Dead on Demand by Sean Campbell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Dead on Demand is a crime novel describing the repercussions of one single person's desire to see someone dead.
Main character is Edwin Murphy, editor of a London based news paper. He's always put work before private life, and has been living on his own for some time when his wife finally files a divorce. Not only does she want half of his money, she also wants to move to New York with their little daughter.
Edwin cannot let this happen, so he devises a clever murder swap scheme to get rid of his wife, and later the woman who killed her for him, and more, until no connection remains...
Will the baffled police be able to see through his plans in time before he moves to Vancouver for a new job?
Dead on Demand was a project of two brothers. They wanted to see whether they could write (+ advertise + publish) a crime novel together in 90 days. Obviously, they did. Was it worth it?
I've been pondering this question almost since I started reading the book (I got the Kindle version for free), and I still can't say for sure. The problem is that I don't really understand the goal, or maybe it's the definition of "novel" I'm missing here; of a publishable novel, that is.
The story the Campbell brothers created is intriguing, at least for most of the book. It kept me reading. Nevertheless, I could never recommend Dead on Demand to anyone, at least not without mentioning that it's been done in 90 days, because it shows. As I said, the story itself is fine, but the writing is of a quite low quality.
I've seen worse, it's true, but I can't imagine this novel making it to a book store ten years ago. Without eBooks and self-publishing, this would not have worked. Is that a bad thing, though? I don't know. All I can say is that, if you don't mind typos, relics from rephrasing and other mistakes that could easily be repaired by another round of editing, but you would like an interesting plot, read it (especially if it's still free).
For most of the book, I was pretty sure I would give it three stars in the end. At 94%, I had to change it to two. I'll give you three reasons for my rating, one for each missing star, if you want.
Mistakes (in general)
One advantage you get with eReaders is that you can easily mark mistakes and can count them later on. I've marked around 70 instances - real mistakes (like the wrong time used), needless word repetition, lack of comma and stuff that could have been worded better. 70 mistakes on 351 pages means one on every fifth page. A bit much? I think so.
If you want, I can give you some examples, but I don't want this to get too long now.
In the first chapter, Julia is described as an unwilling prostitute. She gets her customers in her own flat, has a pimp and does heroin. She also has a boyfriend, who is not allowed to know about that, and additionally works as a barmaid.
About halfway into the novel, she is killed. From my perception, this can only be a few months after that first description of her. Now, though, she has been living with her boyfriend for two years (they've known each other for four) in that same flat. There is no mention of her pimp, nor of drugs. What happened? I don't know.
At first, I thought there were two women named Julia, but the name of the boyfriend is the same. I don't know if it's just me who doesn't get it. I don't know if I've missed something. Maybe the guy whom Julia wanted to have killed was her pimp? But even then, she's been living with her guy for two years before that happened! How, when she's selling herself to men in there without him knowing?? If there is an explanation, it should be in the book, I think.
The Mistake at 94%
Since Julia was only a minor character and the story went on well afterwards, and since I've managed to live with the mistakes, I still intended to give the novel three stars. After all, it's been done in 90 days, so what could you expect? As I said, I changed my mind to the end of the book. There was this one, absolute terrible mistake.
Actually, I quite admired the Campbell brothers before that. They were playing with a huge number of characters, and keeping the overview must have been hell throughout (it's even difficult for the reader at times). They managed, though.
Right until they confused the name of their Chief Inspector with that of their main suspect. David and Edwin. Very alike, huh? That was the major turn off for me.
Dead on Demand is a crime novel written in 90 days. The lack of time put into it shows in the style. A lot. It also shows in the story at the end. They had to finish it, so they rushed to a final twist. The twist was a nice addition, the rush just sucked.
The characters show little development. Everybody seemed to be quite talented at killing, which I found weird. I never really understood Edwin's motivation, either. OK, getting rid of his wife, I get that, but afterwards...
I've said it before: read it if you don't mind the low quality, but don't expect it to be as good as a book from a professional publisher.
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