Sunday, October 17, 2010

Review: The Bad Seed by Maurilia Meehan

The Bad Seed is a paranormal-themed small press title by a veteran Australian author. It is set in Australia, at a spooky run-down house in a 'spa' town which is purchased by a gardening columnist seeking an escape from a life in tatters after the disappearance of her daughter several years before.

The writing is top-quality and the atmosphere and mood of a small tourist town is captured very well. But I found the plot tended to wander a little. Agatha's job as a magazine columnist is very prominent as the novel begins, then fades away and comes back again several times. It was also not portrayed completely realistically. I doubt, for example, that an editor would be pestering her to run tours of a garden he himself has never seen. And the supernatural lore of the local village could have been woven in a bit more smoothly rather than just being dumped in all in a lump at a convenient juncture.

This is my third read from indie publisher BeWrite Books and I while I respect the kind of business they seem to be running, I have to confess that I have been a bit disappointed with the books I've actually finished. In addition to the above-mentioned issues with this one, there were some sub-plots that would have benefited from better pacing, and there was a glaringly obvious error in a Wizard of Oz reference that never should have made it through the first editing pass. It's disappointing because they seem to choose to choose interesting novels from authors who clearly have the chops, but then it never seems to come together so that the book realizes its full potential.

If this were a first draft, I would give it top marks and be eager to read the final version. But as a finished product, I rate this one a 3.5 at best. More subtlety on the supernatural aspects, a better-paced narrative and a clean-up of some of the obvious inaccuracies would up it to a 4 or higher. But it's not there yet.

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