Paul sets up a unique framework for his novel of finding the Loch Ness Monster.
Ed and Simon, two lifelong Nessie watchers, put together a team to finally find the monster. It’s a diverse group, including American widow Barbara, young American student Carl, chef Greg, skeptic Kitengi, the Russian priest Stefan, French undersea explorer Pierre, and Nessie-hunter Walter and his wife, Susie. But it’s a bit unclear why many of them are part of the team in the first place. All of them have at least vague ties to Nessie, but Barbara, for example, isn’t an expert, though she’s brought in all the way from America to run communications. Greg was traumatized by seeing Nessie, and Simon brings him in as a chef because he feels Greg will finally have a normal life if he faces his fear by seeing Nessie again—an assumption on Simon’s part. Because there are so many characters, Paul is forced to cram in a lot of background, often by stuffing it into unnatural dialogue, as with a stiff conversation in which Simon gives his life story to a cabdriver. The humor often feels forced, with a group of people laughing uproariously at corny or unfunny jokes. At one point, Simon tells a mildly amusing joke about an atheist meeting God, after which the “crowd erupted in laughter. Barbara laughed so hard that she fell to her knees for an instant, then quickly got back to her feet, only to fall down again.” There are some intriguing plot points—Barbara’s past loves, Carl’s exploring a new life in England—but the number and depth of the background stories about Nessie tend to slow the action, which doesn’t really start moving until almost the final third of the book, when the team starts seeing results.
A muddled story with some promising elements afloat.