Title: The Intelligencer
Author: Leslie Silbert
Genre: "Literary Thriller"
Read: 10th Oct 2005
Comments: Where to begin?
As I expected, it was mostly crap, but at least it was fairly decently researched crap. There are basically 2 plot lines going on; one is a modern day thriller with a tough but sexy (groan...) female P.I. out to decode an ancient manuscript believed to be the work of a famous Elizabethan spy, the other is the story of the manuscript itself and centers on the playwright Christopher Marlowe and the part he played in Elizabeth I's secret espionage network.
The Elizabethan parts were not terrible, although, like many bad authors, Silbert seemingly can't help putting in way too much exposition which would be better left to footnotes or something of the like. She also can't resist adding an extraneous (semi-) romantic interest for the Kit Marlowe story when the plot was carrying along just fine without it. (This is one of my pet-peeves about mass-market movies, books, etc. anyway. They always feel that regardless of genre, people won't get into the story without a little splash of sex, no matter how irrelevant it may be.)
The modern-day parts, on the other hand, were dead awful and used and abused every spy-novel cliché ever invented. The characters were one-dimensional ( the beautiful and dangerous heroine with a tragic secret, the outrageously over-sexed best friend, the gentleman cat-burgler [nickname 'The Cat', natch..], the millionaire playboy with a hot bod and a face 'to put a Versace model to shame') and simply traded bad one-liners rather than having actual conversations, and the degree of autobiographicality (is that even a word?) was horrendous (the heroine, like the author, quit a career in Renaissance scholarship to become a private eye). As a whole it's badly written and even the characters' internal monologues are cliché-ridden and on occasion almost embarrassing to read; e.g. "While Kate disappeared onto the opposite shore, Jack also wondered how she would react if he ever told her that he'd been in love with her for as long as he could remember."
All of which I might have been able to forgive if the book had at least partially delivered on its promises of being a literary thriller. But unfortunately it didn't. There was a little bit of code-breaking that went on, but it was all too pat, too cut-and-dried with no room for suspense, no theories tentatively advanced to be proven wrong later, no stunning breakthroughs. In fact, almost all the actual deciphering occurs off-stage with the heroine simply coming back later and saying "Oh by the way I deciphered the texts and they say blah blah blah..." Now, where's the excitement in that? Also, I'm obviously no chemist, but I can't imagine the something written with lemon or onion juice would still be visible 500 years later, even if it was locked in an airtight box.
So, I'm going to have to give 'The Intelligencer
' a 'D' and recommend that you don't read it, unless, like me, you are a sucker for even bad code-breaking cloak-and-dagger stuff.
Quote: "The dress was tight, and it clung to her perfect breasts like cellophane."
(Now, is it just me, or does cellophane kinda crinkle rather than cling? I guess cellophane sounds better than 'plastic wrap' though...)The Intelligencer
P.S. re-edited to gel with the new format