Review: The Whitby Murders – A Yorkshire Murder Mystery #6 (J.R. Ellis)

I suppose at times, this is just the way things go: I’ve had two DNFs in a row. This time, it’s The Whitby Murders.

Unlike the last one on my DNF list, this one didn’t have a huge number of characters flung at the reader in the first few chapters, so it wasn’t that. No, it was the writing, which I didn’t like. At all; Why?

First, it’s just meh.It’s easy enough to read, don’t get me wrong, but there’s just no pizazz to it. It’s a very dry recitation of what’s going on and what the characters are saying and feeling. It feels to me to be a bit amateurishly written, and the head hopping within the same chapter, in my opinion, should have been edited to at least contain each head in its own chapter. There is also a great deal of repetition of things. The ream investigating the crime lays out some information they’ve found. Then they have to lay it out for everyone. Then they go over it again. That sort of thing made me skim here and there, and I stopped at 60% on my Fire.

Second, in dialogue, people are often doing something while they speak (“Blah blah blah,” she said, smiling at him.) or there are far too many descriptors after the dialogue that are entirely unnecessary if the character’s mood can be discerned from what they’re actually doing. Example: a woman and a man, who are a couple, are having some kind of argument. (“Suit yourself then!” Dominic shouted aggressively, and hung at the back of he group, apparently in a sulk.) Do we really need to know that he shouted “aggressively? Aren’t most people aggressive when they shout? This was the last in a round of dialogue involving two people.. There are only four exchanges, and we have “shrieked”, “said”, “replied”, and the aforementioned aggressive shouting.

Three, there are a huge number of filter words in this. The latter example above is a good one. “Apparently” in a sulk? “So and so looked bewildered” – how? Raised eyebrows? Furrowed brow? “No, Dad, no!” Louise was getting increasingly agitated and her voice was getting louder.” We got the louder part – she is, after all, shouting. And if she’s getting agitated, how do we know this? There is a bit of back and forth with her father, and at a time when dialogue tags could be helpful, along with some kind of descriptor. But there is nothing that indicates she’s getting wound up. Is she pacing? Fidgeting in her seat? Don’t know!

Four, there is a large amount of telling versus showing. This also involves filter words, but applies as well to the author telling how someone feels versus showing us, or just giving us an infodump about a character. For example, the “apparently in a sulk” business. Who is making this determination? How could they tell he was “apparently in a sulk”? What exactly was he doing when he was hanging at the back of the group? When we get an infodump, we really do not need to know virtually everything about them right at that moment in a narration. Show us what they’re doing to assign them the characteristics you want them to have. That will let the reader draw a fuller picture of the characters, and even if those conclusions are not what you planned, they will at least not be cardboard cutouts.

Five, there are certain things that have to be taken with a giant grain of salt. Senior DI able to just walk out of his office after getting his daughters call, and head to the town she’s staying, and taking a DS with him? Red herrings presented (good) but being cleared up in a page or two (bad)? The police continue to investigate a murder with not just eyewitnesses but video as well that backs them up, because of a gut feeling the daughter has? That all seems unlikely, as does the DCI father seemingly on the verge of tears whenever he thinks about his daughter close to the murder. He’s a veteran police officer. Why is he on the verge of tears about this all the time? We also get a great deal of narration about his personal life that adds nothing to the overall story.

Again, sorry for the DNF on this.

Two stars out of five (rounded down from 2.5 stars).

Thanks to Amazon Publishing UK and NetGalley for the reading copy.