Review: The Diviner’s Tale

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Diviner’s TaleThe Diviner's Tale by Bradford Morrow
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on January 20, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 309
Format: Hardcover
Source: NetGalley

Walking a lonely forested valley on a spring morning in upstate New York, having been hired by a developer to dowse the land, Cassandra Brooks comes upon the shocking vision of a young girl hanged from a tree. When she returns with authorities to the site, the body has vanished, leaving in question Cassandra’s credibility if not her sanity. The next day, on a return visit with the sheriff to have another look, a dazed, mute missing girl emerges from the woods, alive and the very picture of Cassandra’s hanged girl.

What follows is the narrative of ever-deepening and increasingly bizarre divinations that will lead this gifted young woman, the struggling single mother of twin boys, hurtling toward a past she’d long since thought was behind her. The Diviner’s Tale is at once a journey of self-discovery and an unorthodox murder mystery, a tale of the fantastic and a family chronicle told by an otherwise ordinary woman.

When Cassandra’s dark forebodings take on tangible form, she is forced to confront a life spiraling out of control. And soon she is locked in a mortal chess match with a real-life killer who has haunted her since before she can remember.

A lot of interesting and dramatic stuff happens in this book. Which is why it’s amazing how incredibly boring it managed to be. I had to force myself through pretty much every page. The only characters I liked at all were the twins, as they felt the most like real people. I never related to Cass, who felt strangely withdrawn despite the story being told from her perspective. She felt more like a man than a woman too.

The book jumps around in time frequently. Although the different snatches of Cass’ life are pertinent to the book’s plot, they still don’t always feel so at the time or really later. Perhaps the book just needed to be shorter, to relate a bit less of the past. A big part of the book centers around a mystery, the conclusion of which was surprising only in its sheer lack of surprise. Everything happens after many hints and with absolutely no plot twisting.

Morrow’s writing conveys an understanding of language that is commendable and literary. However, he has strange diction, which left me cold and often incredulous. For example, Morrow describes a morning as having a “heavy mackerel sky.” While this is a real phrase, which I know thanks to my handy dandy Kindle, it isn’t one that many people are going to know. Call me stupid if you like, but whose first thought on reading that phrase isn’t going to be of a sky filled with a school of mackerels or maybe just one really big fish. In general, I found his language kind of off-putting, sort of pompous and bland all at once.

The Diviner’s Tale searches, but fails to locate the water to fill the well of the reader’s interest.

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