Review of “Odessa on the Delaware,” by John A. Hoda

I joined a writers group last year and I’ve been trying to read something written by my fellow aspiring authors. Most of them haven’t figured out how to self-publish, or don’t have anything ready, but several have managed to jump that hurdle. I reviewed one several months ago and found it interesting and well written (The Tollkeeper), even though it wasn’t a genre I read regularly. That was a paperback.

Todays’ review is by another fellow Inkling, but it I read it on my new Kindle because getting paperbacks has suddenly become challenging (I heard that the printers are running out of paper). I wrote a review for Amazon but that was brief, so I’ll elaborate here.

There isn’t much to say about cop/organized-crime thrillers. There are only so many combinations of bad guys/good guys (including girls), so this story couldn’t help but feel formulaic. Authors in this genre have to use words to get their readers’ attention and, unfortunately, this story doesn’t use language well. It comes close several times, but it was inconsistent, as if the author wasn’t really in the minds of his narrator’s subjects (the story is told from multiple points of view). It reminded me of the TV show, Dragnet. But it wasn’t told in the first person, and it couldn’t have been. Several threads are woven together, but then the pattern is broken and new cloth is woven; this was one of the strengths of the story. Very clever, but the storyline slipped a little, and the tension on the plot line increased to the breaking point. By the end, I was counting pages.

Part of my criticism of this book is due to the lack of proofreading. Hoda wrote an imaginative story that fits well within the crime genre (as I understand it) but he fumbled the ball at the five-yard line. As an author, I am familiar with the problem of deteriorating editing as a manuscript progresses because the later chapters simply aren’t viewed as often during the writing process. I combat this natural phenomenon by reading all of my books at least five times (often ten) after the first draft has been completed. That said…this book wasn’t ready for publication.

This isn’t the first self-published novel I’ve read that disappointed me in its lack of quality control. Maybe some readers don’t notice but, as an author, I catch every grammatical error, missing comma, clumsy construction, and it seriously detracts from my enjoyment. I don’t mind wordy writing, sentence fragments, lots of unnecessary punctuation (I love ellipses and 2m dashes), but I get confused by missing articles, conjunctions, repeated words and even scenes.

And when I get confused, I don’t write good reviews…

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