When you read Lin Wilder, you pretty much know what you are going to get: writing of the highest quality, from an incredibly learned professional author, and “The Fragrance Shed By A Violet…” falls firmly into this category. I’ve recently read this and its sequel “Do you Solemnly Swear? A Nation of Law: The Dark Side”, albeit in the wrong order, and have, on both occasions, been awestruck by the depth of Wilder’s knowledge.
Though, if I am to be ruthlessly honest, I have to admit that I found this book an incredibly difficult one to read, and had a truly tough time completing it. The fact is that it was really not for me – I found it incredibly wordy, and a real slow-burner, which required a huge amount of discipline to bond with.
“The Fragrance Shed By a Violet…” is something of a fact-infused creative case study, which may be intended to read as a journalistic exposé in parts; this latter point, I think, is where I start to struggle with it. The tale focuses on a cardiology scientist imprisoned for murdering her mother by administering an experimental drug, and the efforts of a journalist and a prison governor to clear her name. The corporate nature of this tale is one which renders it overly officious at times, yet in my opinion it is definitely at its most engrossing when it focuses on the real lives of, and connections between, the primary characters of the tale: namely the McCall family and Rich Jansen, the governor. Unfortunately there is nowhere near enough of this poignancy, in my view - this aspect of the book does not really kick in until the second half; when it does, I have to say that the book moves along at a much more satisfying pace. To be truthful, I would even go as far as to suggest that the whole idea of a news story and the intrepid reporter pursuing it could have been cut in its entirety, in order to create a much more affecting and touching tale – there are more than enough words in the first half to remove Kate Townsend and her investigation, and in my opinion the book would benefit immensely. I realize, of course, that it was Lin’s objective to create this kind of report, but I consider this a shame, and feel the book would have been improved had she instead opted to pen a heartfelt family drama.
Additionally, I must admit, I did struggle somewhat to garner Townsend’s enthusiasm for the (certain) Pulitzer prize her story would gain her; I do feel this is an example of a lot of implausible gloss, which detracts the reader’s experience to some extent – for example, the unrelenting use of superlatives to describe simply everything do grow more than a touch tiresome, and are so prevalent as to almost launch the book into the realm of fantasy; food isn’t just good, it is “outstanding”, characters aren’t just good at their jobs, they are at the very top, they aren’t just wealthy, they are in the elite, not just attractive, but “stunning” - the jaw-dropping adjectives and inter-character flattery never stop, and I think they are distracting, and unnecessary. Lin wilder does not write pulp – she is far, far too good an author for that.
I’ll be honest, I did mull quite deeply over the star-rating I wished to award this book, and in the end I did decide that although the book wasn’t really for me, I simply could not overlook the sheer quality of Wilder - she is hard-working, meticulous, and she has either gleaned a vast cross-section of procedural knowledge in her professional life, or is an incredibly dedicated researcher (or, more likely, both) – either way, she deserves enormous praise, and it would simply be wrong of me not to congratulate her work ethic as an author. Her language and grammar is of top quality – Wilder is clearly an academic - and for all I know she could be inventing every instance of procedural terminology… yet I know that she isn’t; whether she is an expert or not, I wouldn’t know, but I trust completely in the integrity of her every word.
To summarize, “The Fragrance Shed By A Violet…” is not a book I enjoyed, though that is not to say that you won’t - if you like procedural based corporate drama in the Grisham vein, give it a try. Lin Wilder, on the other hand, is a gem.
In : Book Reviews