This is an official Caribbean Books Foundation review http://www.caribbeanbooks.org/
First of all, let me just say that most reviews I’ve seen for this book have been glowingly positive but from the stand point that they can’t believe such a hard core crime novel came out of Barbados.
I find that a little insulting and I refuse to join in your amazement. There are incredibly talented people from that island who are capable of anything and I will not let this review be bulldozed by the low-expectations placed on a clearly talented author. Sorry but only honest reviews here.
When I chose Fields of Death to review, it really was the cover art that drew me, so kudos to the graphic artist, whoever they are. Cover art matters!
It drew me to find out more about the story behind the book. The cane field murders in Barbados. Now I’m not going into the details of the actual murders. This book is not based on them. It is just inspired by them and all of it is fiction and unlike the real life murders has a more satisfying conclusion.
The story follows the ‘X-Man’, detective-inspector Neil Boyce, a top cop in Barbados whose team is placed in charge of solving gruesome murders of women that suddenly hit the island in March of 2013. Their bodies decapitated and cut open are left in cane fields around the island causing nationwide mayhem and frantic attempts to catch the killer.
This book is disturbing but in a thriller crime novel kind of way. It’s like you’re supposed to be having a good time but then things get very bad really fast.
The author describes every kill in detail through the psychotic mind and eyes of the ‘Dragoon’. If you already have some kind of traumatic experience with being kidnapped, raped or abused, I suggest you leave this book alone. It may trigger you.
Traumatic experiences aside, if thriller, murder, horror crime stories are just not your thing, I doubt this book will scar you for life. After this review, if you still want to read it, go ahead. Ease into it and if it’s not for you, at least you tried. But if you do like thriller, horror, crime novels, you’ll be fine. It’s right up your alley.
So, on to the actual review. And spoilers, well, maybe. Do I have to call spoilers? Isn’t it obvious?
The villain really drove the story. It wasn’t just all about the great detective solving a big case and finding clues. The author made you want to know why the killer was the way he was. What happened to him to make him such an unflinching psycho? And what was behind his call sign? I was not rooting for him but it was interesting to see his thought process and the story was paced nicely.
I also really appreciated how St. Cyr. handled the island life aspect of it. It wasn’t overdone. He didn’t try to fit all of Barbados’ customs and culture into his novel, though Crop Over did make an appearance in the very end.
What he did explore was the tendency for tourists to be given an advantage over locals because of the way they are viewed in Barbados. How strange that even under suspicious circumstances no tourists were suspected. The first thought for law enforcement and government officials towards them was to lower their guard and ask questions because tourists benefit the economy! Right? However suspected locals are subject to shoot first, ask questions later?
This book started off slow for me. It was frightening and did eventually get very exciting. But I think it’s more because it was inspired by actual events. So part of you feels like, oh, it’s all fiction, but then a part of you knows that this shit can actually happen.
However, with the exception of the killer, the other characters weren’t incredibly interesting. The protagonist was supposed to be this specially trained detective but then he didn’t do much. He was just there most of the time, thinking about his girlfriend and how she was ‘the sexiest woman he had ever met’, looking cool in a crime scene, or having meetings with other people who were actually forming conclusions and getting ideas.
Most of the supporting characters were also basically unmemorable. It was just a litter of names jumping out of cars with guns, going to raids and meetings. Very few of them really made an impact on me.
The book eventually did pick up from the shoot out in the cane field. I was reading a few pages here an there before that but after that part I needed to finish to see them catch this guy! So yay, to finishing strong! This is when detective-inspector Boyce started to really show his investigative colours as everyone had dropped the case by then. Months had passed and he was the only one still working on it. Only then did his character get interesting for me.
And like any good crime novel, it threw a wrench in the mix to distract the detectives which I always appreciate. I wouldn’t really call this a mystery novel, as the readers knew who it was from the start. There was nothing we had to figure out. Descriptions were excellent. I cringed as anybody with a pulse should when reading gore and macabre scenes but if it wasn’t well written it would have been less impactful.
One thing really bugged me about this book.
I’ve found this book listed under murder thriller, fiction mystery, thriller suspense, contemporary fiction, mystery detective, and that’s all fine an dandy. But there are at least 5 or 6 semi-explicit sex scenes in this book. Why is it not also listed under erotic suspense or erotic crime thriller? Why, because it’s a ‘serious’ book? I almost feel like some authors avoid any labels to do with sex or romance because they want people to take them seriously. But yuh know what?
Genres exist for a reason.
I know some people don’t like labels, but practicality is sometimes common sense. You have to give the reader an idea of what they are getting into. Otherwise you risk them being terribly uncomfortable or unsatisfied with their purchase. Genre labels are not meant to be straight jackets for a novel. They should be fluid enough to express or suggest in a few words what to expect from the content of the novel.
Now I’m not saying that one or two casual flings written in minor detail warrants a glaring red flag! I just find it a little weird that nowhere is it ever mentioned on sites that promote and sell it that this is clearly an adult book. And half the sex scenes were just there for the sake of having them, they didn’t advance the plot at all.
Now nothing is wrong with that. Mr. St. Cyr can put as many romps in his book as he wants but then rate it accordingly!! If you don’t want the genre label at least give it an age tag so people understand that it’s an adult novel.
Crime stories and thrillers might be someone’s cup of tea, but not erotica. Then again there might be somebody out there looking for an erotic crime thriller along the lines of Basic Instinct or Eyes Wide Shut but they won’t know to try this book because it isn’t labelled as such.
This also could speak to the fact that genre labels are very restricting on some sites. You can either choose one or the other or the correct label is just not available. And then many authors probably don’t concern themselves with genre labels either. They write the book, put it in the publishers hands and let them figure that out. Either way, thank God for reviewers, now you know!
Also, I have to say, this definitely feels like a ‘man’s’ book. Like even a blind man can see it.
And by that I mean, every woman (except the fat one and the old one, really???) was painted as sexually attractive in some way. Officers would be having a thought and suddenly be watching their female co-workers ass. I mean… at least it’s honest. Asses can be distracting.
Each gun was also named in detail. Except where forensics is concerned, this was unnecessary. I know the author wants you to see all the fancy guns everyone is pointing, shooting, and walking around with in their belts, but if I don’t know what a .357 long-reach magnum or a glock 40 pistol looks like anyway, it’s just more reading for me to get through.
And did I mention how many times we had to listen to the protagonist tell us in different ways how sexy his girlfriend was? I’m saying it again because this is how annoying it was after awhile. We heard you the first time. We get it. She tickles your fancy. I want to know what you’re thinking about the murders though. -_-
This book was also so ironic in a way and if the writer meant to write it like that then, brilliant!
One character is seriously considering killing his girlfriend for cheating on him and he means it cause he slit the throat of his last one when she tried to leave him (oh boy! ) but when she’s brutally murdered by the killer he’s devastated because she didn’t deserve to die like that?
Yeah, but, you were going to kill her though.
And the main protagonist spends the first 20 something chapters exaggerating how sexy his girlfriend is and how much he loves her but one woman just whispers in his ear that she ‘likes him’ and he’s ripping off her clothes. hahahahah xD
So what exactly were you two doing for the first 20 something chapters?
But I’ve come to the end. I read it. It was good. I hope I got you interested and I would recommend it if you like horror, crime novels with some erotica thrown in. Please visit the author’s Facebook page for updates and other projects they’re doing.
As well as the Fields of Death book page on Caribbean Books where you can find purchase links.
– N. Gomes, Caribbean Books Foundation