"NEVER TOO LATE TO DIE" By Pablo Palazuelo

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 Under: Book Reviews



An exceptionally well-written thriller, about a group of retired service agents who decide to investigate the disappearance of a young woman, only to uncover a complex web of espionage and brutality. This character-based tale is intricate and vivid, and showcases wonderfully Pablo Palazuelo’s competencies as an author; he is certainly very high quality – talented, intelligent and stylish – and the translation of this book from his native Spanish to English is all-but flawless. There are some great qualities to “Never Too Late To Die”, and to Pablo’s work generally - it is very well-researched, and clearly the result of a good deal of hard work by the author. All the ingredients are present for a great thriller: the action scenes are top notch - dark, brutal and vivid - and it builds to a rousing climax. Pablo creates some great set-pieces, and his villains are truly high-calibre nemeses, more than capable of supporting a top-level action thriller.  

However, I’m somewhat loath to say that I would actually dumb this book down a touch, just to make it more palatable; I feel the atmosphere of Pablo’s action and the impact of his violent scenes are actually undermined by the sheer level of detail in between them, and the book, as a sum of its parts, is ultimately a little disappointing. It is clever, for sure, but, I feel, significantly
too clever, because the longer the read goes on, the more absurdly woven the tale becomes. While the plot is generally well-structured, with a satisfying change in direction every now and then, it is way too contrived – to a point where, sadly, you wonder if you know or care who is who, or what is going on. Indeed, it does get to the point where, as a reader, in the last third or quarter, you are imploring of the author please, no more plot, because with less of it the book would be very good indeed. There is simply far too much information being imparted throughout the entire length of this book – much of the non-action and backstory is explained in a very matter-of-fact style, primarily by dialogue; with a book of this length, it became very easy to become distracted. There are occasions of incredulity, where you find the behaviour of the characters a touch baffling, and the convenience of their decisions a little fortuitous at times, but the biggest problem for me was the plot – it is far too complicated. While it can be followed, this is not really the issue – more so is that it is just too long.

"Never Too Late To Die” is incredibly talky, and the first half is a real slow-burn, which takes a long time to get going. I rarely, if ever, award half-stars, but in this case 3 seemed too mean, and in no way reflective of Pablo’s quality, whereas 4 was a touch too generous for a book which struggled to hold my attention at times. Sure, books should be well researched and detailed in depth – and Pablo deserves credit and respect for his conscientious approach to this – but fiction is also, first and foremost, entertainment. Pablo is clearly well-travelled and knowledgeable, and deserves to be taken seriously as an author, but I do feel his work could benefit from containing this knowledge a touch.
The very high writing and editorial quality cannot be overlooked, but neither can the distracting information imparted in almost every scene. In a nutshell, I think I would like to have seen Pablo focus more proportionately on maintaining the atmosphere which his action scenes so effectively create, and less on over-developing the backstory. I felt very strongly that a good 100 pages could have been culled from this book, its plot simplified, and it would actually have been improved as a result.  

In : Book Reviews 




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