Letters to You

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Danny Vandenburg is grieving the death of his wife when his paralegal gets the brilliant idea of setting him up with her best – and still married – friend, Lynda Cervantes. Lynda’s husband, Rudy, is a businessman with a thug family and gang connections, who has come up with a system to send drug-laced packages into the prisons with the wardens and workers completely unaware. When his gang-leader uncles find out about Lynda’s betrayal, they decide that she has to be killed in case she knows anything about their millions-making project. Unfortunately for them, their rash action sets off a chain of law enforcement reactions that may very well close down their operation.

The main plot for this novel as described above also involves multiple subplots that are essentially written as short stories weaving into the more intricate main story. Each substory revolves around specific agencies including, but not limited to, Border Patrol and individual state and federal prisons. This is a very difficult style to pull off successfully, and unfortunately the author has a bit of a miss. Many parts of the novel are extremely confusing and required detailed notes to sort out who characters were, what their backstories were, and how they related. Better introductions for the characters to ease readers into the relationships would have been extremely helpful.

With the help of an editor, this could be a very good book. The storyline was very interesting and the author seems to have experience with law enforcement and military (as I do as well), but in addition to the extreme confusion caused by poorly described characters and too many subplots, the novel has myriad grammar and spelling mistakes. Sometimes the author doesn’t name a character at all in one of the mini-stories, using only pronouns, and I was completely lost. The major theme running throughout the novel is that of people recovering from grief, but in places it is a little heavy-handed.

I would look forward to re-reading this book and other books by this author once a professional editor is engaged for copy and development.
Other notes: (for author only, will not publish)
The author also has a tendency to not provide enough descriptive background to create smooth, seamless transitions, but instead just throws up an in-your-face explanation. For example, when discussing some of the prison-specific forms, the author will use the acronym for the form in the story and then in parantheses use the full title. This explanatory style immediately jolts the reader from the story while simultaneously not at all explaining what the form actually is. Without my experience, I would have been far more turned off by not understanding key parts of the story.
Many individual turns of the story seemed too contrived or convenient. One example is when both Lynda and JBell supposedly used the phrase “my little Romeo,” without any claims of hearing it from each other as if they both came up with it on their own (p. 27 and p. 33).
There is a very powerful main theme, but I question whether every character needed to have a major life-changing death that changed their entire life. On its own, this is a trope in fiction that can lead a story, but when the trope is applied to every character, it becomes excessive.
The heavy-handed foreshadowing was also a bit much. “If only it was nothing…” on p. 70 is one example of how the author is jolting the reader out of the story. As a reader, I do not want to be smacked in the face with the fact that I’m reading a story. I want to be tugged along into the world until I feel like I’m right there with the characters watching it unfold.
There were also some sex scenes that were incredibly uncomfortable for me to read (and I’ve read everything including romance and erotica), because without emotion drawing us into the scene and careful unfolding of a relationship between the characters, it felt like watching really uncomfortable PDA. The “placing fingers on lips” to shush people literary device is also just impractical and silly. How many times do people really do that? It was used several times in the book.
If the author wants more examples and further discussion, I would be more than happy to point out the areas I noticed. I do want to express that I enjoyed the main storyline and thought it was really interesting. The idea was good. The execution could be improved.

Reviewed By:

Star Count 1/5
Format Trade
Page Count 272 pages
Publisher CreateSpace
Publish Date 21-Mar-2014
ISBN 9781495990922
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue October 2014
Category Mystery, Crime, Thriller


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