Harmony Kent on Rock Island Lines
Rock Island Lines by Dean Klinkenberg
Amazon Author Page
Note: A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Frank Dodge, disgruntled and desperate for a story to write about, has a hot tip: Miguel Ramirez could be one of the last surviving descendants of a brutal gangster named John Looney. Dodge sees this as a good story to sell, so he concocts a plan to meet the young man. When Ramirez is found floating in the Mississippi River, Dodge finds himself without a story and on the wrong side of a murder investigation. As Dodge and his buddy, homicide detective Brian Jefferson, go over the surprising events of the night Ramirez died, clues about the death of Ramirez will come from an unlikely source: the life of John Looney.
Hello and welcome The Review Board. Today we will being you an inside look at Rock Island Line by Dean Klinkenberg, given by our very own Harmony Kent. Sit back and enjoy.
In Rock Island Lines, Frank Dodge goes from therapist to travel writer to murder suspect. The tale begins at the end and takes us back, in phases, to the beginning, all the while, teasing us with the question: What in heck happened?
The Mississippi River features heavily in this novel, and the author’s love for the area shows through. Like that great river, this tale will take you through dark places and twists and turns, at a slow and often meandering pace, which gets bogged down at times. Information dumps and unnecessary repetition let down an otherwise excellent story premise. For example, four different conversations retold the same story. It would have been far better to simply summarise the last three, instead of making the reader go through it all again, and again, and … again.
Likewise, back story was given to minor characters that didn’t appear more than the once—why? We don’t need their life story. They’re nobodies. Huge swaths of text are written in biographical format, and are extracts from a biography of deceased gangster John Looney, which take the reader through the dark life of this man. It reads real enough for you to wonder whether it’s fictional or not. Indeed, the author took his inspiration from a real life Rock Island Gangster: John P Looney. Anybody familiar with The Road to Perdition novels and movie will be familiar with the exploits of characters such as Michael Sullivan and John Rooney.
So, yeah, the book contains a lot of history, and the main character has an obsession with the river. The pacing varied from fast-flowing to slow with sludge and, at times, stopped completely. Add to that the passive writing style, the namedropping in dialogue, the repetition, and the overuse of things like ‘very’, ‘pretty’, ‘own’, and etc., the whole thing ended up feeling too tedious for me. Even the book cover turns me off, and it shows nothing of the story at all.
It gets 4 out of 10 TRB stars, which is one notch below a five, which would be ‘flip a coin and take a chance if you dare’. This translates into 2 out of 5 stars on other rating scales.
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