Top critical review
Crook in My Neck
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 23, 2015
Nick Stone and Harper Lane have never met. He’s a successful venture capitalist. She’s a successful ghost writer. The one thing that they have in common is that they are on the same transatlantic flight, which crash-lands in a lake in a rural part of England. Some passengers die on impact. Some drown. Some survive only to grow old and succumb to old age within days.
At first Riddle’s novel feels like a knock-off of the TV series, Lost, as Nick and Harper make their way through this alternate reality in which they find themselves. The reader’s experience mimics that of the protagonists, both finding that they are in a quandary, succinctly noted by Harper herself at one point: “Stand-alone novel? Sci-fi? Thriller? Time travel?” Eventually, the author pulls back enough of the curtain that we figure it out. (So do Nick and Harper.)
This is generally the type of story that I really enjoy: lots of diverse threads weaving together intricately. For the most part, Riddle weaves these threads well. His overall plot is epic and original.
The story does have, in this reviewer’s opinion, a very distracting element in its telling. As the reader takes in the adventure, he or she must do it simultaneously from two different points of view: Riddle has chosen to write this book in first-person-present tense – but from two different characters. In one chapter, we see part of the story directly through Harper’s eyes: “I can only sit, in a daze.” Yet in the next chapter, we see a different part of the story through Nick’s eyes: “They call it the Palm. I call it hell.” Unfortunately, Harper’s and Nick’s voices are nearly identical. If a reader opened a page at random, there would be no way of knowing who doing the “telling” at that moment.
It left me feeling like I have a crook in my neck from watching a tennis match at Wimbledon: back and forth and back and forth… A switch to an omniscient POV would have made the novel much more delightful.
One other weakness in the writing is the fact that there is an excessive amount of back story that is delivered to the reader via monologue – vis-à-vis one character telling another either what is happening in that moment or what has happened in the past. Again, a different choice of POV could have made the reader’s experience more enjoyable.
For readers who don’t mind first-person-present POV, the author’s choice may not be a hindrance. His plot idea is inventive, and his characters are likeable. In the end, we are rooting for them.
Sean M. Cordry, author of Kokopelli’s Thunder