There are more than 225,000 words in the Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary and about a quarter of them are adjectives.* Rebecca M. Hale has tried to cram every one into Adrift on St. John, set on a resort island in the Caribbean. It was like slogging through shifting sand dunes to try and get through it. Every paragraph–every sentence–fat with description and not much happening. No sailing, either. You lose me when you leave off the sailing. There is a reason sailors refer to motorboats as “stinkpots.”
A failed lawyer takes a manila envelope from an obese, sweaty stranger in the Miami Airport and leaves her malpractice-addled life–and name–behind. She becomes a hands-off manager in a mediocre St. John resort hotel, delegating anything that even vaguely resembles work to her assistant, a grumpy Bahamian woman with a young child. The assistant manager runs things and supports her kid. The lawyer living under an assumed name becomes, or remains (never clear) a daily drunk. A rather thin plot is painfully dragged out, with much use of the pluperfect, for more than 300 pages. A lizard named Fred is the hung-over manager’s confidante. Alternating chapters tell the fictitious story of a slave princess who haunts the island. Developers threaten. Hurricanes threaten. Yawn.
I might have enjoyed the ride if there had been some sailing. There was rum in plastic go-cups and one wack-job regular tourist from Brooklyn imported his own reefer. Jimmy Buffet he was not. There are many days when reading a book a day seems like–and is–a lunatic idea. But this one was seriously depressing. I could have been reading about Giordano Bruno, or Arthur in a retelling of Sir Thomas Malory. Or sleeping. Which I think I will do now. The author has written some mysteries featuring cats that are alleged to be New York Times bestsellers. I will not be reading them.
Adrift on St. John Rebecca M. Hale | Berkley Prime Crime 2012