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Dixon Grace: 1.9.7 Hamburg by Alexa Camouro
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Dixon Grace: 1.9.7 Hamburg

by Alexa Camouro

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
A modern day industrial espionage tale, 1.9.7 HAMBURG, the debut novel from Alex Camouro is a very brave undertaking. Moving backwards and forwards in time in chapter jumps, it tells the story of much of Dixon Grace's past life as well as present circumstances. As befits the situation she finds herself in Germany, everything about Grace is complicated - her name, her ethnic background, her family, her current situation, the investigation she's involved in, her love life. Everything.

Part of the braveness of this novel is what seems to be the intentional use of complication. There's very little in this book that's straightforward. Fortunately it did work as quite a strong hook, as the complication, even when it contributes to a bit of confusion on the part of the reader, manages to hold the reader's attention - provided the reader is comfortable with being confused.

The downside, however, of the frequent confusion is that there are points when the pace lags - either because of all that darting backwards and forwards, or genuinely because nothing actually seems to be happening. The ability to stick with those parts of the narrative might have a lot to do with a reader's connection with Dixon Grace.

The viewpoint of the entire novel is that of Dixon Grace's. There are other characters moving in and out of the storyline, and whilst many of these are a standout (Grace's grandmother for example), they are ultimately less well formed and out of focus. And therein lies another problem - if you don't like Dixon Grace then just about everything else here is going to jar. Even if you struggle a bit with her, then the confusion is likely to be annoying. If the confusion is driving you bats, then Grace is going to be profoundly irritating. It's very much an all or nothing type of book.

Which gets you back to the braveness of the undertaking. One of the strengths and weaknesses of 1.9.7 HAMBURG is difference. This isn't a crime / solution style of novel. It's not straight-forward and it's not built around likeable or even easily understandable characters. It's not about resolution either. Whilst for this reader, despite a somewhat ambivalent attitude to Grace, and some profound confusion at points, that lack of resolution and the non-straightforward nature of the entire novel worked. It might not have made for comfort reading, and there were times when I was obsessed with desire for something, anything to happen. But never once did I feel like throwing in the towel on it. Which in itself was rather intriguing.

http://www.austcrimefiction.org/review/review-197-hamburg-alexa-camouro ( )
  austcrimefiction | Jun 2, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this through the Early Reviewers thing, and I tried to read it multiple times but I never got through more than the first few chapters. So I will be give this book to another person, who will hopefully be able to write a review.
  Rigborg | Mar 10, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This novel leaves me in a bit of a quandary. The story is great, the characters are strong, there is a great sense of place for all the locations, but the book is undermined by frequent fundamental grammatical errors and poor copy editing. This book is the first in a trilogy and I want to read the next two books, but I will need a promise from the author that she will get her publisher to employ a good copy editor, one who is familiar with the verb “to be” and who does not confuse three and four letter words starting with “th”, such as “they”, “that”, “than”, and “the”.

The story: It is about a young Australian woman called Dixon Grace who has tried a couple of careers in the past and, when we join her in Hamburg, she is working as an English teacher. This does not become clear immediately as half way down the first page she is dragged out of bed by a police assault team and rushed to the police station for questioning about corporate espionage. That is only the first crime to appear in the novel.

I am never one to give plot overviews in a review but I will say this novel doesn’t drag or hang about. It has several plot lines and they are interwoven very well with chapters jumping not just from one thread to another or from one country to another, but also backwards and forwards in time. I found the structure of the book excellent as it made me think about what was going on and consciously piece together the different elements of the novel.

The author is particularly good at misdirection and there were several points in the story at which something was revealed that forced me to reassess what I had perceived to be the story thus far. This was one of the delights of the story.

There is a strong undercurrent of making a stand for the downtrodden and abused, in particular woman who are subjected to abuse, be it through domestic violence, human trafficking for the purposes of prostitution, psychological abuse, or societal wilful blindness to inequality and abuse. Dixon Grace certainly passes the Bechdel test with flying colours. Having said that, it is a balanced book and does not make the mistake of claiming all men are bastards and all women are saints. It has a few angels and demons on both sides of the gender divide.

Background knowledge: I find it hard to believe the author acquired all the background knowledge she used simply through research. I have viewed the publisher’s website and viewed the CEO’s interview video and now understand that the company is interested in publishing books written by well travelled authors living in Germany. This reinforces my opinion that Alexa Camouro’s descriptions of various parts of the world (Germany; Australia; India; England; etc…) are based on experience rather than book research. The same goes for her handling of golf and cricket.

Apart from her obvious talent for describing locations across the world I sense that she is no stranger to the world of business travel and her descriptions of airport lounges and international hotels are consequently very realistic.

The author’s analysis of what drives economic development and also what happens when corporate greed takes control is very accurate and I believe it reveals a real concern for the well being of the ordinary citizen coupled with a working knowledge of macro economic processes.

The editing: As you can see from the above comments I really think this story is worthwhile and has a lot to offer. That is why I was upset when I reached page 54 and was tripped up by “There’s hundreds…” This was just the first of dozens of grammatical tripwires based on breaking the grammar rule that a verb must agree with its subject in both person and number involving the verb “to be”. Not only that, but many of these grammatical errors were made in the reported speech of the main character who was working as an English language teacher.

There were many incidents of missing words (“Why are carrying a suit bag?”) and wrong words, ( “He voice trailed off as he…” and “Lets at a long sigh…”). This can only be due to lazy editing.

These grammatical errors were a severe irritant when reading the book and it was only the strength of the story that prevented my giving up on the book. I do not, however, want to read the next two novels unless this sort of sloppiness is eradicated.

A more forgivable error was the misuse of the word “theory”. This is only forgivable, or perhaps I should say, understandable, because mystery novels and detective TV series across the globe make the same mistake. It is one of those errors that most people will not notice until it is brought to their attention, but once it is highlighted it is impossible to let it pass without mention. Many, if not most, detective/mystery stories will use the word “theory” when they mean “hypothesis”. A theory in a given situation is the hypothesis that is supported by all the known evidence. This makes nonsense of phrases such as, “It’s just a theory.”

Summary: This book has a great story with many strong points but it is let down by sloppy editing and fundamental grammatical errors, particularly with the most commonly used verb in the English language. Rating wise it is a fours star story that I can only give two-and-a-half stars to because of the editing and grammar. ( )
1 vote pgmcc | Feb 26, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Dixon Grace was not an enjoyable read. Each chapter begins describing a character and after a few pages, the reader finally understands who it is. For me, a book that is well-written moves the reader seamlessly through the story. This book, the reader has to guess which the character in the chapter. A reader should not have to struggle when reading a book. ( )
  pegee101 | Feb 20, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme. This is not a helpful review:

I'm afraid this is one of those books I abandoned very quickly. After four chapters I was already having to refer back to previous chapter headings to find out whether the narrative was returning to a previously visited location. But the main reason I left it was the present tense narrative. The present tense is fine for plays and screenplays (and the occasional short story) but I find it uncomfortable and clumsy for a whole novel - especially one that jumps about in time as this one does.

Just not my cup of tea really.

Liberated to Bookcrossing
  TheOtherJunkMonkey | Jan 18, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
"Beautifully crafted story with a globe-trotting plot and intriguing heroine. Part detective story, part thriller (less of a whodunnit than a why they’ve done it) it is a highly readable intro to Dixon Grace ... A well-connected problem solver – you don’t want to be one of her problems."
added by Cam_Jefferys | editThe Sun, Peter Thornton (Sep 27, 2013)
 
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