This book just does not work. Fasman has tried to write a Dan Brown novel, using a cub reporter on a local weekly paper in rural Connecticut and cutting back to a medieval Arab scholar, with Antiques Roadshow like vignettes about items supposedly stolen, found, missing or something, which never gel into a coherent whole.
It is also the second book in a row that I have read that makes reference to Hermes Trimestres. (Hermes Trimestres figures in the plot of S. J. Parris's Heresy), a fact that Dan Brown would have taken and run with. In Fasman's case, I just don't care. The narrative about the mysterious death of an Estonian history professor at a Rhode Island college, being investigated by a small town Connecticut reporter keeps being interrupted by these short pieces about coins, amulets and other objects that are never relevant to the plot. Some of them may have been stolen from the geographer mentioned in the title, but others are from a much later period. Regardless, the stuff doesn't figure in the story at all. It's annoying.
As the denouement approached I came to the realization that was supposed to swallow the premise that an immortal alchemist is responsible for the murder, attempting to protect his secrets, and that the kid reporter was able to bean the alchemist with a baseball, thereby changing his mind about murdering him, too. Implausible? No, ridiculous. I'm sorry if this spoils the plot for you but it is already spoiled by being so badly made.
It's too bad, because the characters, the dialog ,much of the plotting, in fact most of the book is pretty good. Jon Fasman could do well as a novelist if he finds his own voice and stops trying to be Dan Brown. Hell, Dan Brown could write a pretty good novel if he stopped trying to be Dan Brown.
Monday, May 31, 2010