“Jacqueline Willoughby” by Schuyler Randall

I’d like to preface this post by saying I sometimes get carried away and go off on a tangent, and that may be what happened here.

Cover of titular book, featuring a woman in an 1800s dress, hair in a bun, consuming much of the cover; after her waist, she starts to fade, greenery and a mountain taking precedenceBook: “Jacqueline Willoughby” by Schuyler Randall
Published by Palmetto Publishing Group on 8th December, 2017
Genres: Christian fiction, Crime fiction
Format: Paperback, 105 pages
Rating: DNF
Source: ARC (Received copy from author for promotional purposes)
Goodreads

At first glance, the murders seem to be connected to the Ten Commandments, but FBI agents Kason McAlester and Troy Stephens see there is more to the story—and that a rare book written decades ago by a woman named Jacqueline Willoughby may have the answer to solving the crimes.

Jacqueline Willoughby is a struggling read. I’d hoped it would be quick, but specific things make it complicated:

1. The writing feels eerily similar to that of the NIV Bible, which makes it feel pretentious.

Pretentious…I know what it means, but I don’t feel the feeling I feel reading Jacqueline Willoughby receives the proper justice with “pretentious”. I wanted to like this book, but instead it made me feel like a baby. Maybe the word I’m looking for is condescending.

I don’t blame the Bible for holding such ridiculous diction, because it’s been translated so much and there are only so many ways we can translate one language to another without losing something. English isn’t the default, though it may be the language holding the most words. If I submit a phrase to Google Translate to put into English from Spanish, or vice versa, the translation is not inline with my voice; it adds “that” where I wouldn’t and uses alternative words that water down my vocabulary. So I’m not insulting it—I just can’t stand the diction.

Side note: The first paragraph is told in past tense, first-person POV. The rest of the book is in present tense, third-person POV. I don’t get it.

2. Dialogue feels unrealistic.

Though I use words like ’tis and ’twas and ergo and herein and wherefore, I know not anyone who speaks formally all the time. Trying to read the dialogue and understand it kept tossing me out of the book, reminding me that I was reading a book. I couldn’t escape into it.

The only time there was any kind of realistic dialogue was when a person of color—which I surmised because he addressed people as “white boys”—and Troy interacted. It was the stereotypical non-white portrayal.

3. I really dislike Troy, but he doesn’t seem to change in character.

The typecast POC is named Sugar Bear. He gets a nickname instead of any other name, which made me feel…odd.

Troy is prejudice against Sugar Bear from the start—and I don’t mean the safe-like seeming way. This might be my policophobia talking, but…it’s to the point wherein his toxic masculinity makes me feel unsafe while reading things. Throughout the entire book, I keep thinking, “This guy is obviously the serial killer.” He holds several serial killer characteristics, so I wouldn’t have been surprised. I imagine other people might be, because if Dexter wasn’t from the titular character’s perspective, would people have been so lacking in shock to find out he was a serial killer himself?

Another thing Troy does is put this odd claim on his wife. After threatening Sugar Bear in a buff, they go to eat lunch—and Troy is prim and proper. His behavior reminds me that of people who think they’re good people because they go to church, but going to church doesn’t make someone a good person. He’s sitting with a rookie, named Chris, at his wife’s restaurant; Chris doesn’t know Troy’s wife owns the place. Chris checks out Troy’s wife, thinking—though not audibly—she’s a “hot girl”. Chris asks how Troy came across such a place, and he replies, “Well, that hot lady who just seated us is a wife,” and continues on.

It feels too pompous, especially as a man who carries himself like he’s above the law one minute, but can be found praying for someone the next. He has a temper. I don’t like it.

Why couldn’t Troy have instead been humble, replying, “My wife owns the restaurant—just seated us, in fact!” Maybe it’s a man thing.

Overall

There is no place at which I stopped reading Jacqueline Willoughby. I started skipping come page 37, which feels low, but the book is barely longer than a hundred pages, and I try to read to 100 pages or a third if I can. I did read the last chapter so I’d at least have closure on the whodunit part. I have a major fear of law enforcement because of a childhood incident wherein a cop justified child abuse, which later turned into spiritual abuse. I wanted to like this book, because I like murder mysteries and was smitten with the blurb. I have deduced I cannot finish it, perhaps mainly due to Troy triggering my PTSD.

Compared to Coldwater, this book does a complete 180 in recognizing criminals are more like the “good people” than any of us want to admit. There is a blurred line between do-good cops and cops who are “good” because they’re cops. I couldn’t relate to the human part of them, but then…maybe they didn’t have one to begin with?

I think perhaps this book is meant for an audience that excludes me (which is fine; I’m just not the book’s type).

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Georgie’s gravatar

Just reading your review of this book kinda shocked and appalled me. Not in an “OMG” way but in a really disappointed kind of way.

I do agree with this:

but going to church doesn’t make someone a good person

I hope the author doesn’t feel offended by your review. To your first point, I can somehow understand what you’re saying when you mention that the writing feels pretentious. And reading your overall comment, I think what made me the most disappointed is that the book recognises criminals are more like “good people”. It’s very different from a book making you feel somewhat empathetic and sorry for a criminal.

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