More is less

This is my review of Eden in Winter by Richard North Patterson.

The third in a trilogy of novels, "Eden in Winter" is part of a psychological family saga rather than the powerful courtroom drama more typical of the prolific Richard North Patterson. Although some reviewers have managed to read this as a stand-alone story, the plot seems much more gripping if the books are read in chronological order. "Loss of Innocence" introduces us to Benjamin Blaine as a young man, indicating the factors which mould his adult persona as a bestselling author, concerned to reveal injustice, generous to good causes, charismatic but capricious and cruel in his personal life . "Fall from Grace" reveals the complex mystery behind his untimely death, investigated by the son Adam who bears not only a startling resemblance to his father, but also some of his ruthlessness. In a "sins of the father" cycle, he has been damaged in the same way, but, unlike Ben, can he recover from this?

"Eden in Winter" begins with the inquest into Ben's death, dreaded by the Blaine family since two of them are suspected of his murder, and a third for concealing the truth. Much of the book is a psychological study of Adam coming to terms with the past, and dealing with his attraction to Carla Pacelli, who is carrying Ben's child and was the main inheritor in his will, cutting out the claim of Clarice, Ben's wife and Adam's mother.

Following on after two well-plotted page-turners, this seems the least successful book of the three, partly because, to make the story understandable to newcomers or those who have forgotten previous details, the author has to slot in massive information dumps, in the form of lengthy sections lifted verbatim from "Fall from Grace". In the process, these passages lose much of their original dramatic tension, since the context, initial build up and page-turning anticipation have been lost.

Adam's previously shadowy role as a CIA Agent in Afghanistan is revealed, but seems a little like padding in a thinner than usual plot. The author uses rather contrived ploys to "tell" rather than "show" the psychological states of Adam and Carla: periodic therapy sessions between Adam and Charlie, an obliging local shrink, and Carla's emails to Adam in Afghanistan, which she herself describes as self-absorbed. Perhaps it is hard for a British reader to appreciate the culture of the wealthy residents of Martha's Vineyard who indulge so readily in analysis and frank navel-gazing. Similarly, the fact that the style often seems stilted or bordering on mauve if not purple prose may be a cultural difference.

Without being able to explain the reason for fear of spoilers, I also found aspects of the denouement a little rushed and something of an anticlimax.

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Stars

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.