The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

January 26, 2011

REVIEW: OTHER EYES by Barbara D'Amato

The opening three chapters of this book may be the most thrilling opening chapters I've read in the genre. Period. Full stop. The story's premise, that an international management organization for the world's drug cartels is taking down anyone who has the potential to significantly hamper their profits (such as a politician ready to push for the decriminalization of marijuana), is a good one. In particular, this organization is seeking to kill an archaeology professor, Blue Eriksen, whose studies in the use of hallucinogens in ancient religions appear to be leading to a cure for drug addiction.

But the hit man gets it all wrong and kills Eriksen's husband, leaving her toddler to wander through the cat flap, then through a hole in a chain link fence, and out on to the Kennedy Expressway. These first pages, cutting between the danger to the child and a teen-aged driver skipping out of school early to attend a Cubs game, are mesmerizing. They are the essence of what makes a thriller: danger and taut suspense.

This book is never less than interesting, delving as it does into the archaeological processes and some extinct cultures of South America and the Middle East, but the author details much of that interesting material at the expense of the tension and thrills one expects. There are entire chapters that, were I an editor, would have been cut. They added much to the color and impact of the archaeological digs, but did nothing to move the story forward. There is a feeling that these were the parts of the book that the author cared most about, because the hit man who started out so very dangerous ends up being more of a lampoon of a hit man, so ineffectual is he. In fact, I felt as though I could have killed the professor a dozen times before the hit man even made his second -- and ill-thought out -- attempt on her life. And the third attempt doesn't bear mentioning.

Another problem is that a significant character, or would seem to be significant, is not introduced until almost two-thirds of the way into the story, and then two chapters are spent watching this character at work. This would seem to imply that how good he is at his job -- investigating art theft -- would have something to do with the main storyline, but in fact the character brings little to the story, fascinating though he is (and would be worthy of his own book).

The author has spun the threads of a great thriller and while she weaves them into an interesting book, it falls short of being a great one. D'Amato's writing has a flow that really pulls the reader into the story. With greater adherence to the main storyline and a more plausible hit man, I think this book could have been a breakout bestseller; it has that kind of unrealized potential.


  1. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Sounds very if the TBR wasn't already big enough. ;-)

  2. I think this is a very interesting review, because it provides a balanced critique on the work, and mentions some of the better points -- I particularly like the historical elements with some of the forgotton peoples of South America and the Middle East that you mentioned.

    Have a great weekend!

  3. Always a problem when the information dump takes away from the story. You need to be artful to get it in without having that research take over,