Thursday, January 1, 2009

Tregarde 03: Jinx High (Lackey, M.)

Rating: 3/5
Year: 1991
Genre: Horror/fantasy
Read Again? Eventually

Third and final in a series of horror/fantasy/mystery novels. "Jinx" takes place about a year after "Burning Water." Say late 1987. Diana Tregarde comes to visit her old pal Larry Kestrel in Jenks, Oklahoma (get it? Jenks, Jinx, hahaha), and to sit in on an English class as a living, breathing example of a Real Author. The two of them are soon working on a mystery (just like old times): something hungry and evil is after Larry's son Derek.

Derek is the "It" boy at Jenks High School, if only because the school's reigning princess Fay Harper has the hots for him. He's not a jock, doesn't wear the "right" brands, doesn't have rich parents, and doesn't drive a flashy why does a girl who gets everything she wants even bother breathing the same air as Deke?

Monica Carlin is the New Girl, and she likes Deke. But everyone knows that Deke is with Fay. Bad luck for her. The thing that's after Deke wants Monica, now, too.

Jinx High drags, holy crap does it drag, and starts off disappointingly in that Lackey continues being heavy-handed and clumsy--something "Burning Water (1989)" didn't suffer from, but its prequel "Children of the Night (1990)" did. She started with a tight concept and solid writing with the first, but went flabby for the next two. Again, she can tell a good story, but it's how she tells it that annoys me. It's a combination of word choice, wordiness, emphasis and convenience.

Word choice: some of her descriptions read like a vocabulary list. Writing about cars? Find a car magazine and randomly pick out words. Steering box. Rat. Undercarriage. Fiberglass. Now just toss them into a paragraph when you're writing about a car and don't worry about whether they belong where they go.

And don't be afraid to throw clumsy combinations out there. "Max limit"? "About to reach the max limit on their library card"? Why not "about to max out the library card"? Less wordy, less clumsy, and it echoes a term we've all heard about credit cards.

Wordiness: Never, never make use of a half-dozen words when thirteen will do. Does she get paid by word-count?

Emphasis: She _likes_ that italicized text; she also literally likes "in no way," absolutely. Stuff like this should be used sparingly, if at all.

Convenience: Cheap little tricks that manipulate the plot where she wants it to go. Monica just got her license a month ago, but she's allowed to drive alone at night? Well, yeah--but only so the bad guy can try to scare her into a wreck, and so Diana Tregarde can explain psychic phenomena to the kid, Learner's Permits be damned. The kid doen't touch ass to driver's seat again for the rest of the book.

One particularly ironic scene has Diana lecturing the class on writing style, warning about unrealistic protagonists and unnecessary repetition. Is Lackey's own character telling her how to write?

On top of all this, the reader isn't really involved in the mystery in any of the Tregarde books. We know early on who the bad guys are, and we have to follow Diana around for the rest of the book wishing she'd figure it out, already. I was done reading halfway through, and still had half the book to go. Gonna have to take two points this time.

And for all three books as a series, I'll give it 3/5. That's too bad, because this series could have been much better.

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