by Linda Stasi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was so excited when I started Linda Stasi’s newest novel The Sixth Station (Forge 2013). Her voice is warm, personal and believable, Her first person narrative pulled me in immediately, putting a human face on the world of journalists who often seem to wallow in a reputation less about seeking truth and more about the ‘at all costs’ rejoinder to that mantra. Here, Stasi’s main character is a struggling journalist who has had some bad breaks, was out of work for too long and really needs her current gig (who can’t relate to that?). The plot is a Dan Brown look-alike, but I’m open to those. There have been a few I loved (i.e., the Pandora Prescription).
But somewhere around page 44, the plot meandered from ‘believable though extreme’ to just ‘extreme’. By page 125, it had found its new over-the-edge path.
Let me back up a bit. Alessandra Russo, struggling forty-something journalist, finds herself plopped smack in the middle of the story of a lifetime when she is asked to cover the trial of a world-renowned terrorist. Her first day, something (no spoiler) makes Ali the story as much as the man reputed to have killed thousands. When events lead to Ali being fired and wrongly accused of murder, she is forced to flee and seek answers to a two-thousand year old puzzle. Intertwined with this is timeless and current question: Is the civilized world ready to convict a man of heinous crimes when he denies his guilt and his followers claim he is the modern-day Jesus?
What if they posit he is a clone of Jesus Christ?
Still fine to this point. Extreme plots are what make many thrillers tick. But then Stasi made a few errors. One is more a writing stylization–she foreshadows a lot of the action in the book. It’s a technique some authors use to keep you reading. They want you to know that while things might look calm (not a trait you want in a thriller) right now, there’s danger in the future. I can ignore that if the writer is fresh and substantive, which Stasi is.
Then, she made another mistake: She made Ali unlikable. The more Ali got into this mystery, the more flippant, disrespectful, and judgmental this woman with her spotty journalistic background became–toward people she should listen to. It’s not that I disagreed with her. My mind was open, waiting, curious, but I pick my mentors carefully, and a woman with an attitude and a personal agenda didn’t seem like a good choice.
Books rarely survive if readers don’t like the main character.
Over all, if you like an extreme plot, a Brown on steroids, and can forgive Ali both her chosen profession and her inability to see where the facts lead her, you’ll enjoy this book. Me, I had to give it a three stars.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, Technology in Education featured blogger, and IMS tech expert. She is the editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-6 Digital Citizenship curriculum, creator of technology training books for middle school and ebooks on technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.