Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written one ~ and only one. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of The Tangled Web, a thriller by J.P. Lane which I finished reading yesterday.
Characters: Get ready for a lot of characters. It’s a big cast, headed by international businessman Logan Armstrong and tenacious crime reporter Lauren Anderson. J.P. fills her tangled web with politicians, drug lords, businessmen, crooks and cops.
I had a little trouble keeping all these characters straight at first, though part of the reason might have been that taxes and races kept me from reading for days at a time. J.P. does a nice job with her characters, giving them believable dialogue and putting them in realistic situations.
Many of even the minor characters have backstories and agendas. Here’s Logan’s housekeeper Ivy, for instance ~ not a main character by any means, but still a memorable one:
Ivy was the salt of the earth, the essence of island mother, and, like so many others, she was father too, the yin and the yang of parenthood, the strength that held the fragmented pieces together; the women who walked down from the mountains, hips swaying down impossibly steep paths, baskets heavy with produce for the market miraculously balanced on their heads. These were the women of the island, these and the ones whose voices shrieked out from the ramshackle corrugated zinc shacks of the city slums, chiding barefooted children to order. It was their cry that began the day, provided a meal for a hungry stomach. It was their arms that offered solace from hardship at night.
Plot: J.P. promises an “international thriller” and a “tangled web” and delivers both. The book might have been titled “When plots collide.” There is whole lot of scheming going on, and it’s not clear at first who is involved in what plot, hence the tangle. I think I can say, without spoiling anything, that a corrupt prime minister is at the center of the web, and no one — neither drug cartels, fellow government officials or police — is happy with him.
Crime reporter Lauren Anderson tries to get to the bottom of the mess which has drug smuggling on a massive scale at its heart. She finds herself tangled up in one of the plots, as well as being tangled up emotionally with rich, handsome Logan Armstrong, who also seems to be involved.
Confused? Strangely, that’s part of the fun in this book.
Setting: Most of the story takes place on an unnamed Caribbean island, referred to only as “the island,” as far as I could tell. J.P. does a nice job with her descriptions of moonlight on the mountains, warm breezes and salt air.
Armstrong lowered his window, taking in the salty breeze off the sea. Over the purring of the engine, he could hear the rhythm of the waves crashing on the pebbly beach that stretched for miles adjacent to the road. He looked out the other window toward the city glittering like a diamond necklace around the harbor and up into the mountains.
J.P. doesn’t overdo it. There’s just enough description sprinkled throughout to give a sense of place, unnamed though the island is.
What I thought could’ve been done better: I wouldn’t have minded a little more physical description of characters, especially of main characters Logan and Lauren.
Here’s Lauren, as seen by Logan:
She was gorgeous. But her beauty ran deep. It was her energy, her laugh, the way she was looking at him now, that agile mind of hers going a mile a minute.
Gorgeous how? Saying someone is gorgeous is telling not showing.
Where J.P. does offer some physical description, as she does with photographer-assassin Pavel and drug lord Maria, it makes them much more memorable, which is important in a large cast of characters.
Note the description of Ivy, in the preceding “Characters” section. Though we get wonderful insight into Ivy’s character, we still have to guess at what she looks like.
Though the story features a lot of bad business going on, and plenty of dangerous characters, I didn’t feel J.P. put Logan or Lauren in any real jeopardy. I wasn’t scared for either one, which I think is necessary for a thriller. I had a bit of worry for Lauren when her Aunt Maggie, a highly placed official in the island government recruited her to take a suspicious envelope to London, but that was about it.
The book did have instances of good people in dreadful danger, and those pages made for suspenseful reading. Just wish J.P. could have put Lauren and Logan in that kind of trouble. Sorry, Lauren and Logan.
What I thought was good: I’ve already mentioned the insights, agendas and backstories of J.P.’s terrific cast of characters, and her nice work on the settings, so I won’t repeat.
In the preceding section, I mentioned “good people in danger,” and those scenes are terrific, replete with menace. In fact, the story begins with a brutal armed highjacking of a pleasure craft out by Fisherman’s Key, a scene both vivid and suspenseful.
I think I enjoyed the plotting most of all. Though the book is titled “The Tangled Web,” J.P. is the webmaster in perfect control of all the intricate, interwoven skeins of plot. And in the grand tradition of Robert LeCarre and Len Deighton, much of the chilling badness is revealed in rather prosaic conversations.
Here’s Logan talking with the deputy prime minister:
“What exactly are you saying?”
“I’m saying I’m in complete agreement with the Thomas woman.”
“What you’re saying is assassinate Freeman.”
“That about sums it up.”
Overall: J.P. has delivered a tale of intrigue rich in believable characters, exotic settings and and intricate, though credible plot. It’s not necessarily an easy book, but The Tangled Web is just as likely to ensnare readers as it does its characters.
Good job J.P.!
And for a sexy superheroine paranormal sci fi romantic adventure thriller, check out my own novel American Goddesses ~ thanks for visiting Honest Indie!