I recently finished reading a book, which I won’t name, written by a well-known and highly praised author who, in my opinion, did this very thing. The writing was good and the main plot compelling (for which I awarded 4 stars); however, there were three separate plot lines which were each so convoluted I struggled to focus on any one of them. Apparently, I wasn’t alone – I checked out the reviews and saw this complaint noted a number of times.
The book was a complex read and over 500 pages long. The main plot by itself – an insurance scam – would have been enough, and the book would have been a good mystery, a lot shorter, and a far easier read. The main plot, as it happens, turned out to be the least interesting of the three mysteries the author combined into this one book. The second plot line was more interesting and I found myself slightly irritated when the story dropped that thread for a while and dragged my attention back to the first plot, which continued to rack up the twists and turns, giving the reader perhaps too much to digest.
Interspersed between the first and second plots were the private interjections from one of the main characters. These were the most moving portions of the book…and the most jarring. The author jumped about so much, I felt lost half the time…and anyone who knows me knows I have a horrible sense of direction. Many times during this book, I struggled to find my way back. The author used the term “pinball” for one of her characters and I felt like that while I was reading.
After I finished the book, I checked out more of this author’s work to see if I wanted to try another. Based on the reviews of the other books, the general consensus was no. The “pinball” theme seems to run through the reviews.
To me as a reader, this is an example of a talented writer and a great storyteller trying too hard. All three mysteries were complex (another reason I gave the book 4 stars). Three separate books could have been made out of this and each one would have been great on its own. All three together, not so great an experience for the reader. The overall rating for this book is 3.2 stars with almost an equal amount of 1* and 5* reviews.
I’m all for the complexity and I like to be challenged, but too many twists or too many complex plot lines can spoil the enjoyment.
Readers: what books have you read with too many plot lines? Would they have been better if they’d been written as separate books?