The Pot Thief Who Studied Georgia O’Keefe***

thepotthiefwhostudiedgeorgiaoI read this book at the invitation of Open Road Integrated Media and Net Galley. Thank you to both parties. This title is one of several in a series that I had not encountered before. The pot in question is the ancient artifact sort, not the type that people grow and smoke. The author manages to work several disparate and esoteric topics into a single novel, but not necessarily to its benefit. My own viewpoint is that a high profile editor might be of great use here.

The protagonist, Hubie Schuze, is an archaeologist who has decided that ancient ruins are wasted if they are left where their owners chose to bury them, or if they are made available to everyone by placing them in a museum. He likes to dig them up and sell them to private collectors, and this is how he makes a living; he regards himself as “a short Indiana Jones”, but recognizes that the similarities are superficial at best.

Of course, anyone that makes a living through illegal means will tell you that there’s very little recourse if the client stiffs him; he can’t report them to the cops, and he can’t take them to court, either. It’s a dubious situation at best, but the protagonist is enthusiastic, and chooses to continue digging up artifacts and selling them. There is one place he hasn’t been able to access, however, and that is the area cordoned off on the nuclear reservation. Through various nefarious methods, he manages to sneak onto the reservation and find some treasure.

In this story, Hubie has partnered himself with Sharice, a beautiful African-Canadian who’s had a mastectomy. She is also a virgin when the story begins.

The enjoyable part of this story is the way the author incorporates word play into his protagonist’s snappy narrative. Also, I haven’t read many novels set in New Mexico, and so the setting was a refreshing change from more frequently chosen locations.

On the downside, there are too many side issues. If the interracial relationship is controversial, which the narrative indicates it is, then let’s have a mystery and a controversial relationship. Or, let’s have a mystery and breast cancer. Or, let’s have a mystery and O’Keefe’s art. This novel feels as if too many ingredients have been thrown in, and they can’t blend into a cohesive whole as a result.

The protagonist is difficult to like, given that he is pillaging ruins to which he has no legal or moral right, but I have read novels with unlikable protagonists before, and it isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. Sometimes the protagonist becomes more likable as the character is developed; sometimes a side character is developed and we find ourselves drawn to him or her as they interact with the protagonist. Sometimes the whole point of the novel is to watch the unlikable protagonist struggle and develop. That didn’t happen here.

Possibly the greatest hindrance, though, had nothing to do with the characters; every time the plot started to gain momentum, we would have to pause for a cooking lesson. God save us all from story arcs held hostage by one recipe after another. At the 78% mark I threw up my hands, skipped to the end, and called myself done with this novel.

Which I am.

This book is available for sale to the public January 26, 2016.

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