Official Review: The Polygrapher

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jaylperry
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Official Review: The Polygrapher

Post by jaylperry » 09 Mar 2018, 16:52

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "The Polygrapher" by Dohn Jagster (Pseudonym).]
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3 out of 4 stars
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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.

******
The Polygrapher
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Post by kandscreeley » 10 Mar 2018, 13:50

It's too bad this one is a bit confusing. It sounds like a great story. I love when the book keeps you just a bit off kilter. Hopefully the book can be edited and turned into something really great!
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Post by Kat Berg » 10 Mar 2018, 21:56

For lack of a good editor...
It is always a tricky balance between giving enough information to create depth to characters and story and overdoing it and ending up with a bit of a mess. It does sound like a good story. I sure hope that they apply a good editor to make it a great one. Thanks for the review.

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Post by jaylperry » 10 Mar 2018, 22:38

Oh, I forgot to mention in my book review that Al is a hunchback. His hump also plays as a minor character in its own right, bringing Al luck, comfort, and camaraderie.
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Post by Kat Berg » 10 Mar 2018, 22:58

jaylperry wrote:
10 Mar 2018, 22:38
Oh, I forgot to mention in my book review that Al is a hunchback. His hump also plays as a minor character in its own right, bringing Al luck, comfort, and camaraderie.
Somehow that makes me want to read it more :)

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Post by Miriam Molina » 11 Mar 2018, 01:58

I am curious as to how a polygrapher can take secrets and make money with them. I am a wannabe detective so this story beckons to me. I've never encountered a polygrapher-protagonist in my years of reading crime stories. This should be interesting. Let's see Al join Quasimodo among the famous hunchbacks of fiction.

P.S. Jaylperry, we miss you at "What word am I thinking of?"

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Post by NL Hartje » 11 Mar 2018, 14:16

This seems like a fresh story idea! I wonder at the author's choice to make Al a hunchback. Details like this always make me interested to know who, or what, in his life inspired that inclusion. Thanks for the review!
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Post by jaylperry » 11 Mar 2018, 22:50

NL Hartje wrote:
11 Mar 2018, 14:16
This seems like a fresh story idea!
It did feel like a fresh story idea. It's certainly unlike any other book I've ever read!
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Post by Jkhorner » 12 Mar 2018, 12:05

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.
This is a really good point. I think background and lore should be extensive in fantasy world-building novels, and mostly absent from real-world settings. I love a good spy thriller, but this one seems a little too much for me. Thanks for the honest review!

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Post by Paul78 » 07 Apr 2018, 09:45

The information on your review suggests that you were disappointed reading this book. However, you may have considered the plot of the story making you award this book a three-star rating. Your review is great but I think the book may not appeal to me.
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