Book Review: Home Made Hell, a Mystery, by J’Rie B. Elliott

[Reviewed by Bruce Roberts]

We are all works-in-progress. Every writer, for example, has to start somewhere—and get better. It’s a craft open to development, to improvement, sometimes over an entire lifetime, as the tools and thoughts of a creative writer evolve and mature. And I doubt any writer in history has been absolutely satisfied with “finished” products. Swirling around in a writer’s head are better words, better descriptions, wittier dialogue, stronger scenes, etc., even after the work is published and up for sale. “If only I’d said…”

I was thinking of this as I read Home Made Hell, a mystery by J.B. Elliot. The plot revolves around an interesting idea that is well within the genre of mystery: a sex and power-crazed man, who speaks with an alter ego in his head, has stalked a young girl for years. However, when she matures, falls in love, and marries, he snaps. Convinced that the husband has seduced her, and that she really loves him—the stalker, he plots kidnap and murder, and revenge.

So this is a book with definite possibilities. However, those possibilities are severely undercut by the writer’s skills-in-progress. Ms. Elliot needs a refresher course in basic English—vocabulary, punctuation, verb agreement, sentence sense, voice and tense consistency, etc. The spelling is not bad—though not professional—but she likely depended on Spell Check, which of course won’t distinguish between “hear” and “here,” or “to” and “too,” to name a few examples.

Bruce Roberts is a poet, retired teacher, and ongoing Synchronized Chaos contributor. He may be reached at brobe60491@sbcglobal.net.

The strength of this book is in the likable characters. Except for the villain, all the characters are easy-going, unpretentious, good people that don’t deserve this evil in their midst. Again though, their goodness shines through despite awkward dialogue. They are working class folks, but they often speak in a clumsy, more formal speech. The one Irish character sounds as if he’s from Brooklyn.

I’d like to say that her many “errors” are by artistic design, but I think not. Ms. Elliot just needs to work much harder to produce professional writing. At this point in her career, she’s not ready. Instead of accepting her book for publication, the publishers should have advised her to work on it—to polish the mechanics, the dialogue, the plot—and resubmit it. Again, it is a book with possibilities, but they’re in the future, not now.

Still, she has written a somewhat coherent 130+ pages, a notable achievement for any beginning writer. Despite the problems, the novel is in print. It’s in a tangible shape so that now she can revise and polish, over and over and over. And if all that revision gets tedious, she must not give up, but remember one of my favorite sayings, “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary!”

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