Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Plot Matters: A "Confession"

I finally managed to finish John Grisham's new book The Confession.  I say "finally managed" because despite the fact that I have enjoyed previous Grisham books, this one really disappointed me.

Grisham's website advertises the book as the story of a guilty man trying to convince everyone -- the authorities, the DA, journalists -- that he is guilty and that an innocent man is sentenced to die for a crime the man didn't commit.  The plot had huge potential, and I pictured some hero (or heroine) in a race against time, trying to convince the right people not to put an innocent man to death.

In the end though...not so much.  The biggest disappointment was the story arc itself.  I won't spoil the plot here, but suffice it to say that the story peaked less than half way through, and the remainder of the book was anti-climatic.  I was reminded of Alan Rinzler's recent blog post, about authors trying to defy the traditional story arc, and what makes those attempts successful (or not).  Grisham's story arc here was confused, in a way that made me want to stop reading.  The only reason why I continued was that I kept thinking something else was going to happen, because that's what good novels do.

Unfortunately, nothing else really happened.  The last half of the novel was resolution, not action, like a really long epilogue.  I actually resented wasting my time.

Besides the main plot problem, I had some big issues with subplots that eventually went nowhere, and unrealistic characters who are no more than caricatures or stereotypes.  The DA who only cares about his conviction. The police officer who only cares about his confession.  The sensationalist reporter only looking for a story.  The priest who abandons his senses (literally) to make things right.  I felt some stirrings of Carl Hiaasen in what I hoped were tongue-in-cheek characterizations, but if that was what Grisham was going for, in my opinion it was not very successfully done.

Don't get me wrong: Grisham is doing something right, most of the time.  He's a successful author and popular read.  I can only dream of having his popularity and success in any genre, and I have enjoyed other books written by him.  Something about this book just didn't work for me, and left me wishing I hadn't spent the time reading it.


1 comment:

  1. I'm impressed! I give a book 50 pages. If it doesn't hold my interest by then, I have to set it down. Too many good books out there to torture myself through a bad story!