Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Patmos Deception

Every so often I get a modern fiction just to try it out; Amish romances don't interest me, but Davis Bunn's suspense novels are something I keep an eye on. For one thing, he's a business man who's travelled to most of the places he writes about. For another, I like his Tidings of Comfort and Joy and Marc Royce adventure series.

When I saw his latest release, The Patmos Deception, I requested it right away.

The Book
Carey Mathers arrives in Greece only to meet disaster. Promised a job with the Athens Institute of Antiquities, she finds the gates locked and the institute closed up. Greece economy has tanked, and her dreams of further studies in forensic archaeology seem to have taken a detour. Her grandparents want her to come home, but Carey stays on when old friend and Texas journalist Nick Hennessey tells her he's investigating a huge story and needs her expertise. Ancient Grecian artifacts are being stolen, randomly, with nothing to explain who is taking them or why. Nick's boss, Phyllis Karris, is involved in Parisian UN operations, and thinks someone higher up is orchestrating the thefts.

Carey and Nick go to the island of Patmos, where a Greek fisherman named Dimitri and a big Scotsman named Duncan McAllister may have the answers they're looking for.

My Thoughts 
Unfortunately, there's not much to say about this book. Bunn's former hero, Marc Royce, was a complex introvert, and you could tell whenever he opened his mouth there were a dozen things he was thinking. Nick Hennesey was a shallow journalist looking for a cash break. Even Carey, with glimpses of creativity (how can a male author describe a ponytail so well?) never broke beyond the cookie-cutter heroine. A good deal of the plot time was taken up with past crushes gone wrong. That's cliche and boring, and we weren't given enough reason to care about Nick and Carey before their love triangles were brought up. The Christianity was tacked on, and for someone who is very familiar with biblical history, irritating for its shallowness. Even the suspense had the feel of leftovers rather than something new.

There were a couple of things I did like; had the whole story been about the Greek family who befriended Carey, it would have had much more punch, humor, life, and interest. They were funny and loving and friendly, and I enjoyed them. But they drifted away from the plot and only had brief cameos as the story went on. Also, kudos on the wrap-up of the love-triangle plot. Without spoilers, I will say the most satisfying moment of the book came from the ambiguous resolution of Carey Mather's choice of fiance. One of Bunn's trademarks with romance is his ambiguous conclusions, and the more you read them, the more they work.

Beyond that, I'll stick to the Lion of Babylon series. Characters took action. Made phone calls. Had conversations about things besides love. Altogether much less cliche in a current-events plotline.

I look up Davis Bunn now and again because I like a story about current events. A lot of excellent modern authors write historical fiction, and those who don't write historical tend to stick to fantasy or dystopian. I haven't found many (yet) that write out-of-the-park books about modern day events, but I'm still on the lookout. It's a gap that needs to be filled in the literary world.

Davis Bunn is launching a new name, Thomas Locke, and delving into the fantasy genre with secular publishing. It's giving him an opportunity to write a more subtly influenced Christian fantasy story. If a copy of his new books ever comes my way, I'll be interested to compare them to what I've read of his so far.

*This book was given to me for free by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Come back Christmas Eve for a very special War of Loyalties character interview! :) And don't forget Friday, when we'll be hosting the last book review for 2014!

4 comments:

  1. I love how you get thick books to review in the mail! Too bad this one didn't turn out...
    People are going to love your WoL interview! :) :) I'm a tad nervous about you posting it. :P
    Love,
    Carrie-Grace

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    Replies
    1. There is no felicity like getting a free book in the mail. :D

      So am I.

      Love,
      Schuyler

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  2. A well-put up review, Schuyler! I am sorry "Patmos Deception" was a bit of a let-downer for you. It seems it is reminiscent to the book I have started reading for Mr. Bunn as well titled "Gold of Kings" which I haven't finished yet; and while it is quite fast-paced, and thriller-styled. . . I have been feeling the writing is rather shallow and the emotions of the characters a little cliche? Maybe the genre of mystery-thriller is not my favourite, but I know I can enjoy it when it is well-written - I was not used to Chuck Black's "Cloak of the Light" as a genre but ended up deeply loving it! So I don't think that was it. Perhaps it was, as you put it, that "The Christianity was tacked on, and for someone who is very familiar with biblical history, [that is] irritating for its shallowness. Even the suspense had the feel of leftovers rather than something new." Or maybe, it is as something of what you once wrote in a review of another of Bunn's novels, that when he writes for his publishers and with the commercial aspect in mind, he loses something of his personal, more heart-felt touch. I loved the books he's coauthored with Janette Oke, for example "The Acts of Faith Series" and "Another Homecoming"/"Tomorrow's Dream"; I have a feeling some of his older historical novels have some real gems in them. I don't know. . .

    It was interesting because when I attended his writer's workshop in Oxford and Cambridge, I was both encouraged and yet discouraged through it. I felt that he has a genuine love for the Lord, and the calling of writing - that he is sad about much of the post-modernism and "grey-areas" of modern fiction, and prays through his work and lets the Lord lead him in that. Also, I found his thoughts on the struggles one takes with and through a writing process very helpful, about the healing of hurts through the process and medium of telling a story, about showing and finding redemption in one's own life through the stories you pen, and also a lot about the maturity of a writer and the experience one brings to a work increases the richness and understanding, especially of characters. That was very helpful! He also shared with us about his interest in creating fantasy stories in the mainstream secular publishing world, with a focus on true heroes of old, which I found very encouraging. He even shared a great historical-fiction story-idea he has in the works about sportsman Billy Fiske which I got very excited about.

    And yet, I also felt pulled down, in a way, by his perspective, or goal in writing; perhaps because he is so entrenched in the publishing world, and the way to succeed commercially, I felt somehow drained inspiration-wise, or felt that the only way to succeed is to meet the expectations of the market, and "do it their way", if that makes sense; more than in just the technices. . . but also the stories you write, potentially? I don't know!

    Sorry for this long comment, Schuyler! I really appreciate Mr. Davis Bunn and think he's a great writer, and enjoy reading his work, but I do think he has a tendency to aim at satisfying his publishers before he satisfies his readers, or even himself? And when he *does not* do that, he comes out with a really good book. . .

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  3. It's interesting what comes out of the trad-pub movement. Some books are solid and good. Others seem 'slapped together', though I am too much of an author to say those books are easily put together. I'm sure even the simplest ones are not easy for the authors--even The Patmos Deception.

    Chuck Black's Cloak of the Light was rich and moving and excellent action/thriller. I'll be interested to see how that carries through in his second and third books. I hope he finishes strong. Unlike in Patrick Carr's Cast of Stones series--the first book was rich, but the next two gradually got shallower, probably because he had less time to perfect them. Series do seem to suffer quality-wise in trad-pub.

    But series haven't always suffered. Take the Stonewycke Legacy, by Michael Phillips and Judith Pella. That one, while I don't like some of the plotting choices, stays strong all the way through and doesn't have 'deadline' stamped all over it. Whether contracts are getting shorter now, and publishers are requiring authors to push books out faster I don't know. But I would be curious to find out.

    I didn't say this in the review, but I view Bunn's novels as ordering take-out pizza. :) They taste good once in a while, though they may not be the healthiest ever. :) Unfortunately this didn't taste quite as good as usual, but I don't despair of him as an author. He came out with at least one other book this year, maybe two. It's hard to keep up quality with that many, and perhaps he just had too much on his plate.

    Wow, it sounds like Bunn had a lot of good things to say at during the conference you went to! Those points about morality and using novels as a way to heal yourself and others are so good. I would have loved to hear his teaching, and I'm so glad you got to go.

    One author confessed to me that she liked her work better before she worked for deadlines. It's certainly a pitfall to guard against, and by God's grace I hope we all can.

    Love,
    Schuyler

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