Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Dark Time by Dennis Bradford

Summary (courtesy of the author):    A college student vanishes.  Her worried grandfather asks one of her favorite professors, Max Stephansson, to solve the mystery.  What Max discovers is tragic.  The suspense surrounding her disappearance unfolds to yield insight, but at the cost of danger and death.

And here's what I thought:   I'm going to keep this review relatively short, as this was really not my kind of book.  I gave it a try because I was curious, and unfortunately, it just didn't resonate with me.

As you can see from the summary, this book's main character is a professor, who has been asked to look for a missing college student.  I will say that at various points in this story, I was reminded quite a bit of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (by Stieg Larsson), because there were some similarities:  a person who is not a detective is asked by someone to investigate the disappearance of one of their family members; once the main character starts investigating, it turns out that the family has many dark secrets, some of them pretty nasty.   I quite enjoyed the Millenium Trilogy by Larsson, but, as I mentioned, I didn't find this book, A Dark Time, resonated with me.

I think part of my issue with this story is the main character, Max Stephansson.   To put it plainly, I didn't like him.   Unfortunately, this dislike was strong enough that it impacted how I felt about the overall storyline.   I didn't take issue with why the girl's grandfather hired Magnus (this is explained in the beginning), but I took issue with Magnus, himself.    I suppose I just found his personality to rub me the wrong way.   Here's an example: "With that we both returned to our own thoughts.  Mine were about the nature of the familiar, yet always unexpected, almost inarticulate yearning that I suddenly had for her.  It was more than merely the desire to possess another's beautiful body.  I knew from experience that sex alone wouldn't slake that thirst."  (p 21).    I'm not quite sure about what it specifically is that irritates me about how he speaks/thinks, but his kind of over-analysis and thinking isn't my cup of tea.    But, I kept reading --- maybe I would get used to him.

And then I got to page 82, where Magnus is reflecting on what he has been learning in his investigation so far, and he says/thinks: "The best way to get to know a woman quickly is to make love to her.  The best way to get to know a man quickly is to observe carefully how he reacts to physical stress, for example, in combat or playing hockey or under some heavy iron in the gym."   Ok.  This is NOT the kind of man that I would want to speak to, or be around --- the best way to get to know a woman quickly is to have sex with her?  I found Magnus' thinking really made me a bit irritated.  Not how I want to feel when I'm reading.

But, I kept reading, because I suppose I felt a bit obligated.... and then I got to the part where Magnus gets to know Brian (one of the family members of the missing student) .... and I gave up.  Let me just say this:  Brian is a nasty piece of work, and the very descriptive writing about Brian, and his sexual preferences (graphically described, by the way --- with so much detail that I felt like I had stumbled into a completely different kind of book entirely) really was a turn-off.   I skim-read through the rest of the story, just to see how it ended, but really, by this point, between the graphic sex and my dislike of Magnus, I really didn't like this book.   I am not opposed to sex in books --- what I don't like is violent, graphically described sex in a story where it doesn't seem necessary at all.

The author of this book has written quite a lot of nonfiction, and is an ex-philosophy professor.  So, he does focus on things to make the reader think about not only the characters, but their motivations, and the bigger picture, and it's clear that he really has an passion for philosophy.    I do understand the idea that in the darkest times, one can make significant discoveries about oneself, and I see how that works in this story --- but overall, I just didn't find that I enjoyed the book.  I will agree that this may not be my most balanced review, as I didn't find much that I liked about the story.

However, as with all things, you may find that you disagree with me --- you may look for this book, read it, and really love it (and that's the nice thing about books -- there's always a reader for every book).   So, if this story sounds like your kind of book, definitely visit the author's website (below), and take a look at the book.   

First lines:  "Who's there?"  A male voice mumbled something using the word 'client.'  Before the knock, that early Monday afternoon on June 1989, I had been revising the conclusion of my article on the intellectual impact in late 19th century France of Proudhon's mutualistic anarchism.

Where you may find this book:  The author has a website, where you can learn about him and his books, as well as read other essays and posts that he has written.


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