Forging a masterpiece: The Forger’s Forgery

The overnight flight across the Atlantic was turbulent and sleepless.

If I had the chance to solve my problems overseas, personally I would choose to solve my problems in London. The weather there seems to be more my cup of tea (pun not intended) than sunny Singapore, and I could do with being able to visit a well stocked art museum more than once or twice a year.

But as anybody with a history of running away from their problems could tell you, regardless of where you choose to flee, problems don’t have to deal with visas.

For Henry Lindon, when trouble enters his marital life, the academic professor chooses to flee to Amsterdam as a visiting professor. However, trouble is a friend and his wife, Marylou, who had stayed home to deal with her severe bout of depression, soon calls with a proposal to come join him in Amsterdam.

Not just that, the root of her depression, Guy Wheeless, the Lindons’ arch nemesis, has just been released from prison and Henry is tasked to break this news to his emotionally fragile wife.

Determined to save their marriage and Marylou’s sanity, the Lindon have to cook up an outrageous plan, one that would get Wheeless off their back once and for all.

I’m not too proud to admit that I did partially pick up Small’s novel because of the pun/alliteration in the title. Coupled with the promise that art — but more specifically art forgery, would play a huge part in the plot — I was excited to see something that was a cross between the Ocean’s 11 movies and The Da Vinci code.

Sadly, that was not what I would get.

Small’s novel was meant to be an ensemble piece, judging by the sheer amount of characters we meet. The Lindons are the central characters but we also met Wheeless in some detail, Marvin (Henry Lindon’s brother), Constance (Marvin’s love interest) and Esmeralda Ortiz (a police officer investigating Wheeless’ involvement in a murder case).

In a typical ensemble piece, characters’ arcs tend to converge towards the climax, typically to reveal how each of their stories were part of a larger theme or a larger story than we had originally thought. Think John Marrs or even The Seven Lives of Evelyn Hardcastle.

However, none of the characters truly developed over their storylines. I could maybe see a marked change in Marylou, but I wouldn’t doubt that Henry would run away at the first sign of trouble the next time their marriage hits a bumpy road.

Each character was so clumsily fitted together, they only had one brief point of contact with each other towards the end of the novel, only to diverge, never to meet again. In Ortiz’s case, she is investigating Wheeler’s possible involvement in a murder but it is never mentioned how this murder is actually relevant to the rest of the characters, past the given that murder is bad. And when Ortiz solves the case in the end, it barely impacts the other characters at all, just herself and her own ego.

And I may not the biggest fan of purple prose but even so The Forger’s Forgery is so skimp on description that it is the exact opposite of purple prose, to the point where we would have to invent an opposite of the colour purple to adequately describe the lack of worldbuilding in this novel.

Small’s style does remind me of John Grisham’s in the sense that both the authors tend to be very straightforward in their description. However, the majority of Small’s descriptions were dry to the point that it could have been a listicle. The story was also largely moved forward by his characters’ speech, rather than their arcs.

Every new plot point was introduced in a long explanatory monologue. Any and all backstory was revealed by a secondary character’s exposition. I genuinely felt as if I was in a lecture. The novel came across like a court transcript and maybe that shouldn’t have come as a surprise since Small was a former lawyer.

Could there be someone in the world who could like The Forger’s Forgery? Maybe, if they wanted a more digestible version of John Grisham’s novels. But even so, I did genuinely feel like I wasted my time on this book. I have no doubts about Small’s ability as a lawyer, but as a novelist, I would say the true forger in this case might be him.

Rating: 2/5

The Forger’s Forgery by Clay G. Small is now available on BookDepository for USD$15.95.

This review first appeared on The Reader Who Came In from the Heat. Subscribe for more reviews in your inbox.

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Hui Ying is an undergraduate working on her debut poetry collection and novel. Find them on Twitter at @distanceofio.

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Hui Ying

Hui Ying

Hui Ying is an undergraduate working on her debut poetry collection and novel. Find them on Twitter at @distanceofio.

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