Where Honesty Never Ends.
Suicide Note by Don Cox
Warning: Baby spoilers for the purpose of explaining potential pros and cons of the work.
Genre Classification: Romantic Suspense/Romantic Thriller
Greetings and welcome to The Review Board. Today No Labels Unleashed brings you a solo review.
Before I dive into my review, let’s take a look at the blurbs, both the short and the long, as provided by Goodreads:
A 27 year-old Brooklyn lawyer is baffled by an encrypted suicide note left by his eight months pregnant wife.
College student Lily Wilson left Los Angeles for New York to forget her dark and horrifying past. But when she starts feeling at home in Brooklyn, she learns that she carried her ugly past within her.
As her monster-past starts spilling over the pot, her best-friend and neighbor, Isabella Davis, goes missing without a trace. Dan Davis, Isabella’s husband, only gets an encrypted suicide note and a deadline to redeem his eight months pregnant wife.
Police label Dan as the prime suspect, so he has to evade jail to find Isabella. But he is forced to get help from an enemy.
Also, his secrets and craving for the gorgeous Lily keeps getting in his way. And his desire to get his wife alive becomes questionable.
The clock is ticking… Will he find her alive?
My, my, my … where do I begin? There are some who say that the quality of a book can be told by the blurb. The blurb has to have some key ingredients to determine such quality.
In the short blurb, you get the hint of suspense but not necessarily romance. That is rectified in the longer rendition. So, for the most part, the 1st ingredient is there.
Is the blurb written in such a way to garner interest for the reader?
The 2nd blurb has a tiny bit of potential, so I will still hesitantly go with “yes”.
Is the blurb well written?
There are words hyphenated that should be two words: “monster past” and “best friend”. Also, there are phrases where a different word should be used or where deciphering is not clear at all, such as:
As her monster-past starts spilling over the pot, her best-friend and neighbor, Isabella Davis, goes missing without a trace. (What is the author trying to say? What does ‘spilling over the pot’ represent?)
This isn’t a term that Americans use, so I am trying to give the author the benefit of the doubt, in case he isn’t American in origin or if English isn’t his first language.
Dan Davis, Isabella’s husband, only gets an encrypted suicide note and a deadline to redeem his eight months pregnant wife. (The wording is very awkward. For one, to “redeem” is usually associated with “re-establishment” or “redemption” but I think the author means to use “reclaim”. In addition, one would normally say “his pregnant wife of eight months”, not how it is listed here.)
Again, I gave benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the author got someone else to come up with his blurb and perhaps in a rush, didn’t do a full proofread before posting it on Goodreads and Amazon.
Taking a deep breath, I began reading.
WARNING: This review is not going to be short by any means but I will do the best I can to not drag this out any longer than it needs to be.
However, the two themes which are prevalent are “inconsistency” and “fantasy”.
The overuse and misuse of hyphens
There was not a single page where there was not a hyphen used. The only problem was that the hyphen was used, in almost all cases, incorrectly.
(a) Many words that had a hyphen should have been two separate words. To state all of them would clutter up the review, but here are some that stood out.
(b) There were spots where a hyphen was used in a sentence when there should have been a long dash (also called the “em dash”) instead.
Side Note: I know the American spelling takes off the “ue”, but I’m a fan of the British spelling. ☺
The dialogue is strange, and that’s the nicest way I can put it. Reason being, that it is not consistent with the backdrop of this story.
For example, Lily is a college student whose origins are California. The way Californians talk is differently than the way a New Yorker talks. Even New Yorkers—depending whether you are from one of New York City’s five boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island) or not, have different accents and different sayings associating with said neighborhood. I could not sense any fusion between her location and the language. This wasn’t just the case with her but with every single character in this book.
On top of that, there was also a shift from modern tone to historical tone, akin to one reciting William Shakespeare as part of a play, due to the incorporation of “whilst” and “thine”. I researched to see if this was a book that included time travel. If it was, then the random swap in language would make sense. Unfortunately, there was nothing to indicate any form of time travel, so why would the characters switch from talking like modern grownups, to Shakespearean characters, to people barely out of middle school? This baffled me all throughout the story, along with a book that would receive a Pulitzer Prize in Hyphenology—if there were such a thing.
(3) Word Placement and Weird Phrases
While I read “Suicide Note”, I had to double check to ensure I was not holding a children’s workbook. Here is what I mean, if you will allow me a quick digression.
In one of my classes, I was given a textbook and a workbook. The workbook served as a learning tool, or guide, to see how much of what I learned in the textbook was retained. One of the exercises was which word does not belong in the sentence, or which phrase does not make sense.
This book was a throwback to that experience.
Here are a few of many examples.
(a) “She turns and stares at his eyes with her baby-blue eyes – her long lashes quivering like they want to hug his short ones.”
First off, how can one quiver and hug at the same time? The movement associated with quivering would make it very hard for a person to secure a hug. Second of all, how can a lash hug?
(b) “Their mouths start wrestling fiercely.”
The wrestling fan in me keeps imaging what type of moves the mouths are doing. Fore tongue shots? Lip slams? Figure four mouth locks? Saliva adjustment? Would French kisses be considered spears?
(c) “Unfortunately, they jostle her wavy hair further away from her cheeks and grab her obvious cheekbones and then perfect the violence.”
Obvious as opposed to obscure cheekbones? I see. Where would cheekbones be if not near the cheeks? Is her face so gaunt that the bones are bulging? Perfect the violence? Is he trying to have an intimate moment with this woman or trying to kill her? If that is what a romantic time is like, I’d hate to see what the 50 Shades rendition consists of.
(d) “His green eyes bulge like she’s a ghost or a seven-headed snake.”
Okay, so are his eyes mimicking the ghost? If so, what kind of ghost is it? If it is the type of ghost that is just a white sheet, it doesn’t have eyes because the holes are where the eyes used to be.
Let’s talk about this seven headed snake. I’m not a fan of a regular looking snake—it does not need to have seven heads to make my eyes bulge in fear.
Plus, are his eyes actually bulging, like one would see in a cartoon?
(e) “She is just a straight-cut with tiny boobs.”
Is she an alien? I keep picturing a straight haired wig with tiny boobs jutting out of it.
(f) “Since emotions are contagious her voice is also vibrating.”
Contagious? Did I miss the memo from the Center of Disease Control that emotions are contagious? I must have. I also missed the announcement that contagious emotions can cause one’s voice to vibrate.
(g) “She does her best to terminate the hugging.”
Whoa! Arnold Schwarzenegger, watch out. You’re in great shape for 68 but a new Terminator is in town. Its name is Hugging and Hugging needs to be stopped.
What all these examples have in common:
1. The attempts at “Romancing the Words” fail horribly—even worse, caused me to get the wrong image in my head.
Speaking of “Romancing the Words”, I have to say this bit.
This author had a penchant for using the words “squishy”, “squashy”, and “spongy” in relation to body parts that were oversized and flattering on a female, namely breasts and booty.
I don’t care what part of the world you are from: “squishy”, “squashy” and “spongy” are NOT sexy. Not. Sexy. Not. Ever!!! Yes, the extra exclamations are on purpose.
As a matter of fact, if a man was to call me “squishy”, “squashy” or “spongy”, the following would happen.
Step 1: I would take something squishy, like a spoon of mashed potatoes, and fling it in his face.
Step 2: I would squash his big toe with my high heeled shoe(thick platform or slight stiletto depending on my outfit)
Step 3: I would splash him with some liquid—sans some wine, because I would drink that—and he would have to use a sponge to clean it up.
2. A huge chunk of the word choices are way too forceful for the tone the author wanted to set. For romantic settings, use words to convey sensuality and passion, not words that make you feel as if you are watching the latest Wrestlemania or BDSM porn. Yet, for the scenes that needed urgency, the language fell flat and was too flowery.
For the plot holes segment I will need a bit of help—a Mini that knows a bit of Truth when it comes to anything related to science. Therefore, Mini Truth will be chiming on the areas that relate to NY mannerisms because she is originally from New York and knows a bit about how science works.
The point I’m trying to make is that although this is fiction, it has to be believable fiction: especially as it relates to anything suspenseful, crime filled or thrilling. There are way too many cracks in “Suicide Note”. Like pouring water into a cracked glass—it just doesn’t hold. Below are the three most telling examples of this epic fail.
Situation 1 has to do with the fact that my Common Sense radar was insulted while Situations 2 and 3 make me question whether the author did adequate research before putting these elements in his work.
Dan the husband knows that Isa the wife is feeling insecure about Lily the temptress. They had a fight about her recently—think the previous night. The very next day Dan, Isa and their daughter Chloe are having a picnic. Lily the temptress screams, and Dan leaves his wife to tend to the temptress. The temptress reveals there is a snake slithering around on the premises.
Question #1: If there is a snake slithering around, why haven’t Isa the wife and Chloe the daughter moved from the grassy area (aka “abandon all picnic fantasies”)?
It may be a cultural thing but in my culture, any mention of snake means “to move in the opposite direction”. If the snake is non-poisonous, I’ll let someone else find that out. I’m not going to risk getting bit, just in case it is poisonous.
Side Comment: Since this story is set in Brooklyn, NY and NY is known for its large rats, shouldn’t there be fewer rats if there are so many snakes? #justsaying
Question #2: If Dan keeps saying there’s nothing between him and Lily, why is he running like his feet are on fire to see what Lily wants, making him look more suspicious?
The way my intuition is set up, any actions that are in contradiction of your words propels other parts of me to act up. Like my voice, asking “Where are you going?” followed by, “If there is a snake over there, she needs to call Pest Control. You’re a lawyer not a snake killer.”
Question #3: What woman you know is going to sit there while your husband is trying to rescue the very female she suspects her husband is having an affair with?
No, no, no! If Dan is going over there like his tail is on fire, I’m going to act like my feet are on fire, too. Maybe we can both get the snake together, although the only snake is Lily.
Dan comes home to find no wife but a suicide note. The fact that his wife is missing causes him to throw up—some of said throw up is on the note. He picks up the note to wipe the nastiness off and then puts it in his pocket. Then, he calls his parents to try and figure out what to do. After that, he calls the cops and they come over, treating it as if this is some social visit—later on citing there is no fingerprints on the suicide note and that the note is encrypted.
Question #1: The moment it hits home that Isa is actually missing, why would you touch anything that would be considered evidence, much less put it in your pocket?
Question #2: Why would you call your parents first and not the cops?
Question #3: Why isn’t Dan suspected from the jump the moment he didn’t call the cops first?
Question #4: How can the note have no fingerprints when Dan’s DNA is all over it?
Question #5: How can a note be encrypted when someone who’s not an expert in said field can decode it? (Yes, I decoded the note before Dan did and in under ten minutes.)
First, I would like to say that scientifically speaking, in the manner in which the note was handled (IE: the vomit, the pocket stuffing, showing it to the cops) there was no way in hell that there were no finger prints on it. Also, it would be drenched in DNA.
Now, in regards to the encryption business.
Truly professionally encrypted letters are based on words selected from various literature sources in order to compile a single meaning. This is to say that the Encryptor makes his/her own dictionary utilizing words that to others might seem mundane, but to that person and his/her counterpart is important.
For example: the word “dog” could mean “airplane”, so if the letter says “I’m going to walk the dog” it actually means “I’m taking an airplane.” So, another example, a letter that is talking about Shakespeare can actually be a death threat to someone.
I say that to say this … SCRAMBLING LETTERS ISN’T encryption.
You may carry on, Unleashed.
Lily the temptress is picked up by the NYPD. She is taken into an interrogation room where Samantha, one of the NYPD cops, begins asking questions. The first question that is asked of Lily is, “What is your favorite food?” After Lily and Samantha discover they share a love for pepperoni pizza, Samantha jots down a math problem on a piece of paper and asks Lily to solve it. Once that testing is completed, miraculously Lily’s handwriting matches that on the encrypted suicide note, followed by the fact that Lily must have paid some men to kidnap Isa. Then, somewhere in the midst of this questioning, Samantha pulls out a piece of paper and recites the Miranda rights from the paper.
Question #1: Shouldn’t cops know the Miranda rights verbatim?
Question #2: (a) Aren’t the Miranda rights supposed to be read before the person even gets placed in handcuffs and placed under arrest? (b) If the cop fails to read the person the Miranda rights, can said person move to be released automatically?
Question #3: (a) What in the name of taste buds and a growling belly does one’s favorite food have to do with the case? (b) Did the suicide note smell like pepperoni pizza?
Question #4: Where is the handwriting expert in all this? From what I was able to gather, Samantha just used her naked eye to determine that Lily’s handwriting was the same writing.
Question #5: (a) Now that I’m thinking about it, how is it possible for one to write the note without leaving fingerprints? (b) Doesn’t someone have to hold the pad or paper steady as one is writing? Yet, previously this very same cop cited there were “no fingerprints”.
Question #6: If Lily is unable to solve a simple math problem, what makes Samantha think Lily can be the mastermind of anything?
Question #7: What NYPD cop you know is this nice in interrogation? Not even NJ cops are that friendly, asking me about my favorite food and what not.
Please excuse me while I clear my throat.
Yeah, so, first off, the Miranda Rights are THE FIRST thing that should have been read and by “read” I actually mean “recited“. While some officers tend to keep a card on them with the rights in written form, most officers choose to memorize them as it is very hard to take someone into custody and read them their rights as the same time.
Also, as a authentic New Yorker, I can say this with assurance; there is no way in hell that a cop is just going to sit there and chat with you about pizza and math. UNLESS, it is pertinent to the case.
Alright, my two cents has been given. Unleashed, take it away.
(1) Time stamps (lack thereof)
With a novel that involves any type of crime, time stamps are crucial. Especially in this scenario, where there is a timer before Isa meets her doom. Outside of the timer counting down, there is no clear separation of days … it is as if all of the days run together and look the same.
(2) Character makeup
There was no character that I cared about because none of them were dynamic. All the women, with the exception of the female detective, the grandmothers, and Chloe wore miniskirts—portrayed as sexual objects with “squishy”, “squashy” and “spongy” body parts. The men that were supposed to have honorable professions (lawyers, judges, cops) were all corrupt in some way, shape or form. No one in the book was redeeming, not even Isa—who I could not cheer for due to the way the author depicted her.
There was way too much conflict to keep up with, and all of the conflict was presented in a fashion that suspended belief.
Oh so much more … but we will stop there.
I could not stop laughing, shaking my head, or saying, “Wow!”
Ways this book could have been improved
Verdict: 1 out of 10 Stars
Classifying this as a dark romantic comedy could have garnered it more stars but not by much because the editing job on this was atrocious and the characters lacked chemistry. The men seemed no more than drones obsessed with sex. The females were made to be sex symbols or insecure ninnies.
However, if you dare to grab this—you were warned.
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