I enjoy westerns and it’s disappointing that so few are published. When I first received a proposal for Fallen From Grace by J.R. Lindermuth I immediately accepted. I searched the web and found so many glowing reviews which only increased my rising anticipation about finally tearing it open and devouring the pages. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I’m not certain if my expectations were too high, if I was feeling overly harsh because of how much I loved the previous book or if it was simply a style that didn’t “click” for me.
I felt captivated at first with the mystery. The Sheriff of the little town of Arahpot, Pennsylvania, Sylvester (Syl) Tilghman was awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of a boy tossing pebbles at his window. A stranger to town had been repeatedly stabbed and was in the town doctor’s care fighting for survival. It was up to Sheriff Tilghman to solve the mystery but where do you start when no one knows him? It was an interesting plot. Once the Sheriff saw the man’s face he remembered seeing a local man, Valentine Deibert, talking to him the morning before the attack. It’s not much, but it’s a starting point. Deibert is evasive during his conversation with the Sheriff. It appears we have our first suspect but the character list only continues to grow as we meet a local shopkeeper, the owner of a brothel, and the girls at the brothel who also seemed very acquainted with our victim.
Sheriff Tilghman is an interesting and well-developed character. Honestly, all of the characters were likable and interesting enough to keep me reading the book. I loved the details that Lindermuth put into his characters. It was obvious that he took the time to really outline and develop them before writing the book. I felt like I knew them all intimately and they were described in such physical detail that I could close my eyes at any time and picture the characters and the town easily. The details with the characters physical appearance, personality, and lifestyle were very much appreciated and necessary in a good book.
Regrettably, the details were also the most frustrating thing about this book. I became very annoyed with the excessive minute detail of the everyday events in the book. I didn’t care to read about every step the Sheriff took, nor did I want to read about every bite of biscuit or every time he chewed or swallowed his food. Within the first 20 pages I felt like I had the full details of every single thing Sheriff Tilghman ate or drank during those two days. It was a nuisance and it caused me to begin skimming the book while I read to glance over the minutia and only read the details and information that were critical to either the plot or the character development.
There were also moments in the book where the western theme and the vocabulary felt forced and cliché. I felt as though the story wanted to take place in the 1800’s and it wanted to be a western so words or phrases were forced into the story in order to indicate those preferences. I understand that phrasing such as “reckon” and “recollect” and “soon’s I can” are all descriptive of old western culture and applicable in an associated story. I didn’t have any issue with those, or similar, words or phrasing being included but they felt out of place when compared to the rest of the dialogue and content. It was almost as though the story was written and then, in an afterthought, the author went back and added western style dialect in to make it all feel more authentic. For me, it didn’t work. The flow of the story was always interrupted whenever I would come across what I felt was either clichéd western diction or forced phrasing.
In the end I liked Fallen From Grace but I didn’t feel overwhelming impressed. It was a good book, with good characters and a good mystery. I was bored by the mundane details and disappointed by the forced western style. As I mentioned earlier however there are a multitude of glowing reviews of this book online. The story obviously appeals to a lot of readers. It is also only 169 pages (I finished it in one night) and it’s worth checking out if you’re feeling interested in a very quick cowboy read.