The Patron Saint of Plagues – A review

As a long time fan of authors like Robin Cook and Michael Crichton, I LOVE medical thrillers. The more viruses, bacteria, plagues, and epidemics, the better, at least as far as I am concerned.  Just mention etiological agents and I get really interested.  So, I started reading The Patron Saint of Plagues with a lot of excitement and was more than prepared to like it.

Unfortunately, I was tremendously disappointed in this book.

First, I might argue that this book was mischaracterized by calling it science fiction – realistically it was more of a combination speculative fiction/mystery. It was set 50 years or so in the future. The author did a poor job of world-building here and I spent the first half of the book asking myself why it was set in that time.

The characters suffer from the same lack of development as the world-building does. The characters are unbelievable and barely fleshed out.  They are also constantly contradicting themselves for reasons which are never explained.

The protagonist, Dr. Henry David Stark is a perfect example. At various times in the book, he is referred to by three or four different names. Also for no apparent reason, he sometimes (and only sometimes) speaks a pidgin English that no one else in the book (including his family) speaks. This is never explained.

What the reader gets out of this are plastic, predictable characters doing predictable things leading to a predictable ending. The only surprises were the parts that didn’t make sense.

I found this book poorly edited – and by this I don’t mean spelling and grammar errors. Those things were fine. I mean the guidance an editor SHOULD give a writer. Little things like telling him when the story doesn’t make sense. Or when a scene should be cut. Or when the dialogue isn’t working. Or that the story isn’t flowing. Or that he has thrown information out there and never followed through with it.

The description for this book said that author Barth Anderson has won awards for his short fiction work. Since this was his first novel, he may not have been ready for long form writing. Although, honestly, the reviews for his second novel, The Magician and the Fool, were not much better.  I think one that of the reviewers for that novel summed it up best by saying, “Barth Anderson may be a skilled writer, but he is a terrible storyteller.”  Unfortunately, I have to agree.

This book is available in a Kindle edition.

6 thoughts on “The Patron Saint of Plagues – A review”

    1. As someone who loves to read (and write) and as someone who loves authors because they provide those wonderful books, I really hate writing a bad review. But I also do feel that I need to be honest, especially as I also review a lot of self published and independently published books. If I am holding those books to a certain standard, then I feel that I have to do the same for something coming out of a major publishing house.

  1. I agree. There are some blogs I read *only* because they’ll be honest, but balanced.

    At the same time, as someone who hopes to be reviewed one day, I cringe, LOL. I’m working on that tougher skin.

    1. I will ask Jim to come by and say a word on vicious reviews – He has had some that were unbelievably nasty. And personal.

      Jan, I try very hard not to make it personal. But for this book, I really stand by my statements about the editing. I do a lot of editing, and I always note things that aren’t clear or don’t make sense. And things that are incomplete.

      My first college writing classes were taught using a book that basically turned the class into one big critique group. Students wrote their assignments, made copies and passed them out to the class. EVERYONE made comments on the work. It was a great learning experience. You learn to be diplomatic and honest when you have to say it to the author’s face.

      I don’t think that you would put your work out there without someone reading it first and giving you honest input, would you?

  2. Glinda and Jan! I liked Glinda’s review very much because it was her insight stated clearly without viciousness. I feel that she explained her position quite well and backed up her points. She’s the kind of reviewer we need!

    Speaking of viciousness, I know it all too well, as I have been on the receiving end of horrendous attacks since the mid 1970’s: verbal, physical, and historical. It makes one sink or swim for sure.

    I decided to swim, lol, in spite of it all. Also, when people are attacking, they try to make it look factual, non-biased, and blameful toward the object of their attack. I’ve had it all done to me!

    Jim Skafish

  3. There’s something about a disappointing book that leaves a bad taste in my mouth – and like you, I’m not a fan of giving “negative” reviews because as a writer, I know how much effort stringing that many words together takes. Even when they are poorly strung. However, I appreciate the honest review. My TBR pile is already towering. I can safely say I won’t be adding this one to it. (Even though it’s a great title…)

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