Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet

Murderous Reviews – Fatal Philosophy – David S Alkek (2013)

Fatal Philosophy - A Murder Mystery

I feel somewhat reluctant to provide negative feedback on a novel that was free on Amazon. I have reasoned that, given that the novel was free, it would be churlish to complain, but on the other hand, I have invested a great deal of time in reading it (I tend to take the view that one should not comment on a book unless one has read it the whole way through) and therefore feel quite justified in having an opinion.

The overview is that a Dallas murderer is shooting people whose surnames start with the name of a philosopher to whom they are connected in some way. It is not noted immediately that the victims are being killed in the order of the philosophers being discussed at the weekly meeting of The Philosophy Club. Detective Jason Colbert is put on the case.

There are many things wrong with this book. In the first chapter, the first murder takes place when a Professor of Philosophy is shot. The murderer, through whose eyes we see the crime, makes a point of retrieving the bullet. The next week, there is another murder. Jason Colbert’s lab techs are quick to report that the bullets from the two crimes are from the same gun.
One also has to ask why the murderer did not retrieve the bullet from the second murder.

Meanwhile at an Art gallery, several people get into a discussion about Philosophy and decide to make it a weekly debate at the homes of the Debaters. The fact that everyone present not only immediately agrees to this, but are familiar enough with philosophy to give a talk on a specific philosopher, is just the first of a series of implausible scenarios.

The murder victims are chosen because they share the initial of the Philosopher of the week, and/or an ethnic and employment relationship, therefore the first victim is a Greek Philosophy Professor, Professor Patagos, whose speciality is Plato.

Given that the rest of the victims are connected in some way to members of the Philosophy Club, how realistic is it that one could find victims matching this criteria? Additionally, the Philosophy Club and the list of philosophers for discussion were not in existence when the first murder occurred, so how did the murderer know what he was going to be doing after the first murder?

Apart from the plot holes, the dialogue and the characterisation need some serious work, as does the pace. There are interminable passages of the background history of people, as well as the colour of their eyes. Whenever a new character is introduced, it seems that an entire page (at least) comes with them, telling us their backstory and their place in the world.
The murderer is fairly easy to determine from very early on, so I was even robbed of some surprise revelation at the end.

It’s a shame, because it’s not a bad idea, but until the characters are made a little more rounded with dialogue relevant to their individual personalities, and the bugs are ironed out of the plot, then this is not going to fly.

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One response

  1. TK

    I’ve been asked to read a couple of books and had the same complaints. I’m not sure what kind of editing process some of these authors went through, but too many things slip through the cracks. I bet, like some of the free or self-published books I’ve read, this book could really be something if better editing were applied.

    April 21, 2014 at 9:13 pm

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