I picked up “To Murder A Saint” as a ‘freebie’ from one of my e-mails of “free and discount books” that I receive on a daily basis. I always appreciate these, as it often leads me to a new author I may not have otherwise discovered. Sometimes I am happy I found the particular book. Sometimes? Not so much.
In this case, what caught my eye was the cover. It is beautiful, as you can see. Well, that and the fact that the book was set in Louisiana, a total weakness for me. I can say that the potential is definitely there, hopefully to be fulfilled later. The author, Nicole Loughan, is a recognized journalist and syndicated humour columnist, which offers potential as a writer of fiction. In this first installment of her series, Nicole is writing about my home area, the bayous of southern Louisiana. She does a fairly good job of setting up the novel. My three-star review is based on several issues I had.
Nicole’s writing tries very hard to speak the language of the Bayou. However, with no experience with the area (she went to school in Michigan and lives in Philadelphia) her attempts at Cajun fall flat. She starts ‘Cajun-Speak’ but then falls back into ‘journalism-speak’ within two sentences. Cajun is an extremely unique language, a mixture of French, English, a bit of African and bits of Native American tribal languages (Choctaw, Quapaw, Caddo, etc.). It is also difficult for a northerner to comprehend the cadence and flow of southern speech patterns. Her precise use of language as a journalist makes it difficult, without doubt, to fall into the patois of the south, where ‘can not’ comes out ‘kaint’ and bonjour is much more common than hello, “How’s it going?” is
Comment ça va?” and the best response to that is “Ça va. Et vous-autres?” i.e., “It’s going OK. And ya’ll?” Or, in my case, “Ca va. Ah dah’tse?” i.e., “It’s good. How are you?” (A mix of Cajun with a soupcon of Quapaw.)
Overall, this reads as a first attempt at a novel, somewhat stilted and rough, but with good bones. I have put the next book on my to-read list to see if the roughness inherent in the first novel smooths out. I would have appreciated more development of the storyline. I felt it was somewhat choppy and not filled out well enough for my tastes. Again, that ‘journalist’ feeling – “Just the facts!” that was sort of off-putting for me, but others seemed to like in their reviews. In my opinion, if I am going to read a novel, I wish to fall into the book and be able to see it in my mind – the characters, the background, the world around the players. Humans are defined by their surroundings, and limiting those surroundings limits the movie that is developed in my mind. If I did not have such a strong connection with bayou country, it would have been very hard for me to feel any connection with the story or its characters.I will check out the second in the series when I get a moment and make a decision from there whether to leave the author on my ‘TBR’ list. I hope I can come back with a great review on that one!