Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Dan Brown's Clan of the Cave Bear

So Harry Potter was rubbish. Fortunately I had another new book to read whilst away.

It wasn't exactly stunning either though.

The Lonely Dead - Michael Marshall

My mother's a great one for recommending thrillers and detective novels which, combined with my realisation that Michael Marshall was the same man as Michael Marshall Smith (author of the excellent science fiction novel Only Forward), meant that the first book in this series, The Straw Men was an essential purchase. Sadly, it turned out to be just a generic 'serial killer thriller' (as the backcover blurb describes it) with some cavemen antics added on for freak value.

The writing itself was as excellent as in Only Forward, though, so when I saw a copy of the sequel, The Lonely Dead, on ebay it seemed worth a read.

But where Only Forward is witty and inventive, and even The Straw Men makes some fairly interesting points about the nature of base humanity (although it's nowhere near as deep as it likes to think), The Lonely Dead is basically The Da Vinci Code neolithic-style.

If the novel had stuck with its primary plot - the desire of the Straw Men (a serial killing group working in the background of society for millenia) to kill one of their own number, and the activities of a group of three colleagues who are trying to find the same individual for their own reasons - The Lonely Dead might have been capable of passing off as another in the line of consciously mythic serial killer novels, headed by John Connelly.

Instead, Marshall again tries to ramp up the level of meaning by throwing in some barely coherent waffling about Neanderthal Man and then info-dumps mercilessly on the heads of his readership, by trying to tie The Straw Men into everything from Roanoke and Oak Island to ancient Chinese coins found in the north-western United States and an Egyptian shrine hidden in the Grand Canyon. All of which just comes across as the sort of pseudo-scientific/historical nonsense which makes Dan Brown's single plot so irritating, no matter what he calls the specific book in question.

There is a third in the series, but really I wouldn't pay the twenty pence for it this time...
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