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The International Writers Magazine:

Underlying Notes by Eva Pasco
ISBN 978-1-60910-054-4
Published by Inc. 2009
Print or e-book
Paul Valentine


Underlying notes is a self- published novel printed by Only the protagonist in this strangely paced novel reaches above any kind of characterization, since, as narrator, we are locked into her sensibilities; particularly her obsessions with all things olfactory. We are told that Carla and Joe Matteo are both handsome and winsome, although Joe never reaches more than caricature in this chick-lit programme for the fifty-plus.

There are a number of problems with this novel; pace and character being at the forefront. An example of this is the minimalist characterization of Frankie and his appearance towards the end of the novel. So little is known about this guy, that frankly it would have been better if he’d stayed away. In fact, I believe that his appearance was purely for titillation value; the readers wondering whether Carla would give in and get laid with Frankie. No, Eva is true to her niche market, in being ultra conservative, after all how could you ever trust a man that didn’t wear socks or; ‘The way I figure it, water stains are a cheap price to pay for having a real man around’.

The real problem with this novel however, is that it never really goes anywhere. Certainly it has never been looked over by a good editor because the beginning would be scrapped or changed: To start a story over a chapter and two thirds, and then whizz through three decades as though nothing of any import took place is the best recipe to get left on the shelf. Since nothing much (sex, a choice of careers and even more choices of colognes) happens in the first few chapters, it would have been far better to have started in the present and flashed back to those early days. Indeed, a device used later with success. There are many irritations, but probably none so dominant as the *** Pasco uses this symbol for anything from a paragraph to a chapter, when it should be used simply for a change of pace eg time-shift, place shift. My guess is that Pasco uses this device between writing, and it is very overused.

The most infuriating aspect of the novel though, is the writing. Many novels have sold millions that have craft in abundance but with pretty dreadful writing; sadly I don’t have the bank balance to cite examples. But here we have a writer who’s craft leaves a lot to be desired, yet she is a fantastic writer; she has a free flowing economic style, with a good descriptive flair and a superb eye for detail. Her writing is also confident and polished and shaped with cuts of meaningful symmetry e.g. the clever leitmotif of aristocratic fragrance that appears throughout ‘Underlying Notes’.  I found her style very close to a number of top-notch crime writers and I would suggest that she looks to this genre for possibilities, since for me, she is already there as a writer - all that is needed is a good story, which if nothing else, will help her no end as a writer.

© Paul Valentine March 2010
Paul is completing his MA in Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth

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