Author: Lisa Preston
Mood: There is no mood that would make this book a viable option.
This book is so bad, it made me want to claw out my eyeballs and set my hair on fire and never read another book again.
Okay, I’m exaggerating. But The Clincher is actually so f*cking awful that I did quit reading it after 41 pages.
At first I was giving it time to warm up, hoping it would come around. It didn’t. Night after night, I kept telling myself that if I could just make it to the end of The Clincher, I’d at least have more to rant about in my review. But there was no way I could keep suffering through this insult to the craft, when there are so many good books out there that aren’t childish bullshit.
Yes, I said that. And I meant it. Do yourself a favour and don’t read this book. You can still read my review, though.
The Clincher is about a horseshoer named Rainy Dale. Clinching is bending a nail to secure a horseshoe, so now you understand the title. That’s the most interesting part of this book.
I’m a horse person. I chose this book SPECIFICALLY because it’s about a female farrier who solves mysteries. When my mom spotted the book on my kitchen table, she had the same reaction. But author Lisa Preston spends a lot of time either dumbing down the horsey terminology, or over-explaining it via the narration and the dialogue.
Huge mistake. You can’t cast a wide net with niche mysteries. Whether you’re writing a cat cozy, or a cook cozy, or a plant fetishist cozy – you have to go deep into that world and be willing to let go of the broader audience who doesn’t have that special insider knowledge. Or, you know, give readers some f*cking credit, and trust that if they enjoy your characters and writing, they’ll Google the words they don’t understand.
Where was I? Oh yes. We just started.
Rainy Dale has a roster of clients, and is extremely bitter and judgey toward all of these people who pay her and trust this newcomer to the county with their animals. If you live in a rural town, you know that it’s hard for anyone who wasn’t born-and-raised to start a business among established locals. Yet Rainy is just snotty about it.
One of the clients is Patsy-Lynn Harper. Patsy-Lynn is painted as an annoying gold digger who “doesn’t buy her clothes in a big enough size” and has “ridiculous white-blonde hair piled up over thin, dark eyebrows.” Rainy says that Patsy-Lynn has spent the last year renovating and cleaning up her husband’s barn and paddocks to the point where it looks great and the horses don’t have to stand in mud, but also calls her a “bored, rich housewife.” The attacks just come across as jealousy.
Rainy has a chef boyfriend who loves her and cooks her meals and supports her business. But the way she talks about him (and the way Preston describes him between narrative commentary) is painfully insulting:
- “I gave him a look that was supposed to mean Because It’s A Truck. But he wasn’t grabbing, just grinning, so I gave him another eye and another look. This one meant Because It’s A Truck Stupid.”
- “I was all set to congratulate myself on the awesome power of my scowl, ‘cause he shut up like he’d slapped himself.”
- “I know, I know, what kind of guy has a cat anyways?”
She also makes fun of his interests (like musicals and collecting tools). We’re supposed to laugh along with her while she ridicules everything her partner says or does, and refuses to give him any hint about what he said wrong, all while he’s serving her dinner. WTF.
At one point, Rainy gets pulled over by the cops, and questioned about the sudden death of Patsy-Lynn. Not only is she rude and uncooperative with the cops at every stage (way to flex that white privilege), but she’s also super cold about Patsy-Lynn’s apparent suicide. At one point she refers to her “wet eyes,” but for the most part she talks about it in a blunt manner and makes snarky jokes in the same moments.
The reviews on the back of The Clincher (which include Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire series), describe Rainy as “a firecracker” and “a distinctive voice.” All I got was rude and immature. Like, I LOVE a tough female character. But Rainy is not a tough woman, she’s a brat.
I think Preston was trying to make Rainy fierce and feminist, and overshot so hard she created a character that is completely unlikeable and is basically just a sour bag of dicks.
Preston’s writing style is praised in a lot of reviews as “unique”, I guess because she uses a lot of regional colloquialisms to convey some type of accent and way of speaking. But what those quirky turns-of-phrase attempt to hide is weak writing.
Preston (and Rainy) have a terrible habit of over-explaining not just the horse terminology, but also jokes. You get a line that could actually be funny, then an exhausting paragraph of supporting copy. It reads like Preston either doesn’t trust the reader to get it, or that she was asked to write a book of a certain length, and when she was done it wasn’t long enough so she went back and add a whole lot of useless filler.
She also frequently uses descriptive words for the person speaking that don’t fit the conversation or tone at all, so it’s like everyone is overly theatrical and cartoonish.
And last on my list of issues with those first 41 pages is the fact that she insults the audience, making fun of small-town folk – literally the people who bought your book because they have horses and appreciate women farriers.
I wish I could have written a shorter review to show that this book didn’t deserve more of my time, but it just pissed me off in so many ways and I needed to name them all. Maybe the series gets better as it goes. The Clincher has 3.79 stars on Goodreads, and 4.1 stars on Amazon, so clearly SOME people like it.
Just not me. At all. In any way, shape, or form.