There are few things that truly annoy me in fiction. I can put up with irritating, pricky, or awful characters. I can handle a lack of quotation marks around direct speech. I can also deal with trope-y writing. But all of that depends on the author’s reasons for bad characters, experimental writing, and tropes. In fact, one of my absolute favorite things is when authors get all meta about tropes and explore genres with them.) Adam Hamdy’s The Other Side of Night relies heavily on something that drives me bananas: characters withholding information and just ordering other characters to go along with it because it will “all make sense later,” only to learn that the beans could’ve been spilled without ruining anything. I did not have a good time with this book.
There are clues early in The Other Side of Night that tell you something strange is going on. A prologue from a father reveals that he is permanently separated from his beloved son and that he is full of regrets about all the things he wished he could’ve said. It was poignant. Unfortunately, we never really hear the voice of that mourning father again. Most of the book is narrated from the perspective of Harriet Kealty. Kealty arrives from central casting to fill a role as a dogged detective who never listens when someone tells her to back down from an investigation. We meet her at a time when she has just been through two major disappointments. First, her soulmate breaks up with her. Second, she loses her job after a man ends up dead mere minutes after assaulting Harriet’s partner. This is a fairly typical setup for a detective-who-won’t-quit. A year after all the blow-ups, she finds a book in a used bookshop that contains an alarming inscription, hinting that someone is going to be killed. Harriet leaps into action…only to collide with a) a lack of court-standard evidence, b) her old heartbreak, and c) a lot of hints that “all will make sense later.”
The longer I read, the more annoyed I got. To be honest, I should’ve put this book down because the final reveal made me so angry. This book uses the dumbest, most selfish reason to justify time travel that I have ever heard. The Other Side of Night would have been so much better if the characters had been allowed to wrestle with their ethics instead of crashing into each other, all believing that they know best. Also, time travel is perfect for creating twisty plots. All these opportunities for exciting, thoughtful fiction wasted!
I’m going to cut this review short before it devolves into swearing and animal noises.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss for review consideration.