Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count:75 -80,000 words
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Jason Beech is a Sheffield born author who now resides in New Jersey with his wife and daughter. When not writing Jason coaches soccer. Over The Shoulder is his first novel.
You can learn more about the author at his website.
Tony Mortimer is a gangster living a double life. He has to kill his old school friend, Jonah, to prove his worth to his boss, Frederick, who is beginning to suspect Tony is moonlighting.
But Tony wants to get out of the life, he’s in love with Diane. But his family keep pulling him back.
This was a frustrating read. It had promise, but I struggled to connect with the characters. Two problems result from here. The first is their sheer number – five brothers and several sisters, plus their partners, along with the cast of bad guys such as Frederick and his number one, Lansky. The second is an almost total lack of description. All I saw was a series of names and very little, if anything to distinguish between them.
For example Jonah. Okay he’s only in it for a page or so. But there is a significant reveal at the end resulting in a twist that was a damp squib because of the missing detail. Jonah is of a certain appearance, but it’s a blink and you’ll miss it aspect after Mortimer has shot him. It is there (I searched for it) but I failed to catch it.
This lack of description is pretty typical throughout. Events happen, but there’s little to give you a clue of the surroundings, people, atmosphere etc. The result? I didn’t get into the story or love the characters, I had no empathy.
On a more minor note there were inconsistencies. Sometimes Frederick was referred to as Fred, then Frederick again. Distracting. Also a use of local dialect came and went. For example ‘yer’ would pop up in dialogue, followed very quickly by ‘you’, the correct word. I don’t mind dialect, just stick with it.
The sentences were sometimes mangled and words often repeated (a particular pet hate of mine, which may not bother others). An example of this:
Sam scanned the jobs in the paper for his new life as a civvy. When with his civvy friends it always pleased him to think they thought him a renegade, because within the family he was firmly considered square.
Tony couldn’t compute. Jonah felt his shoulder. It looked like it thudded.
There were also cases where perspectives shifted mid-scene, moving from one character, to another, then back again or even to peripheral people who had no part to play. And odd stuff such as when Tony and one of the many relatives are walking in a park, then suddenly thinks others seeing them may consider them gay lovers. Why does this matter?
All in all a frustrating story that I failed to connect with.
Rating: ** Two Stars