2 out of 4 stars
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George Melville is an investigative officer who has just received some rather shocking and life-altering news when His Majesty's Secret Service requests his assistance. Leaving behind his pregnant wife, he travels across the globe and must fight for his life in the pre-WWII espionage, The Hand of Destiny: Book Two A George Melville Mystery by Martin Jones.
In this short read, Melville interacts with a Chinese undergraduate student, a gay professor of antiquities, a female pilot, an Indian prince, and a Nazi general. The author's inclusion of such a diverse range of characters is admirable and significant in light of the pre-WWII timeline. I was also intrigued by the premise of the book; Melville is ostensibly an investigator for a law firm, though while on a mission for His Majesty's Secret Service becomes involved in espionage. As the second book in the George Melville Mystery Series, it seems to stand on its own. Unfortunately, despite the positive features above, the book is poorly executed.
There are several issues that hindered my enjoyment of this book. First, I found the author's verbose writing style distracting. A few examples of this are reflected in his tendencies to repeatedly describe the details of almost every meal he consumes and his flowery descriptions of the weather at any given moment. While occasional nods to delicious food or the appearance of the clouds might be illuminating, the repetitive habit has the opposite effect. Instead, it seems as if these are just tools employed to fill the brief 117 pages.
Next, there are aspects of the plot that don't ring true. In one instance, an estate employee is serving the meal and interjects his opinion which reveals an awareness of the estate owner's private financial arrangements. In the circumstances given, the employee's familiarity is inappropriate, and realistically, it seems unlikely he would be privy to such information. Another example is Melville's reaction when he learns he has received an inheritance. Without exposing any spoilers, I find it difficult to imagine anyone responding similarly despite dealing with grief or even shock.
Finally, there are numerous errors in both grammar and punctuation. I did read a PDF copy but with awkward unpunctuated phrasing such as "...he asked it seemed hopefully", it presents more like a rough draft. The copious errors can't be disregarded--there are ten within the first eight pages alone. Unfortunately, the errors persist throughout the book.
For all of the above reasons, I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. Overall, while I appreciate the diversity of characters, the book would benefit from a thorough edit. Even so, it may appeal to fans of espionage who can look beyond the editorial issues.
The Hand of Destiny
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