Sigh. Why can’t books like this be easier to review?
There’s so much to like about Ava Barry’s debut novel Windhall…and so much that grated on my nerves. I really wanted to push this to a charity first-book-4-star review and I just couldn’t.
The book kind of feels like the version of the decaying mansion at the center of the story: beautiful and glamorous but uninhabitable and far past its prime.
Probably easier with this one to pull out the old good/bad formula:
-The book definitely brings old Hollywood to life in a real and interesting way.
-It has a solid knowledge of Los Angeles neighborhoods and deftly highlights the perpetual contrast between past and present in the city.
-Parts of the mystery were well-written and unpredictable.
-It definitely gets the nuances of the crumbling indie journalism industry.
-Has all the makings of a classic LA mystery tale, which is absolutely my bag.
-Absolutely could not connect with the lead character. He wasn’t good or bad, he was just…present. It’s a glaring weakness of the whole book.
-The dialogue was wooden and uninspired.
-While the mystery had many twists, the ending was overdone.
-I can usually suspend my believability radar for any fiction but this one really pushed me hard.
I guess overall, I really liked the setting but couldn’t connect with the story…except when I could…but then I didn’t. Seriously, if Barry had a more interesting lead, I could overlook the other flaws but I just don’t really know what Max’s deal was or why I should care. Check this out if you like Old Hollywood tales and don’t mind them fictionalized.