A while ago, one of my friends and fellow bloggers posed the question at her site, “What makes a novel irritating to you?” Evidently I’m fairly opinionated because I quickly fired off an answer of about three or four things that irritate me greatly. One thing that I neglected to add to the list that drives me crazy: the author refusing to make the hard decisions with his/her characters. I don’t know this to be true but I imagine that in those circumstances there is some degree of tension between characters you really like and an audience you really want to please. As a reader, I just don’t like feeling as if I’m being indulged, if that makes sense.
Ends of the Earth is the latest installment in Tim Downs’ series of Bugman novels. You may remember how much I loved his book Less than Dead (linked to my review). Ends of the Earth contains much of the quirkiness and snappy dialogue that I enjoyed so much in Downs’ previous novels. I liked this book. I like Nick Polchak, forensic etymologist and bug man. I liked the complicated mystery that kept me guessing as to the resolution:
Nick Polchak must stop a terrorist from causing a global ecological nightmare.
Two beautiful women from Nick’s past are competing for his heart.
He’s not sure which impending disaster makes him more nervous.
When forensic entomologist Nick Polchak is called to the scene of a murder on a small organic farm in North Carolina he is astonished to find that the victim’s estranged wife is an old friend, a woman he once worked with–a woman he once had feelings for. When she asks Nick to investigate her husband’s drug-related murder, Nick seeks the assistance of Alena Savard, the reclusive dog trainer known to the people of northern Virginia as the Witch of Endor.
Alena jumps at the chance to renew her relationship with Nick–but when she arrives in North Carolina she discovers that she’s not the only woman who has her eye on the Bug Man. Soon Nick finds his usually analytical mind clouded by thoughts of a strangely human nature. These two women have stirred feelings that he can’t quite fathom, feelings of lost opportunities and future possibilities…
Now Nick must navigate the unexplored territory of his own heart while he solves an agroterrorist’s plot to ignite an environmental holocaust that could spread to the ends of the earth.
In short, I really liked the mystery part of the novel.
The love part, I didn’t like quite so much. Nick is caught between two women, Kathryn and Alena, both previous characters in earlier Bugman novels. None of the love triangle seemed to ring true. In fact, that part of the story falls rather flat and comes across to the reader as a little ridiculous.
Downs takes a real risk with his ending, leaving it up to the readers. Yes, that’s right! After something of cliffhanger regarding each of the leading ladies, the reader is directed to Downs’ website where she can vote for the ending of her choice. Remember what I said about being frustrated when authors won’t make the difficult decisions with their characters?
Frustrations aside, I still liked Ends of the Earth. I’m a big fan of the Bugman and look forward to reading more.
Wife and mother, Bible teacher and blogger, Lisa loves Jesus, coffee, dark chocolate and, of course, books. Read more of her reflections at Lisa writes…. Lisa thanks Thomas Nelson publishers for providing a review copy of this novel!