Posting a 1-star review for a highly rated book, you always feel the imaginary (I hope) weight of the collective glares of everyone who loved it.
I rarely give books I finish an outright 1-star rating but this one I really, really can't not. Mostly because trying to think of something positive to say outside being able to make it to the end is giving me a migraine. But also due to the sexytimes, which should be this story's saving grace, but instead came out this side of bland for me.
The story starts with the arrival of one Adam Shaw in a Fijian island that belongs to the nefarious criminal Vornis, with a smuggled Cezanne painting in tow for sale. Being a long-time associate of Vornis, Shaw is given a lot of allowances and comforts in this visit, the biggest of which is the promise of getting hooked up to other international men of mystery evil to expand his business with. The other being allowed to share in Vornis' plaything, a DEA agent (Lee) he captured in a failed surveillance mission in his camp in Colombia. The conflict arises from the push and pull between Shaw's job and his libido morals, which may not be as imaginary as he first thought it to be.
See the premise sounds so promising, it reminds me a lot of The Tied Man. Except this failed massively to deliver on the characters' appeal and the emotional wattage that only made me feel upset for all the wrong reasons. True, I've read a lot of books that went far and beyond where I felt The Island shied away from and in a scale of FSoG to TTM this falls in the middle of the BDSM-torture spectrum. But I don't think the sympathy for the well-being of a young man tortured and raped into submission should lie on how graphic and gruesome the depiction of his suffering is. I was ever so hopeful there will be enough character complexity to hold my interest at the very least, if not give me something to feel anything about.
Unfortunately, both Lee and Shaw's characters seem to be stuck as the awaiting victim and reluctant savior for the entirety of the book which is so very apparent with the redundant lines and forced, vapid sentimentality. I mean, how can I feel any sympathy towards Lee counting his days by the number of sand dollars when his disjointed memories before his capture were so vague and superficial that they brought little contrast to his predicament? How can I care about Shaw when he comes across as pretentiously self-righteous because his moral dilemma is an endless, exhausting circle of I am evil or maybe not because I have a dog? Character logic was just so painfully absent (Lee's a DEA agent and he doesn't even know what drug he's getting injected with) and both characters were so poorly formed and as a result, the foundation of their relationship failed to have any perceivable depth or go beyond the obvious.
And by obvious I do mean sex.
The insta-lust was bordering on absurd and how the relationship between Lee and Shaw progressed as the story went along bordered on irritating. There wasn't even any doubt for me as a reader, no tension over how things will go. Which was so frustrating because the early chapters will lead you to believe there'd be ample suspense... only to leave my thrills suspended in perpetual disappointment that couldn't be shocked back into caring after that "plot twist of convenience" in the middle. At that point it felt like the plot was floundering at its lack of direction beyond Lee's implied torture and Shaw's circular moral arguments that the reader's interest needed to be resuscitated in some way. IN ANY WAY.
When it didn't. If anything, it actually pissed me off further because that twist made everything that happened, everything that's been said and thought of by Shaw before it a heap of twaddling flapdoodle.
Which, surprisingly (because I thought I was all out of complaints to give) only led to me further raging over Lee's character as he eventually decides to tell his parents the entire, full gory detail of what was done to him in the island. Because HE needs it to move on. Because it's not enough that his parents had to suffer through his death, they have to suffer all over again for the benefit of HIS peace of mind. I found it an astounding display of selfishness.
I can't, for the life of me, find anything good to say about this book… okay maybe the part before Shaw first saw Lee was not that bad. All 15 pages of it. Beyond that, I'm sorry to say, was a downhill of disappointment for me. One star because I finished this and thr half star goes to Molly.
Because you know. Dogs.