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Monday, April 11, 2022

Effective, But Misleading Marketing + Long, Plotless Story = Dull, Disappointing Read


(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Generally, I write my own plot summaries for the books I review. I'm going to make an exception in this case, though, in order to make a point. Here's the back cover blurb for The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris:

    On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard’s only daughter—one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island—has gone missing. Tending the warden’s greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl’s whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search’s outcome.

    Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.

    Skilfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorris delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay. As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell—and believe—in order to survive.

That first paragraph really pops, doesn't it? It's exciting, it's intriguing, it's compelling. It's pretty much irresistible if you're a historical fiction lover who's fascinated by Alcatraz. Between that opener and the novel's glossy prison-themed cover, I didn't stand a chance. I eagerly snatched up a copy of The Edge of Lost, threw my money at the cashier, and rushed home to read. Imagine my surprise when the story turned out to have very little to do with the prison. It's only in the last 100 pages or so that Alcatraz even comes into play! Needless to say, I felt ripped off by the publisher's clever but misleading marketing tactics. Yes, the most interesting part of this novel does take place at Alcatraz, but that's only at the end and the rest of the book drags and drags without much action or plot until it finally gets there. Had I known this, I would not have bothered with this novel at all.

That being said, the book does feature a cast of warm, likable characters. None of them are super fresh or original, but they are the kind of story people to whom you want good things to happen. I became invested in Shan Keagan/Tommy Capello's plight, although my interest definitely waned the more his story went on (and on and on). After a very far-fetched finale, he does get a somewhat happy ending, although it didn't feel completely satisfying to me.

Overall, then, this book was a pretty meh read for me. Not only was I disappointed by the misleading marketing, but I also found the story overly long and mostly plotless. I did continue to read until the last page (even though I couldn't stop counting the remaining pages because the novel seemed endless), so I guess that means something. I just wish McMorris had focused on the most interesting part of the story (Alcatraz) and built a tighter, more exciting/suspenseful plot around that.

(Readalikes: If you're interested in reading more about civilian life on Alcatraz, definitely check out Gennifer Choldenko's middle-grade Al Capone series. It's excellent.)

Grade:

If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of The Edge of Lost with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.
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Homecoming by Kate Morton

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The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King



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