Sunday, April 24, 2011

Belvoir by S.A. Huggins

Nutshell:  As the shadows of the Civil War grow around the town of Belvoir, the Randolph plantation finds itself besieged by a danger of another kind:  a serial killer who is targeting the plantation's slaves.  A naturally interesting backdrop, however, struggles to overcome the slow pace and multitude of errors.  Three stars.

Review:  Oh, Belvoir.  I really wanted to love you; the product description had me expecting a thrilling...uh, thriller in the vein of The Mentalist.  A crazed serial killer targeting the slaves on a Southern plantation as the Civil War threatens to wash over the area?  Sounds fascinating!

We have a "no spoilers" policy here at BHBR, so I'm not going to give away much detail about the plot.  However, Huggins has created a vivid microcosm on the Randolph farm--the action takes place and revolves around the farm and its surroundings--which appears to be the result of a lot of research.  I could easily imagine myself wandering around the place, and the melding of a serial killer tale with a Civil War backdrop seemed like a natural winner.

The concept is fresh and original--or, at least, it seemed that way to me, and I was prepared for an exciting read.  Unfortunately, the book has some issues.  The pacing, to begin with, is slow.  We're talking glacial here.  Reading should not be such hard work, but this was a book I kept setting aside because I was tired of waiting for something to happen.  This appears to be her debut novel, and Huggins is a talented writer--there are some really beautiful turns of phrase in the book--but it could have been tightened up quite a bit.  There are also a few anachronisms--in 1863, I doubt both that somebody would be described as having "his words stuck on repeat" and that a woman would fall from a "tractor". 

Huggins also makes many, many errors that should have been cleaned up along the way:  "peaked" instead of "peeked", "agar" instead of "ajar", "canons" instead of "cannons", and others.  Describing cold air, she writes that it steals a man's "warmth and breadth".  Wow, now that's cold!  Don't even get me started on the cough that turns into a couch.

This edition was perfectly formatted; I read this on Kindle for PC, purchased for 99 cents.

Rating:  I'm gonna have to give this three stars.  I really feel as if I'd been reading the first draft--the errors were rife and distracting, and the pacing was too slow to maintain my interest.  However, Huggins appears to be a good writer and I still believe that the story could be fascinating.  I only wish that the care she'd taken to format her work had also shown up in her editing process.

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