Still having barely enough reading time this June, I reached for an easy to read book,  more like an airport read…

Author :  Brad Meltzer

Date of First Publication :   September 5, 2006 (Hardcover)

Publisher of First Edition : Grand Central Publishing

This Edition’s Publication Date :  May 1, 2007  (Paperback)

This Edition’s Publisher :  Warner Vision

ISBN-10: 044661212X

ISBN-13: 978-0446612128

No. of pages :  622

The Story :

A crazed assassin attacks the U.S. Presidential entourage at a NASCAR race and changes Wes Holloway’s life forever.  Wes, the President’s aide,  survives with disfiguring facial while the President’s best friend, Ron Boyle, is shot and killed.  But after eight years, Wes spots Boyle, very much alive.  The CIA and the FBI are after him for information and the assassin is on the loose once more.  Now Wes must figure out the mystery of Boyle buried in old crossword puzzles, Freemason history and Jefferson’s two-hundred-year-old codes, before the Book of Fate catches up to him.

The Review :

One of the factors influencing my decision in purchasing a book is the one-liner reviews from respected magazines, newspapers and authors, just like  these  encouraging comments for the book:

“Move over, Da Vinci; take your code and shove it!…a page-turner.” —- Liz Smith, New York Post

“Meltzer’s tale of intrigue and pathos  in politics engrosses.”  —–  Entertainment Weekly

“A teasing code and a tireless pursuit….the jolts just keep coming.”  —- New York Daily News

Most of the time  I can rely on these little snippets.  But this is one time these people have completely missed the mark.  How they can describe this book in glowing terms make me suspect these may be paid opinions.

As a thriller, it isn’t so thrilling.  Meltzer has given us a bland plot sprinkled with mysterious symbols, both of which seem to make the book trail sadly after Dan Brown’s  wake.  With puzzles,  symbols and the references to the Freemasons (for perhaps more mystery), it looks like Meltzer is simply trying to cash in on the tidal wave from Dan Brown’s popular theme of weaving symbolism  into his thrillers.

Alright, he says he meticulously researched  everything.  I am not disputing that.  It’s just why try to style yourself, no matter how much less, after another author?

One other thing, it feels as if Meltzer is trying too hard.   Why the FreeMasons are so crucial to the plot, I haven’t a clue.  Even the schizoid character, Nico, seems simply thrown in to up  the ante albeit being an unnecessary angle.  Moreover , the whole story simply does not focus on its title, The Book of Fate, which from beginning to end appears to be  some sort of vague Bible.  There is not much reference to it nor does the plot give it any importance. I believe the novel was probably titled so because it just sounds great and  intriguing.  After all, it must sell, sell, sell!

To Read Or Not To Read :

Reading this book is like grabbing something so one has something to do.  After all I’ve said though, it isn’t very bad when you get down to reading it but it isn’t great either.  Rather mediocre.  A read, toss, and forget-about-it novel of which its mediocrity is its merit of getting you adequately by when you’re just killing time.

In A Nutshell :

In the end, you come out not clear about what the novel’s  Book of Fate really is.  Oh and the whole conspiracy theory  is really not much of an attention grabber, either.    Again, bland and boring.

The Book of Fate is definitely an airport read, if you don’t mind the watered down Dan Brown wanna-be.   It’s  engaging in the first dozen or so pages then the gripping interest peters out and the action stays on an even keel throughout the middle.  Not an engrossing piece; but guaranteed you won’t miss your plane with this one.

My Mark :  Mediocre  — A not so thrilling thriller

A respite from the fantasy-like quality of reading imposed by my two challenges.  So on to science fiction in the realm of epidemiology for a little more reality hashed into the fiction.

Author :  Juris Jurjevics

First Publication Date :  August 18, 2005  (Hardcover)

Publisher :  Viking Adult

ISBN-10: 0670034371

ISBN-13: 978-0670034376

No. of Pages :  416

The Story :

Something has killed four prominent scientists at the Trudeau station, a marvel of a habitat built  for the harsh environs of the Arctic.   Top scientists around the world who had come to the station to study this inhospitable frontier, are at a loss to explain the gruesome deaths of their colleagues.   The unknown “bug”  leaves its victims with their pupils missing and their bodies horribly contorted from excruciating spasms.

As an answer to the station’s plea for help, top epidemiologist Dr. Jessica Hanley braves the perils of the Arctic in winter to discover the nature and cure for the new disease.  No mean feat this, but on top of it, Dr. Hanley discovers a plan to sabotage her mission.  She must protect her work to find the “bug” and its cure as quickly as possible.

The Review :

The Trudeau Vector is a  biothriller with loads of  fascinating trivia.  It’s the trivia that thrills primarily over the formulaic plot.   It seems the author didn’t think much of the story line and simply followed what worked in the past with others.  He also does that “evil Russian” subplot to add  to the thrill  of the chase.   Corny but then again your concentration isn’t riveted on this angle.  It’s all on what malignant vector this author had cooked up.

What I think Jurjevics wanted to do was pack the book chock-full of info about the Arctic and epidemiology.   It really isn’t tedious if you were interested in the premise of diseases and environments in the first place. 

Take these little factoids:

“…Remember, viruses can’t really die.  They are not alive; they can’t reproduce unless they have living cells to hijack and turn into virus factories.  But toss the pieces of a virus in a test tube with living cells and it recombines, self-assembles, resurrects.”  — p. 191

“Inuit can’t do milk. We don’t have the extra enzymes to process it…”  —- p. 282

“…So what else is unusual about Inuit physiology, besides no body hair?”…” An extra artery near the heart.  Supposed to keep us warm.  We’re mostly right-handed, rarely left.  And we have small hands…”  — p.283

Some of you may want to know about the characters.  Well, character building is mediocre at best but not bad; however, Jurjevics does not make it clear what his characters are thinking.  For instance, the reader will be surprised why Dr. Hanley would  suddenly feel  like going to bed with one of the Trudeau scientists without a hint nor clue as to why she would.  Perhaps, depth is not much of an issue where thrillers are concerned, as action pacing is of prime importance.  In this, Jurjevics succeeds as the action unfolds in very good strides so that you do get engrossed in the novel.

For a debut novel, The Trudeau Vector is quite good and comes across as very well researched.  On the premise that it is so, then I have learned new things.  And I do love my fiction interspersed with hard facts.

However, I must say that the conclusion, about 5 pages toward the end,  left me a bit unsatisfied as its resolution was somewhat anti-climactic.  I guess I preferred a great bang of an ending to this one.  But then, the conclusion was plausible.  So not much complaint from me.

My Mark :  Very Good







It’s been more than two weeks since my last post.  I’ve been rather behind on my reading schedule with other distractions occupying most of my time.    What galvanized me to finally finish a post was a site I stumbled upon.  To my surprise and delight, a new site,  Philippine Blog Reviews,  posted a wonderful review on JO’s Bookshelf!   A big thank you to the site’s author/s.   So, I’m guiltily posting this review and hoping to stay on track this month.

Author :  John Le Carre

Date of First Publication :  December 12, 2000

Publisher of 1st Edition (Hardcover): Scribner

This Edition’s Publication Date (Paperback, Reprint Edition) :  November 2001

This Edition’s Publisher : Pocket Books Fiction

ISBN-10: 0743422910

ISBN-13: 978-0743422918

No. of pages :  576

The Story:

A wife of a British diplomat in Kenya is found naked, raped and brutally murdered;  her driver, decapitated.  Their companion, an African doctor, has gone missing.  Investigations by the British High Office, however, fail to satisfy the bereaved husband, Justin Quayle, so he undertakes his own by secreting away Tessa Quayle’s laptop and documents.

Justin discovers that his philanthropic wife, a Good Samaritan to the Africans she loved, had compiled a huge body of evidence against crime of such vile proportions involving developmental medicines, clinical trials,  both British and African governments, and large pharmaceutical companies.  Justin follows her trail only to find himself in the same danger, hunted by Tessa’s killers and by his own government, both determined to keep their secrets.

The Review :

I do like novels that take up a moral stance on real issues.  The Constant Gardener has the temerity to be a bullhorn, waking us to the existence of genuine medical crimes happening in Third World countries, mostly impoverished , vulnerable nations like Africa.  Le Carre seems to be sounding a furious call to all about awareness of apalling drug trials by large, pharmaceutical companies, bribed scientific opinions, cover ups on side effects, and the whole sick trade of getting a new, profitable drug to the First World markets.

It seems Le Carre loves layers and likes to employ this  on his characters and plot, wrapping them up in a tight onion of  surface details, then peeling their layers to reveal more as he goes along.

The novel opens with a shocking tragedy which somehow does not focus immediately on the lead character.  The author sets our attention on a supporting one and he slowly unveils his lead after shifting focus on him well after about a humdred and thirty pages or so.  What this technique does is leave us wondering at the start about the husband’s rather bland reception of his wife’s murder.  As attention increasingly shifts toward the main character, the author slowly peels back layer after layer of his personality so that by the end of the book, Justin is fully fleshed out in a very refined and gradual manner.  And thus you witness a master of characterization at work.

Take his secondary characters as well.  From a seemingly set cast, Le Carre takes us gradually behind their personas to reveal a complex set of people that give the novel an added richness and prove the author’s craft at character building.

To Read Or Not To Read :

His writing is elegant and vivid but one cannot say that he writes simply.  Nor is this novel a fast, easy read as most thrillers go.  So as much as the story is well conceived,  his writing may be a tad labyrinthine.  Just a tad, but still enough to make it difficult for some readers to get into the story.  It may be a chore keeping up with who’s who as some characters mentioned early on are referred to again  much later that the reader would have  quite forgotten him.

I also rather wish that Le Carre immersed his readers more in African life.  He skims over details giving us only tiny glimpses.  It would have made the book far more interesting if he delved on the subject a little more, not to mention the greater impact it would have had if it were able to sear his message into his reader’s minds and get them to really sympathize with the African plight.

The reading pace could be best described as erratic, at times picking up a swift tempo then slowing down to a somnambulant gait only to pick up the  brisk tread again after a while.  In other words, this is not really a page-turner that would keep one up late into the night; but, it is still a great novel that delivers a powerful urgent message and takes a very strong moral stance.

As An Aside:

If you don’t already know, this book was adapted to cinema in 2005.  Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz play Justin and Tessa Quayle, respectively.   I haven’t seen the movie but after this book, I’d like to see how it played out on the big screen.

In A Nutshell:

In spite of  the tendency of the author’s writing style to be a bit complex, The Constant Gardener is a well-written book that rewards constant readers, those who invest a little more concentration in reading this, with well developed characters, insight into global malpractices of the medical world  (if one isn’t  very aware of this yet),  and of course, a darn good story.

My Mark :  Very Good

From the spiritual, “The Shack“, to the shallow….

Author :  Christina Dodd

Date of Publication :  February 2007 (mass paperback)

Publisher :  Signet

ISBN-10: 0451220560

ISBN-13: 978-0451220561 No. of pages :  400

The Story:

Meadow  Szarvas breaks into hunky, sexy, billionaire Devlin Fitzwilliam’s home to steal a priceless painting (created by her famous grandmother)  to pay for her mother’s cancer treatments.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), she falls, hits her head and gets caught.  Meadow tries to weasel her way out of jail by pretending to have amnesia.  Astute Devlin knows this for a lie but plays along to the tune of his own schemes.  He insists that she is his wife.   They were married in Majorca.  Does she not remember their romantic meeting?

Now Meadow is helplessly embroiled in both their lies but she must stay to find that masterpiece, for her mother’s sake.

But she is not the only one interested in such a valuable painting.   Someone else is willing to  kill to find it.  Now Meadow is danger, not only of losing her heart but also her life…

The Review :

I suspected this was a quick read and I was right.  “Tongue In Chic” is  the type of book you’d grab if you just wanted a typical romance—you know, the one where a dashing, ultra wealthy (always a romantic criterion) , handsome man falls head over heels with a ravishing, unpredictable (she can never be boring)  kind-hearted girl.  It’s the classic love-team where opposites attract.

As in all romantic novels, there must be conflict to heighten the drama; so, in this case, the amnesia and marriage lies.  In the beginning, these are interesting enough to develop the romance but later,  grow too lame and stretched out to still be believable fodder for romantic conflict.  You’d eventually think, “Why can’t they just admit the truth to each other already?”  The story starts to get silly from thereon.

As for the mystery/suspense part of the book, it does help prod the otherwise boring romantic plot along but it’s not much of a plot saver.

To Read Or Not To Read :

If you can get past the femme fatale’s eye-rolling cheesy name, Meadow (ugh!), her childish and inane impetuousness (like suddenly dropping her clothes in the middle of a garden just because it was a full moon…and that after playing so hard to get…huh?),  then by all means, read!  You may get all shivery with Dodd’s hunky delight,  a strong, capable, muscle-bound knight in shining armor worth lusting for.

While you’re at it, try figuring out why this book is titled as it is — “Tongue In Chic“.  Why?   Still beats me…

In A Nutshell :

This book is a commercial romance;  that’s why I shouldn’t expect too much.  It wasn’t all that bad— but I may be saying this just because I fell for the hero. 🙂

Grudgingly, then, I give this book:

My Mark  :   Ok (but you can chuck it after and not miss it)

To get into the spirit of R.I.P. IV (and as my first read for Fall into Reading 2009),  I settled down under my toasty comforter in a cold room with only my lamp on and this book.  A good way to get spooky-filled thoughts while reading.  The first few pages hit my creepy cravings spot and soon I was on my own towards horrorville.

Author :  Graham Masterton

Date of Publication:  April 29, 2008

Publisher  :  Lesiure Books (mass market paperback)

ISBN-10: 0843957905

ISBN-13: 978-0843957907

No. of pages :  325

The Story :

Three Los Angeles crime lords have allied themselves with black magic through four powerful witches imported from voodoo-practicing countries.  These witches wreak gruesome havoc on the Los Angeles Police Department, undermining its leaders and violently neutralizing law enforcement with regard to their cabal.

Only Detective Dan comes to wholeheartedly believe in witchcraft and seeks to fight fire with fire.  He turns to his neighbour, good Witch Annie, to combat this evil nemesis.  Both have to face hell to save the whole city from this unstoppable evil.

My Review:

At the start, Masterton strongly wields his mighty horror pen, and I think, “Ooooh…yeah!…Finally, something deliciously shivery…”    The first few chapters are riveting, nauseating grippers that dish up scenes like this one:

“Cusack’s stomach churned again, even more violently.  He felt a tickling right at the back of his throat, and he couldn’t stop himself from letting out a cackling retch.  He spat into his hand and spat again, and when he opened it three live cockroaches ran across his fingers and dropped onto the floor…but Cusack was gripped by another hideous spasm, and this time…with his eyes bulging as a huge gush of cockroaches poured out of his mouth and into his lap…”

Just as I’m really into the whole thing, frantically turning page after page, Masterton’s pen starts to gradually peter out of horrific ideas.  It isn’t abrupt but it’s a slow descent toward a lame end so that I am left with just a cold room without the chills. Then I wonder where had that gut-churning terror— the kind that inspired me to keep to the story til 3 a.m.— gone to?

Sigh.  It was kind of a letdown;  I was all so revved up by the voodoo and visceral violence.

Later on it also struck me that if these hideously powerful women had all that magic at their fingertips, why couldn’t they just dispense with the crime lords and be the ruling gang instead?  That’s one angle in the story I felt the author didn’t quite think through.

But hey, it wasn’t all that bad. There are definitely worse out there.  It’s good enough though to get you through a long plane ride, being the fast easy read that it is.

In A Nutshell :

Masterton is a multi-awarded author of the horror genre.  But since even multi-awarded authors have their duds; I guess “The 5th Witch” has to be  one of those efforts that just didn’t work out.  He starts out strong but loses steam along the way so that the novel begins reading like a “B” movie.  Still, some of you may enjoy it especially if you love yucky stuff and gore.  As for me, disgusting and gruesome is ok as long as it’s got a great ending.

My Mark  :   Mediocre

P. S. :

The conclusion also left me in a puzzle.  What was that about the cat?  Didn’t get it….If you do, I would appreciate your two bits on this.

Merrick” wasn’t too heavy on the gothic atmosphere so it was not difficult to decide to pick up another gothic-themed novel for the R.I.P. IV Challenge. “The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters”, was initially quite far down my TBR list before this challenge; but, being one mentioned in the pool of books the challenge host, Stainless Steel Droppings, had lined for himself, I decided to plunge into this heavy, page-laden book for my next read.

Author : Gordon Dahlquist

Date of Publication : 2006  (Hardcover edition)

Publisher : Bantam Books

ISBN-10: 0385340354

ISBN-13: 978-0385340359

No. of pages :  768

The Story :

In Victorian England, a rich plantation heiress receives an abrupt “dear john” letter from her beau.  In her pride, the stricken Miss Temple decides to follow her fiance to find out the reason for his rejection.  She tails him on a long train ride and arrives at Lord Vandaariff’s huge labyrinthine Harschmort Manor where a  masked ball is in full swing presumably for the engagement of Vandaariff’s daughter to the German Prince of Macklenberg.  She is mistaken as a woman sent to undergo a mysterious “Process” but is soon discovered to be a gate-crasher, deemed to have seen too much.  Suddenly Miss Temple finds her little adventure taking a dangerous turn when she is forced to save her own life.

At that same time, a half blind assassin, Cardinal Chang, is at the ball with a mission to terminate a Colonel Trapping.  He creeps about for his quarry only to find him already murdered.  But who, why, and how are questions that leave him baffled.  A few days later, he is approached by a wealthy sophisticate  who asks him to find a woman, Isobel Hastings (Miss Temple who gave an assumed name) who is believed to be the killer of the Colonel.

Meanwhile,  Doctor Abelard Svenson of the Macklenburg Prince’s entourage loses his charge in Harschmort Manor.  His search leads him to conclude that  something sinister is brewing in the Vandaariff home.  His independent investigation suddenly imperils his life but his duty-bound nature forces him to continue to try to protect his Prince.

In pursuit of their own agenda, these three people stumble on a secret cabal whose sinister plans involve strange alchemical scientific processes and malign blue glass books which serve as a dire yet addicting repository of memories while relinquishing a person of the same.  Anyone who stares into its thin, crystal pages is stripped of their personal memories and turned into pleasure-addicted, compliant zombies, easily controlled and subverted to the group’s aims.

Miss Temple, Cardinal Chang, and Doctor Svenson propitiously meet and form an unlikely triumvirate bent on stopping this unholy cabal.

What follows is a merry chase with mystery, suspense, science fiction, and even a little romance.  Lest this be construed as simply a long, quaint narrative, Dahlquist has thrown in a good deal of  sex and a bit of gore in the mix which contrast quite nicely with its Victorian prudery and formality.

The Review :

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters” is a brilliantly creative debut from author, Gordon Dahlquist.  It is a unique albeit outlandish novel that will, as you read, play out old-fashioned comic book scenes in your head.  Indeed, the narrative would lend itself very well to comic strip illustrations of its events, complete with “Boom!”, “Pow!”, “Whack!” sounds written on it.   And like an old-fashioned comic book, the heroes often extricate themselves from sticky situations after long dialogues with the villains, instead of each realistically  going straight into action to resolve the conflict.  Although an annoyance to some, it does have its charms, especially when executed with Dahlquist’s wonderful prose.  Besides, such an outdated style is quite at home with the book’s outré antiquated atmosphere as well.

Although the book has this unreal yet special flavor, its characters are surprisingly well developed, each discovering himself/herself as the adventure unfolds.

Division of the book’s chapters deal with the narrative accordingly from one character’s perspective.  So for instance, one chapter deals with adventures of Miss Temple, the next, those of Cardinal Chang, etc.  Being long chapters, the reader may find himself going back through a previous few pages to refresh his memory of the others’ experiences.  Still, it wasn’t much of an annoyance as, on the whole, the book had cast its charms on me enough to discount little bothers like this.

What is most captivating about the book is not its unusual plot nor its dark  steampunk  theme but its author’s ornate prose that gives so much allure to the novel.  His style is romantic yet explicitly descriptive, laced with intelligent humor and irony:

“His hair was pale but streaked with grey, long and greasy, combed back behind his ears.  His coat was fine enough but unkempt— in fact the man’s whole appearance gave the impression of a once-cherished article — a sofa, for example — that had been left in the rain and partially ruined.” — p. 155

“Moral perspective is what we carry around with us — it exists nowhere else, I can promise you.   Do you see?  There is liberation and responsibility — for what is natural depends on where you are, Bascombe.  Moreover, vices are like genitals — most are ugly to behold, and yet we find our own dear to us.” — p. 164

To Read Or Not To Read :

To enjoy this book,  be prepared to suspend disbelief and just go with the flow.  After all, it is fantasy.

Mind you, this is a lengthy novel, of which its chief fault (according to some reviews), is its wordiness and long-windedness.  For me, however, this is exactly the novel’s charm as it rests on Dahlquist’s excellent descriptive prose, without which a  book like this can become rather tedious and boring when rendered with a flat, indelicate hand.   Slash the verbiage and this may end up an unremarkable read — not bad, but not great either.

You must have the time to indulge in this book;  otherwise,  you’ll be better off with something else.

As An Aside :

For all my praises for this novel and despite its glowing reception by critics, Bantam Books, its publisher,  has written this off as a massive failure. The book failed to pull in the sales and lost Bantam over U$850,000, after having advanced two million U. S. dollars to the author for a two-book deal.

Most of those, however, who have put in the time to read the book, review this novel with praises.  Perhaps, in time, more readers will get to know this atypical literary work and appreciate it for its originality.

The sequel, “The Dark Volume“, must have already been released this year.   This definitely goes into my list of “must-haves” for 2009. 🙂

In A Nutshell :

This is one of the best books I’ve enjoyed this year.  Its strangeness and inventiveness coupled with Dahlquist’s superb writing skills really had me riveted.  A definite keeper!

My Mark  :  Excellent

Author :  John Dunning

Publication Date :  January 25, 2005

Publisher :  Pocket Star Books

ISBN-10: 0743476298

ISBN-13: 978-0743476294

No. of pages : 496 (Mass Market  Paperback)

The Story:

Homicide cop turned book collector and seller, Cliff  Janeway acquires a valuable book written by a famous Victorian era explorer, Richard Burton.  The book is in pristine condition and worth thousands of dollars; but,  Janeway’s pleasure is short-lived.  A ninety-year old woman shows up at his door, claiming ownership of the treasured book through her grandfather, Charles Warren, whom she  insisted to have been Burton’s companion during one of his travels.

Furthermore, she  tells  a surprised Janeway that the book  is only part of an incredible library of Burton material, all of  which had been sold unscrupulously to shady book dealers.    A few days after,  the old woman is on her deathbed and extracts a promise from  Janeway :   find the rare collection, in particular,  a priceless journal which purportedly Burton gave to her grandfather for safekeeping.

What starts out as a skeptical investigation soon becomes a serious and deadly tag with other treasure hunters.  When a friend is murdered, Janeway realizes there is something more than just treasure hunting.  A past secret is being covered up and Janeway  is now in the way.

The Review :

With “The Bookman’s Promise“, John Dunning presents us with some refreshing elements for a crime/mystery thriller. Now a book collector is a macho hero and the hullabaloo is about books — old, invaluable books written by a real live explorer, Richard Francis Burton.  Plus, the author incorporates the world of a book trader which makes for an interesting facet in this novel.

As much as Burton becomes, through Dunning’s engaging portrayal of the man,  an intriguing personality for a number of his readers, this novel still very much targets a small niche in the reading  audience.  Not many, this reviewer included, have heard of this famously irreverent explorer and so may have some difficulty in appreciating the novel in the way it deserves.  One simply cannot appreciate Burton’s idiosyncrasies or whatever the author wishes to please us with if one does not know him. Familiarity of Burton is indeed essential for the full enjoyment of this book as the core plot is rather mundane, despite the aforementioned new elements.

However, if you are familiar with Burton, you may take a different tack.  You would perhaps revel in the fictitious or factual (I wouldn’t know which) details generously written in the book and pronounce Dunning’s novel a capital one.  This is simply this reviewer’s conjecture on something she is not very sure about.

Like its hero, the prose is quite masculine.  One could immediately discern that the story was written by a man, which is nice as long as the testosterone is not overly used to include most of its characters.  However, it does, as the majority of the characters, whether male or female, exhibit a strong will and drive.

Dunning’s characters show too many strong traits as to render them sometimes irksome and distant.    For instance, Erin is a sassy lawyer who constantly takes offense at anything she deems chauvinistic.  This is okay in some situations but downright pesky in some, where, in reality,  she clearly will be in the way.  She is not a character one can empathize much with, unless one believes that someone can be constantly strong and fearless.   There seems a lot of sass in the dialogues, too, between characters which tend to be tiresome halfway through.

In A Nutshell :

The Bookman’s Promise” is neither a great novel nor a very bad one.   One major weakness is that a reader’s  unfamiliarity with Burton  may be a significant block for him seeking to enjoy this novel.  This, and possible character non-empathy could be two very detrimental factors in capturing reader interest.  Otherwise,  it could be an enjoyable read.

Having said these, I recognize that there are probably two stark opposing camps to this novel :  those who loved it (readers who understood the nuances of Burton and the book trade) and those who just couldn’t get into it (readers who don’t know a fig about them).   Sadly, I belong to the latter for the reasons stated above:  I don’t know Burton and I just couldn’t like the characters so much.

My Mark :  Mediocre

But you must read the book to know for sure.