3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Review of The Polygrapher by Dohn Jagster (Pseudonym)
The Polygrapher, by Dohn Jagster, is a spy thriller that keeps the reader a little off kilter and guessing until the last chapter.
The lead character, Al, is a polygraph interpreter for the CIA. The first three chapters ease the reader into the setting, following Al’s early career, his love life, and his engagement to Margaret, whose family owns a pub in Northern England.
In chapter 4, we fast forward twenty-five years to the meat of the story. Al wants to retire, but doesn’t have as much money as he thinks he needs. As he contemplates how to retire, he realizes that he has a lot of potential power, by means of his job as polygrapher, to find out personal secrets and exploit them for his own gain. “His lust for money finally overcame any and all loyalty to the system…” (p. 66).
What ensues is an exciting tale involving tropical locations, nuclear secrets, government agencies, and bumbling spies. The stakes couldn’t be higher, with a new war in the Middle East hanging in the balance.
During this story, the reader becomes enmeshed in the lives of several different characters. Jagster devotes a considerable amount of writing to each character’s narrative, background, relationships, and emotional state. While this may help the reader to care more about the final outcome of the story, the initial experience is that of chasing down rabbit trails. We are given much detail and background with no indication of what might actually be important or drive the story forward. At times, the dialogue becomes extended monologue and internal thoughts go on for pages with no real aim or focus––for instance, there is an unnecessary three-page conversation about password management. This kind of extensive character development is important background work for any author, but not every detail or thought should make it into a final draft.
The book’s POV was also disorienting, starting in “third person omniscient” and then trading off between “first-person Al” (chapter 3) and “first-person Margaret” (chapters 2, 5, & 6). The author finally settles on “third person omniscient” from chapter 7 through the end of the book, with only a little “first-person Margaret” bleeding through in the last two pages of the epilogue.
I believe a good editor would have helped normalize the POV, shaved about 30% of the unnecessary character development, and helped catch many typos and grammar errors.
However, if you can get through places where it bogs down a little, this book is a very interesting story with a few exciting plot twists. If you like spy thrillers or international politics, this is a fun and thought-provoking book that you will enjoy.
Despite the need for a good editor, I give The Polygrapher 3 out of 4 stars on the merits of its strong story.
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like jaylperry's review? Post a comment saying so!