rob Reuland
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I had a really, really hard time trying to finish this book. The plot is interesting, the characters are quite well drawn, there is a lot of humor in the book, and, most importantly, the "seamy and seedy world" of Brooklyn DA office politics is shown with incisive insight. Mr. Reuland worked in the exact office he is writing about, so I tend to believe his portrayal of corrupt lawyers/politicians who care only about their careers and are ready to offer lives of other people on the altar of furthering their goals. Mr. Reuland's message about the troubled court system is clear, direct, and powerful.

For me, the problem with the book is the writing. Maybe other readers will find the writing great; apparently the professional reviewers quoted in the blurbs did. I find the book grossly overwrought in many places. Simple actions and thoughts that take fraction of a second in real life are magnified. Time is stretched. Hidden motives of actions are elaborated on. The characters' behaviors are overanalyzed. It seems almost like the narrator is in an altered state of consciousness, being outside of himself. In some places it works, in most others it is an irritating affectation. It feels like Mr. Reuland tried very hard to add depth to his writing, but managed to add only a pretense of it.

Still, Mr. Reuland portrays the racial tensions well, and the interplay between ADA Giobberti and ADA Lauren Ashfield is sometimes engrossing. And the message "Things are not what we think they are" is clear. I would love to see the author quit the histrionics and pseudo-psychological-depth effects in his writing and focus on what he does really well: enriching the crime novel milieu with sharp social observation. One of the reviewers compares Mr. Reuland to Raymond Chandler. Well, Mr. Reuland has perhaps as much to say as Chandler did, but Chandler's one sentence is worth 50 tortured pages of Mr. Reuland's prose.

Two and a quarter stars.

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