Alex Ganon Reviews: The Good Samaritan by John Marrs
The Good Samaritan
Thomas & Mercer
General Fiction (Adult) , Mystery & Thrillers
April 12, 2018
Key Take Away: "As my hopes rise, they drop. Fast as if they were coerced with words to jump off a cliff."
The Good Samaritan plunges headfirst into a theme of depression and suicide. I need to admit straight off that I think the concept, in general, is a great one. We have an antagonist, Laura, who spends her day/evenings volunteering at a “help-line” service with the goal of pushing depressed callers off the edge as it were. So not really a good Samaritan at all .... Oh I see what the author did there.
So through Laura's perspective, we get oriented in her typical day. We are force fed how arrogant and smart she is and gulp down her pity about her weight and low self-image.
I thought to myself about a ¼ of the way through this book why I haven’t heard much on gender appropriation in modern literature (men writing women badly .... or the other way around). With so much cultural appropriating going on you'd think the internet would have headlined the gender type by now. I mean come on, you out there, if you're going to spend the money on a degree in gender studies you better use it for something.
Well, after we read through most of the female stereotypes in existence, either through acts of Laura or her costars at the help-line office we know a few things.
One: Laura is a little crazy.
Two: She is pretty self-conscious of her body and looks down on all her other female co-workers.
And three: She kills people by convincing them to commit suicide.
We also know that the first part of the book was either written in haste or not proofed with the reader in mind at all. The scenes are structurally sloppy, and I found myself backtracking to figure out who was speaking. Information about the character seems created on a whim like how we are introduced to Laura’s two daughters and husband, then several chapters later, her son (the most important person in her life, her “anchor” as she describes). You think such a person would have come up sooner.
She also has two more anchors in her life. I’m no sailor, but one will usually do the trick.
Her main requirement for victims is for them to contact her several times so she knows they are serious about suicide. She mentions that the switchboard is automatic and random so if they manage to get her back on the line, they must really mean it. She also mentions there are something like 300 people taking calls at any given time around the world for this company. So these victims have a 1 in 300 chance (or something, without bothering to do the math and not considering the fact that these people have lives and aren't always going to call when she is even working—whatever) to get her back on the line, and just by luck they do .... daily. This is stupid. My god.
It gets better actually. I want to be careful not to ruin this for anyone, but I'll just bull ahead anyway.
The story changes to another character's perspective, and this is when it gets good—turning into a cat and mouse thriller. Ryan, the husband of one of her victims, is out for revenge. Clues from his dead wife point him to Laura, and the tables start to turn.
There is a great scene where Ryan is talking to his palliative care grandfather and gets the validation he needs to take an “eye for an eye,” and I truly loved it. Ryan’s brother, whom he is very close to, does not approve and causes a rift between them, and we see Ryan develop slowly into what you think will surely be someone more evil and crazy than Laura.
Then we learn Laura is actually clinically crazy, and her husband left her, taking the kids quite a while ago and is even living with someone else. Normally, you would think this creates the motive and reason behind her actions, but instead, it just feels cheap and meaningless. Turns out, to my surprise, that the poor writing at the start was the author's way of foreshadowing her as a loon. Wouldn’t be my first method of choice but alright. When relying on unreliable narrators, writer's need to have a great deal of skill and creativity that I feel was just not there. Sorry.
So as my hopes rise, they drop. Fast as if they were coerced with words to jump off a cliff.
The story takes a twist, and the next writing "technique" seen fit to utilize is completely changing the personalities of the characters that were built earlier. It’s cheap really, instead of the story following the characters created, we see characters who change to meet the requirements of the story. There were some decent characters I enjoyed, and it infuriates me when out of the blue they become complete dimwits. Instead of reacting like the normal human beings they are, we are expected to relate to them acting contrary to how the author wrote them in the first place (or how anyone would act, even people suffering from mental disorder which I can't even get into here).
What's worse, we are expected to believe the author was being clever (using unreliable narrators) to add depth to the plot. Unfortunately, the reality is that the writing is merely unapologetically opportunistic and lazy.
He's sure to hide it as a “twist,” but I assure you the only twisting going on is a spiral going down the toilet.
Rated 1 star out of 100 have a nice day.