Crater County

So there I am at Ice Escape, and a young man starts chatting me up about his book, Crater County: A Legal Thriller of New Mexico. It's a slightly supernatural legal thriller, he says. And I says, "A slightly supernatural legal thriller? I don't think I've ever read something like that." And he says, "How'd you like to review the book?" I says, "Sure, why not?"

We said a lot.

I'm going to give the author the benefit of the doubt, and believe that we just had a miscommunication over the content of the book, because it turns out that the book doesn't have any supernatural aspects to it at all. It does have a medicine man, some talk of spirits and being guided by winds, and some nods to Native American beliefs and philosophies, which I bet makes it unique among legal thrillers in and of itself.

But supernatural?



Magical realism?

Anything remotely like what we normally review on the Dragon Page?

None of the above.

I can't help but feel I wasted my time, reading what I thought would be speculative fiction, and ending up reading a typical thriller, which is not a genre I enjoy. However, I told the guy I'd review his book, so here it is, short and sweet.

It's almost a good book. Not quite, but pretty damned close.

Crater County has recently become the murder capitol of New Mexico with a triple homicide. And Luna Cruz, the assistant attorney who'd rather be an Olympic triathlonist, has to prosecute the megalomaniac pip-squeak who did it. Cryin' shame she's falling for his defense attorney.

So, like any thriller, more people die, herrings rojos are paraded before us, and it's all a bewildering mystery until the action-packed climactic climax... and the clean-up afterwards.

This is the second novel by Jonathan Miller, and as small press fiction writers go, he's not bad. I'm not a thriller fan by any means, but he tells a coherent story with interesting characters. And while the plot may be ordinary, the setting certainly isn't, and it adds a nice flavor to the story.

So why don't I recommend it? The prose, while far better than many self published fiction authors', just isn't quite there yet. He makes small errors in style that, if corrected, could make big houses interested in his work. The small author intrusion here, the jarring point-of-view shift there. The running gag repeated just a little too often. Every so often something would jump out that said, "amateur."

I have no doubt that Jonathan Miller has the talent to become a fine author. He just needs some more practice.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Crater County: A Legal Thriller of New Mexico by Jonathan Miller
Published by: Cool Titles; April 2004
ISBN: 0-9673920-4-7
Genre: Thriller

About Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy succumbed to leiomyosarcoma on April 1, 2007. The irony of this is not lost on any who knew him and laughed with him. He was the first “official” book reviewer for The Dragon Page Radio Talk Show, and after moving to Arizona, he became a frequent contributor to Cover to Cover, Wingin’ It, Slice of SciFi and co-host of Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas.

He will be missed.

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