Firstly, massive respect to Adam J Nicolai for self-publishing and doing so well in the Kindle chart. Though self-publication has become easier because of ebooks, it is still a brave and difficult thing to do. Unfortunately, although I admire Nicolai's proactive approach to getting his work out there, I really didn't like the book. Alex is unimaginative and trite. I wouldn't have bothered to struggle through it if it wasn't for this blog. Perhaps, I am being a little bit harsh, it has some glowing reviews on Amazon and surely they can't all be written by Nicolai's family.
The Plot: Ian's son, Alex, is murdered and although the perpetrator is dead as well, Ian can not find closure. His wife has left him, his job is threatened and now he is being haunted by his son. Are these visions of Alex a manifestation of his grief and a sign of mental ill health or is the ghost of his son trying to communicate with him beyond the grave?
Trigger warning: rape, child abuse, N-word, murder.
The premise of this book is overdone, a ghost with unfinished business and a father wanting vengeance has been done to death (pun totally intentional) and Nicolai doesn't add anything new. The whole thing was very predictable, and everything was too neatly tied up at the end.
Nicolai's depiction of grief is very one dimensional, Ian is angry and unpleasant. Anger is an understandable and rational part of the grieving process, but it isn't the only emotion. Ian's characterisation lacks subtlety and the internal debates he has with himself are irritating and expose the weakness of Nicolai's writing
Also I found it difficult to have any sympathy with Ian as I doubt he was even a nice bloke before his son was killed. I really disliked his treatment of his colleague Sheila, she is young and female so Ian thinks she is a 'slut' and a 'cock tease'. Hmmmmmmmm. Nicolai also randomly throws the word 'n**gah' out there, there is absolutely no need for the inclusion of this slur, Nicolai is a white author and so are (as far as I can tell) Ian and his friend, so they shouldn't be using that word to address each other.
The descriptions of Alex's kidnap and rape were disturbing, as I'm sure they were intended to be. However they were gratuitous and overly graphic. I'm sure anyone who has watched the news is aware of the horrible things that can happen to children. There was no need for Nicolai to go into so much detail, but again it shows the lack of subtlety in his writing.
I also hated the inconstancies in the novel, Alex is only able to replay conversations he had before he died, but his murder is able to move objects and nearly succeeds in killing Ian as well.
I had low expectations, as this book was free, but even they weren't met.
What did you think? Am I too harsh?