Of the many superlative-laden review snippets that adorn THE TRAP’s page at its local publisher’s website is this one
A fast, twisty read for fans of Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn.
Alas I’ve given up reading book publicity material prior to embarking on a book otherwise I might have seen this and saved myself the bother given that I hated Paula Hawkins’ book and didn’t even bother finishing Flynn’s. Though as THE TRAP was my book club’s choice this month I suppose I would have had a go even if I had seen this off putting sentiment.
To be fair I think THE TRAP is better than GONE GIRL ON A TRAIN but for me it’s a pretty low bar and I couldn’t go so far as to recommend it.
I was keen to get started on this one because I like to travel virtually via crime fiction and haven’t read much set in Germany, especially not modern novels. But almost all of the action in THE TRAP takes place inside the imagination of the story’s narrator or the house she hasn’t left for nearly a dozen years. A very occasional reference to a Munich street name is about all we get in the way of German sensibility. Insular settings can provide a powerful sense of place in their own right (I’m still having nightmares about the house in Dame Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE) but not in this case. I have no real sense of the house in which the story’s narrator – author Linda Conrads – has spent so many years of her life and her imagination – which is depicted via a story within the story – is even less successfully realised.
The conceit of THE TRAP is that Linda’s sister Anna was murdered 12 years earlier. Linda discovered her sister’s body shortly after her death and believes she caught a glimpse of the killer but no one has ever been caught for the crime. In the present day Linda sees a well-known journalist on television and is convinced that he is the one she saw on the day of her sister’s murder. For reasons that frankly still baffle me Linda determines that the only way to ensure that his role in her sister’s death becomes known to the world is for her to write a crime novel with a plot based on her sister’s murder and then invite the journalist to come to her home and interview her as part of the book’s publicity campaign. As you do.
Perhaps this premise sounded good in the
movie’s novel’s pitch meeting but I don’t think it stood up to being fleshed out. Everything that happens is telegraphed too early and too obviously, many of the events are entirely unbelievable and the twists are really not all that imaginative. It read more like a made-for-television movie than the kind of crime novel I like to sink my teeth into. The fact that the fairly pedestrian storyline is effectively repeated via the story within the story – there are lengthy extracts from Linda’s novel Blood Sisters – just highlights the fact that there isn’t really a lot going on.
Like the protagonists of those wildly popular thrillers to which THE TRAP was compared in the quote above (and every second book on the market it seems to me) Linda is an unreliable narrator. Is she going just a little bit crazy in her self-imposed exile? There’s a room upstairs she refers to as Italy after all. And the story within the story – her fictionalised account of her sister’s murder – is equally suspect in terms of veracity. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the unreliable narrator device but I can be swept along by it in the right circumstances. Sadly I think it’s particularly poorly executed here as Linda’s unreliability is all too obvious and I never felt at all invested in whether or not she was actually telling the truth. Surely the reader is meant to care about that? I found her under developed and thought many of her actions implausible which meant I never really ‘bought’ that she was anything other than words on a page (or on a hard disk in the case of my audio book). Linda’s nemesis – the journalist – is also a one-dimensional, non-event.
So I admit that my claim this book is better than its Girlish comparisons is indeed damming with faint praise. I suspect if I’d been reading it in print I’d never have waded through to the end but at least in audio format I could occupy myself with chores and not feel my time being entirely wasted. As it is I did listen to the entire thing but I can’t imagine that in a month I’ll be able to remember a single thing about THE TRAP. There is simply nothing notable about it. The slow pace, clunky dialogue and under-cooked characters do not do nearly enough to deliver on the intrigue suggested by the premise.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator Julie Teal
Translator Imogen Taylor
Publisher This edition Audible 2016
Length 10 hours 3 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series standalone
This work by http://reactionstoreading.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
No, this definitely doesn’t sound like one for me, Bernadette. As I read the various elements in your review, I was thinking that the one thing that would probably put me off the most is the lack of credibility. As you say, a claustrophobic setting can be done quite well. So can an unreliable narrator (again, if done very well). But not if there’s no credibility. So…no, I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to look for this one.
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Not one I would have read anyway, but thanks for the warning. Even if I read newer books on a regular basis, I would be looking for books with a difference, not something similar to some other author’s books.
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That’s a good point Tracy…why do the marketing people think we want to read the same book over and over again?
My book club met this morning and everyone else enjoyed it more than I did
Not for me. Not if it strains credibility and has an unreliable narrator. Thanks for the red flags.
What happens is that publishers sees a book that is on the best-sellers’ list for a long time and has a good reaction, and then all publishers have to put out a version (or versions) of the same type of book. I see so many of these type books around the blogosphere.
They figure that if this type of book sells, let’s publish more like it and have big sales.
After all, the “A new Stieg Larsson” stickers were put on so many books, most unlike Larsson’s, because publishers wanted to capitalize on that phenomenon.
It’s like any fad where sales are up. Companies rush to put out their own version.
I just read the new Nevada Barr book, “Boar Island,” which is hilarious. A few plot devices had me groaning, but I enjoyed it because there is lot of humor in it.
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thanks for that tip Kathy, I find the Nevada Barr books a bit hit or miss but I do like it when Anna is in one of her humorous moods. I’ll seek this one out.
Anna is in a humorous mood when she’s not unconscious or tied up or otherwise engaged. I’m not sure why authors have to resort to brutality after a series has gone on. This series is fine without so much of this. I suppose the reader must be on the edge of her/his seat to find out if she survives. But of course she does; she has to appear in the next book.
The plot devices in this book are in themselves funny. I’m thinking, “Nevada did what? She didn’t do this, did she?” But it ended up making me laugh. I won’t say more as it would ruin the read.
But on “the girl” books, as I said at COAMN, it’s all about “The Girl on the Bestsellers’ List.”
And how publishers can churn out books that make it and stay there for months.
So that’s saved me from that one. I do enjoy your criticisms.