Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nantucket Soap Opera: Review

Nantucket Soap Opera by S. F. X. Dean has been sitting on my TBR list (of books I don't own) for quite a while. At some point after I discovered I really enjoyed mysteries with an academic flair I ran across a mention of this one. I don't remember exactly when or how. And so I added it to my Wishlist Challenge--that way I could scratch it off my list. When I found that it was the sixth of a series starring Professor Neil Kelly, well, I just thought that was spiffy. A whole new academic series to start on. Yeah....no. Having read this one, I don't think I'll be going out of my way to look for any more.

Here's the scoop: Professor Neil Kelly is a seventeenth century scholar. He's a rare bird in the academic community--a scholar whose books sell well. Coming off a best-selling book about John Donne and a mini-series no less (we're stepping into fantasy territory here), he's taken himself off to Nantucket in the off-season for some peace and quiet and a chance to commune with his muse. 'Cause he's supposed to cough up another best-seller--this time on Ben Johnson.

His idyllic little world is shattered when Hollywood hits Nantucket in the guise of actor/director William Olds. Olds has decided that his next big winner will be a soap opera based in the 17th century and using a true story of the island's first bank robbery as a jumping off point. Tagging along with Olds is his ruthless and ambitious daughter, his sex-symbol mistress, and an entire entourage of ghastly hangers-on--all roaming the island to see if it really will be suitable for their dream series. They also try to convince Kelly to write the screenplay once they discover that he had actually co-written a small piece on the robbery for a television show. Following the havoc wreaked by the celebrity folk, the story is made complete with three murders, betrayals, infidelity, and an abuse scandal.

This is a story that doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. At times comic, at times philosophical, at times drop-dead boring narration. There is way more gratuitous sexual references than necessary (if any can be said to be necessary). Dean's narrative style roams from straight-up story-telling to weird little cameo sketches of various characters. I never really connected with the people involved and I didn't much care about the story--and I darn well didn't care about every male character's sexual fantasies and who they first made it with (and that was rarely important to the plot).

I get the sense that Professor Kelly is a likeable fellow. It's remotely possible that I might enjoy a real-live mystery story with him as the central character. But I can't say that this particular book allows me to discover whether that's true or not. I'm not sure whether the plan was to "sex-up" the story because we had Hollywood involved or not--but if there's some symbolic thing going on with that....well, it just didn't work for me. And, unfortunately, it has made it unlikely that I'll try another one just to find out if a Kelly story really can be good. Unrated.

1 comment:

Sherrie said...

Hi Bev,
Sounds like an interesting book. I'll have to check it out. I've finished another Mount TBR book. Victim Six by Gregg Olsen. Have a great day!

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