Home > Book, Genre, Review, thriller > Book Review: The Preying Mantis by Andreas Louw

Book Review: The Preying Mantis by Andreas Louw

MS Paint drawing of a bloody praying mantis.Summary:
FBI agent Betty Roy has been pursuing one serial killer for years.  He murders one young female teacher who plays a musical instrument per season.  Suddenly, though, he contacts Betty herself and starts ratcheting up the rate of the killings. He seems to have some sort of personal interest in her.

Review:
I picked this up during the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale for two reasons.  The plot sounded intriguing, and honestly the cover amused me.  What I found inside was a plot that was mostly strong (although it fell apart at the end) that was unfortunately supported by some truly bad writing.

Let’s start with the good. The plot is genuinely creepy.  Although the Preying Mantis (as he calls himself) is fairly typical for a serial killer thriller, he’s got enough unique qualities that the reader is left intrigued and guessing.  The murder scenes are brutal and frightening.  I was engaged enough that I kept reading in spite of the bad writing quality, purely because I wanted to know what happened at the end.

Unfortunately, the plot at the end takes a bit of a nonsensical nose-dive.  I have an incredibly difficult time believing that the FBI would let an agent recently removed from a serial killer case who they know is currently being pursued by him run off into the middle of the woods without backup. Or some sort of catch the criminal plan she is in on.  Similarly, I have major issues believing this same FBI agent would be stupid enough to go to the woods at this point in time, let alone go there without her big guard dog that she instead leaves at a friend’s house. It’s a lot of characters acting stupid just to get them to where the author needs them to be.  Thankfully, that only shows up at the end.

As for the writing itself, there are three separate issues at hand.

First up, we have an omniscient third person narrator telling a story that takes place almost entirely in New York City with American characters, and yet the narrator repeatedly speaks British English. This is bizarre, confusing, and jolts the reader out of the story. I actually had to check a couple of times and make sure the story was indeed happening in NYC.  Here are a few examples:

She had met the old man before and knew his heart was a bit dodgy. (location 1095)

He thought it best not to point out at this stage that if he had been shagging Wells’ wife, he might not have been gay. (location 2306)

Betty came out of the shower, refreshed, and took out a pack of crisps and a soft drink. (location 3553)

In case it’s unclear, Americans don’t say dodgy, shagging, or crisps. We say sketchy, banging, and chips.  I suppose it’s possible that Louw could want the narrator of this event taking place in America to be British, but if so, it should be for a reason. For instance, it would make sense if the story was being told by a British person researching the killer at a later date.  That is not the case, though. As previously pointed out, this is an omniscient third person narrator telling a story set in America. They should speak American English.  The British English also drifts into the American characters’ dialogue, but there are far larger problems with the dialogue, so I won’t bother citing those.  Suffice to say though that if it’s a problem for the narrator to speak British English it’s an even larger one for the American characters to do so.

Speaking of dialogue (see what I did there), let’s get to that.  The main problem with the dialogue is that it doesn’t sound realistic.  At all.  Also every single character sounds exactly the same.  The Latino-American cop sounds exactly like the white American FBI Agent who sounds exactly like the serial killer who sounds exactly like the head of the FBI’s investigation.  And none of them sound realistic.  Rather than try to explain it, let me show you.

I shall go mad if I don’t have anything to do for the next two weeks. (location 310)

Would you like to order out? I am quite hungry and can do with some sustenance. (location 1213)

After about fifteen minutes he emerged form his office and said, “Let us go.” (location 2868)

How come you being here all by yourself in the middle of nowhere, dear? (location 3617)

The only way dialogue like this would work would be if, say, one character was OCD about never saying a contraction or had Asperger’s Syndrome or something.  But none of the characters are like that and also they all speak exactly the same way.  It’s a real problem for dialogue to sound so incredibly unrealistic. It drags the reader out of the story, plus it’s bad characterization. Each character should have an individual sound.

Finally, there are the general grammar/spelling issues.  The most annoying being the author’s tendency to switch back and forth between present and past tense, frequently within the same sentence.  For example:

She had been hunting him for the last two years and it reached the point where he has invaded every aspect of her life. (location 123)

Lemke had played this kind of game before and he is definitely not going to let someone like Newmark get under his skin. (location 669)

Shudders up and down my spine, y’all. And not the kind you’re supposed to get from reading about a serial killer.

Overall, the book has a relatively unique plot that is overshadowed by a first draft quality level of writing.  I encourage Louw to get either a co-author or an editor for future endeavors, as well as a wider variety of beta readers.  Sound editing and checks by beta readers could have cleared up many of these issues.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Smashwords

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