2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 0 books toward her goal of 200 books.

Book Review: The Washington Decree by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Like so many other readers, I’ve been of two minds about this one. I was thoroughly hooked by the concept – eerily timely and oddly prescient as it is, having been written a dozen years ago – but thrown off a lot by the execution. I don’t know if it was the translation (there were some odd word and name choices that felt like they might have been attempts at directly translating idioms or ideas from the original Danish) or the editing (there were a lot of places where I think a very heavy-handed editor could have done the book a world of good because it felt like it rambled quite a bit) or something more fundamental than that…

The writing is good – very good – at times; but then it devolves into a rather loosely structured, repetitive, monotonous series of pages (and sometimes even entire chapters) that I had to skim or I’d have put the book down and never finished it.

The characters felt like caricatures (if not outright stereotypes) much of the time, and I had a hard time finding anyone I could genuinely care about – including the two dead women and Doggie, who should (if anyone was) have been sympathetic but instead felt like plot points rather than actual characters. The bad guys were odious – I expected that, and they did not disappoint. But their Big Reveal of all secrets, great and small, felt a little overly dramatic and blatant. Frankly, if I’d just read the opening through the trial of Bud Curtis, then skipped to chapter 40 and read from there, I’d have gotten the entire story in a much more straightforward – and enjoyable – way. If things could be summarized so succinctly, I don’t see why the vast chapters in between dragged on as they did… There’s a fine line between building tension and losing your audience as you pull them forward inch by painful inch, and I’m afraid this one felt more like the latter to me for much of the book.

I’ve heard great things about Adler-Olsen’s Department Q series; it’s on my To Be Read list, and my experience here hasn’t changed that positioning. But it has made me a bit more cautious and if I find that the pacing is a hallmark of the author, I suspect I won’t have the fortitude to persevere as I did with this one…

My thanks to the Penguin First to Read program for my review copy.

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