Misdirection by Elizabeth Burges
Book 1 of Counterplay
Books come in many categories’s, many forms, and you never quite know what you’re going to be reading until you start turning the pages. This is perhaps even more true of independently publishes books which are free of the requirement to conform to particular genres. The Misdirection, first book of a series by the same name, is no exception to this rule. It is, however, a book which lends itself to a series because the book itself is a series.
It is probably best described as the novel equivalent of a soap opera. It holds all the elements of an American soap in the same vain as Dallas or Dynasty. I say this without criticism, because if you like the soap opera style then you will enjoy this series, and it will draw you in to keep reading, not only to find out what happens to the characters you love, but to the characters that you love to hate as well, and there are undoubtedly a lot of characters in here.
You can think of the characters as the cast of the soap opera, and the action moves between them in much the way the action of a soap opera would as well. Strolling between scenes as one character interacts with another before the action is carry forward by that character to the next, like links in a chain which sweep you along as they progress. The narrative in this respect is the camera following one then the other, before panning over to follow the next character who wanders through the scene.
In other hands, this technique of many voices each carrying their own story and their own desires forward as they weave in and out of other lives, would swiftly become confusing, if not indeed a mess. Burges and Burgess, however, manage to make the narrative seemly seamless. While a chapter may have one, two, five or even ten different points of view characters in scant few pages it never gets lost in itself or more importantly loses the reader in its intricate web. This in itself is something of a noteworthy achievement because there are a lot of characters in this book.
I am also a sucker for any novel that comes with a playlist at the end. But every good soap opera has a theme tune.
Handily at the back, there is a set of family trees that helps you sort it all out if you do get confused. Though as I reviewed the Kindle version, I was not able to just flip to the back as quickly as I would in a print copy to check just how two characters were related. Yet some who, again in testament to the narrative skills of the authors, I never need to. I was too busy enjoying the story, all be it with a scene of impending doom that is laid out in the first chapter. The narrative carry s you along and carefully remind you of al those connections when you need little reminders without overburdening them.
The first chapter is set around events at the end of the first book. So you know the tragic events you are moving towards. Then the action drops back thirty days, and you learn how the tragic events came to pass. While as a narrative trick it is hardly original it is written well. Importantly by the time you get back towards the looming event you’re invested in the characters and care about them. You want to know who got shot at the beginning, and perhaps more importantly if they are going to survive. To use the Soap Opera comparison, this is who shot JR and a whole season devoted to finding out not only who but why.
No characters are all good, or all bad, there are shades of grey running through them all that even the ones which seem at first nothing but villains you come to care about. Which again is a well-played hand by the authors. It is too easy to make a character all bad, and leave not even a glimmer of light about them. They do however play hardball with their characters from the start. You’ll love some and hate others like any good soap. and like any good soap the nastier the characters may be the more you end up loving them.
In short, this is a book which should be ‘Rivers’ the soap opera. Named for the hospital which holds a central place in the lives of most if not all characters in the book. If it was a Soap, it would be getting its second season after this marvellous opening year. And even a jaded old hack like me who doesn’t much like soap operas and appreciate and enjoy a good one all the same, and this is a great one.