Her Nightly Embrace, by Adi Tantimedh*

hernightlyembraceI was invited to read and review this title by Net Galley and Atria Books. I thank them for the opportunity.  The first two chapters showed signs of promise, but in the end, this book is poorly written and for most, it will also be offensive. I can’t recommend this title. That said, it’s about to become a television program, so perhaps you will enjoy it more than I do. But I have to call them as I see them, and if they give this writer a host of awards, I will still say this book is worth one star and nothing else.

Ravi Singh is our protagonist. He has dropped out of a program of religious studies, to his father’s profound disappointment, and become a detective. He had something of a breakdown, and under stress he sees Hindu Gods that no one else can see. An added pressure is financial; he has bills to pay, and his mother has racked up some gambling debts for which she may be harmed if not paid soon. I warmed to the unlikely loan shark, and I thought this was going to be a fun read. And if it had been well written, it would have been.

In other reviews, I have occasionally noted the way in which a tired, overused plot device may become brand new and almost magical in the hands of a capable writer. This one works the other way around. It’s a unique, if somewhat gimmicky idea, but the author will have to develop a vocabulary before I can enjoy his work.

Profanity has never been a hot button for me. I’ve been known to toss the “f” word into my own reviews when feeling particularly warmly. Unfortunately, Tantimedh uses the word the way I’ve heard teenagers do it; when someone is too lazy to consider what word might be interesting and hasn’t been overused yet, the “f” word can become noun, verb, adjective, and interjection. Everything, everything, everything in this book is said, by either narrator or in dialogue, to be “fucked up”.  By the 40% mark I was so distracted, and it was so obvious that I wasn’t going to engage with the text as I had hoped, that I started keeping track to see whether my perception was accurate. Was I being snarky, or was that word—and a few other similar ones, especially the mother-f word—all over the place? And as I started highlighting, I was amazed to find it on almost every page. Some pages were miraculously free of it, but then there’d be another page where I found it twice, or thrice. At this point I gave myself permission to skip to 80% and see whether something wonderful would happen at the end to redeem this thing. It’s been known to happen; just not here.

I’ve only panned a title I was invited to review once before, and that was because of ugly racist references throughout the text. I’m generally a generous reviewer. But suddenly I felt as if I were before a class of eighth graders once more, explaining that not only will profanity offend some readers, but when it’s overused, it’s often because the writer doesn’t want to do the work to find a more specific or eloquent term.

Whether the issue is due to a translation issue—I didn’t check to see if this was published in something other than English originally—or laziness, or a lack of facility as a writer is moot. The end result is the same.  This is bilge. Save your money.

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