Review of The Fisherman’s Daughter by Robin BarefieldSee full issue for 2018 06-25
When a teenage girl goes missing from her boat in the middle of summer, residents of Kodiak, Alaska assume it was a tragic accident. Nobody considers the possibility that there’s a connection between the girl’s disappearance and the murder of a local prostitute, but when other bodies turn up and the missing girl’s remains are recovered the investigation shifts focus and the FBI are called in to help catch a serial killer preying in teenagers and older women.
In this era of cost-cutting to maximize publisher profits by minimizing expenses it’s hard to find a book that is typo-free. As an author I’ve also had the experience of having someone else involved in the book’s creation insert a typo or misspelled word into what becomes the final copy. Overall, there aren’t many issues with mechanics in this book. Commas are overused and inserted in a few places where they shouldn’t be, but if that would deter you from enjoying a story there may not be many books out there that you’ll find readable.
Before I get into the meat of my evaluation, I want to state that I finished this book and was happy to do so. I wanted to read to the end. I was reading early in the morning and late at night. What I see here is an author that has tremendous potential. Whether that potential is fully realized will depend on how well the author receives constructive feedback. It was very hard to decide how to rank this book because I really feel that this is an author who, in a book or two, could be amazing with the right developmental editing.
There’s a lot of unnecessary repetition. Putting my editor’s cap on, I’d guess that as much as 15% of the book could have been removed by trimming repetitious sections. I’m primarily referring to repeated descriptions and information, In some cases the same information is presented multiple times. Some of the dialogue is inflated and is more about retelling factors of consideration than it is about revealing character or advancing the story.
Writing books with police investigations is its own challenge, however, and Patterson seemed very willing to share details of the case with just about everyone he interviewed. This ties in with another issue; a lot of case-related information was repeated interview after interview. Cops tend to keep information to themselves to control the public’s awareness and to allow suspects to incriminate themselves. They don’t volunteer casually and the repeated information could have been reduced significantly.
An example of the problems with the procedural aspect can be found in contradictory information. In some places it is stated that one of the victim’s was almost three months pregnant. Then she’s referred to as having been two months pregnant. Detail matters. How many weeks old the fetus was determines when the fetus was conceived, and that narrows the time-frame for identifying who the father was. Lack of specifics isn’t something police like to work with if they don’t have to because they aren’t looking to widen their suspect pool; they wanted to know who the father was and they would use whatever information was within their grasp to be able to identify him.
If that was one example it might not be worth mentioning, but here’s another. When one of the victims is found, the person who found it references how they don’t think they’ll “ever get the image of blonde hair, a pink parka, staring eyes and a slit throat out of her head.” That’s at the 16% mark for Kindle readers. But at the 28% mark we have the revelation that three of the victims “all had straight shoulder-length black or dark-brown hair, but Deanna Kerr… had blonde hair.” Since Deanna’s body was not found at the 16% mark, but Amy Quinn was, that means her corpse went from blonde to brunette.
While this may seem nitpicky, it’s the kind of thing that could, and should, have been caught in a developmental edit. It’s also the kind of thing that will drive some procedural readers crazy, because some of them are trying to piece clues together to figure out who the killer is, and when they’re given inaccurate or contradictory details in the investigation it makes all the details given lack credibility and leaves them unable to play along with the cops. And these aren’t the only inconsistencies in the investigative details.
There is also a point of view problem throughout the book. For example, Patterson interviewed Deanna’s parents alone and observed the mother in a housecoat. When Patterson and Morgan go back to talk to the parents, we have Morgan’s perspective referring to her being in a housecoat again. At times, knowledge of what’s going in multiple characters’ minds is presented. It’s hard to be 100% sure who’s information you’re getting.
Character narrative can reveal things about them and there were a couple things that baffled me. One was Morgan’s detail for fashion, down to knowing what type of hip and knee waders everyone was wearing and what the woman’s brand was. This is likely a case of the author inserting knowledge to try to produce a sense of realism and credibility in the setting; the issue is that the FBI agent isn’t from Alaska who is the POV character at that time so it seems odd. He doesn’t reference what type of jeans people wear or who designed other items of clothing so it didn’t seem fitting that he would be so particular about the waders people were wearing.
The other referred to a character that, honestly, could have been completing removed from the book. Jane’s sections are told in first person narrative, while the rest of the book is third person multiple points of view. This would suggest Jane is our protagonist, because of the emphasis on her character through writing style, but she isn’t an active part of the investigation. And when you’re at a funeral and your thought is that it’s “a depressing afternoon” with an exclamation mark tacked on the end, it may reveal something about your character the author didn’t intend. It was notable that her heart didn’t ache for the pain the parents and friends of the victim were in, but that she was more focused on the fact that it was a depressing experience. Ultimately, Jane was inconsequential to the story as a whole. If the book hadn’t repeated unnecessary information it may have been read better as giving a wider perspective on events. As it was, we didn’t need her in the story and having her few sections be from first person perspective when the rest of the book was third person narration put undo emphasis on her as a character. This is listed as part of a series. I haven’t looked to see which characters recur. It doesn’t read like a typical series, which is fine, but this may have been a case of keeping a character around who wasn’t necessary to the story.
This may not be fair to mention, so take it for what it’s worth. I write police procedurals so I have a lot of experience with them. From the very first second that a certain character was introduced, I knew they were the killer and I was right. But I was left with one question I had that wasn’t answered in the book. It may be have been an issue of me connecting dots that weren’t meant to be joined or an oversight and I’m not sure which.
I do want to see more from this author. And I did find the book to have many enjoyable aspects, such a characters I was interested in spending time with and a setting that is well developed.
The Rating2.5 Stars (out of 5): Needs work. This book has promise, and with the help of an editing team, it could easily be reworked into a professional manuscript.
The Pros & ConsPros: Characterization
Cons: Dialogue, Simple Writing
The LinksThe Fisherman’s Daughter on UBR
The ReviewerSandra Ruttan‘s website.
I finished this book and was happy to do so. I wanted to read to the end. I was reading early in the morning and late at night. What I see here is an author that has tremendous potential. Whether that potential is fully realized will depend on how well the author receives constructive feedback. It was very hard to decide how to rank this book because I really feel that this is an author who, in a book or two, could be amazing with the right developmental editing. The issues may deter some readers but I feel like, with the right guidance, this is an author to watch.
Visit the author’s website
Read The Fisherman’s Daughter
Sandra Ruttan‘s website.