Tim Stutler: Hillari’s Head (review)

17841547Sigh. I really wanted to like this novel. It had so much going for it and yet … I am left with a very annoyed and disappointed feeling after having finished it. Anyone who read my review of Det syvende barn will know that one of the things I hate the most, is novels with lots of potential but which doesn’t live up it.
Kristina is a young paralegal with a past. She moves to San Diego after her father’s death and leaves her past completely behind – or so she thinks. But pasts have a way of popping up again when you least expect it and when Kristina meets a kind judge who introduces her to a nice and funny single lawyer who not only offers her a job but becomes her boyfriend, Kristina suddenly realizes that she has to face down her demons for a chance at happiness. And on top of that, Kristina and her new boyfriend ‘Duck’ have to deal with some really tricky court cases – and stay in shape by riding ultra long rides on their special bikes…
So before I start saying what’s wrong with the novel, let me say this. I don’t normally read crime fiction, court room drama or anything of the kind. So this book is a bit outside of what I normally read but not much since there’s no murder to solve and the court room parts are not the most important parts of the book.
I also couldn’t quite get that her childhood was all that bad. And it did feel a bit unrealistic that she starts a blog, writes 5 posts or so – and then gives it up because she hadn’t completely thought it through. This feels too much like the author had to find a way to tell the story of her childhood and wanted to do something more clever than using flashbacks – and the thought was good, but the execution lacked.
He might also have had to big ambitions and wanted to do so much. We have a troubled main character, we have a love story, trial cases, the whole bike thing, the rare diseases – it felt like too much. Or maybe an author with more books under his belt could have pulled it off. Parts of it does get to feel a bit cliché, like a rather poor reworking of the Cinderella story. Add to this that Kristina as a character didn’t feel quite convincing, she didn’t feel true. Of course it’s always difficult to judge how people become after having lived through traumas, but Kristina didn’t feel right.
Oh and then there’s sentences like this: ‘It would be eight in Smethport. But her dad was dead now.’ Really? Right now at eight, he died? Or too much description and stage setting – hard biscuit … bleach-spotted sweater … cold coffee … chipped suacer … All these in just 5 lines. That quickly gets to be too much!
My biggest critique of this novel is, that it lacks an editor. It actually has so much potential. The story could have been really good and Tim Stutler is a great writer. I actually really enjoyed reading it – but then something jars, something is overdone or doesn’t make sense and I’m torn out of the reading experience and left wondering what happened. Like when the characters walk into the kitchen, one of them hands the other a glass of juice – and then she turns on the shower. Combined kitchen and bath room? Or when he suddenly refers to his main protagonist as ‘the paralegal’ instead of Kristina or she. It made me stop and wonder who he was talking about. And when you use typography to show when a character starts speaking, you have to remember to also show when that character stops! It’s pretty basic stuff and it’s the kind of stuff a good editor would catch. Without these types of flaws, I would probably have given it 4 stars – but these errors dragged it down.
And then the ending … Oh, the ending. The ending was so bad that it removed another star from my rating. It felt like the author couldn’t decide if he wanted a good or bad ending for his characters – so he just gave us both. And both are so unrealistic, they just didn’t make any sense.
I really hope that a good publisher will give Tim Stutler a chance with a new book because the guy can write. But he needs an editor to help him get the errors and flaws out of the novel – and to tell him to pick one ending and then stick to it!
Sigh. I’m really sad to write such a sour review but I just get so annoyed with books that could have been so much better. But that is the danger of self-publishing and Millcity Press seems to be a sort of self-publishing press but unfortunately it seems to have more focus on the technical aspects of publishing – like converting to e-books – than on editing…

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

  • Title: Hillari’s Head
  • Author: Tim Stutler
  • Publisher: Millcity Press
  • Year: 2013
  • Pages: 275 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 2 stars out of 5