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January 29, 2013 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: Potboiler by Jesse Kellerman

Potboiler by Jesse KellermanPotboiler
by Jesse Kellerman
Narrated by Kirby Heyborne

Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publish Date: July 5, 2012
Format: Audio, 11 hours | 6 minutes
Audio Listening Level: Easy – Intermediate
Rating: 2 of 5

Publisher’s Summary:

Arthur Pfefferkorn is a has-been, or perhaps a never-was: a middle-aged college professor with long-dead literary aspirations. When his oldest friend, bestselling thriller writer William de Vallèe, is lost at sea, Pfefferkorn is torn between envy and grief, for de Vallèe not only outshone Pfefferkorn professionally, but married the woman Pfefferkorn loved.

Pfefferkorn’s decision to reconnect with de Vallèe’s widow sets in motion a surreal chain of events, plunging him into a shadowy realm of double crosses and intrigue, a world where no one can be trusted–and nothing can be taken seriously.

My Thoughts:

From reading the summary, I thought this book would be a thriller, but in reality it’s a satire of a thriller, mocking the genre and using every known cliché and plot device to intentionally create an awful novel. The photo of the typewriter keys on the book cover should have given me a clue, but I managed to miss that hint.

In Potboiler, the initial premise was clever: Pfefferkorn steals an unpublished manuscript from his recently deceased writer friend and publishes it under his name, the book is a hit, he becomes famous, and then finds out the friend was really working for a covert agency coding secret messages in the text. Initially it was worth sticking with it and there were a few humorous moments.

About halfway in the story went downhill, totally off the cliff. The plot became convoluted and more and more ridiculous, bordering on just plain stupid. I suppose it was supposed to be a little absurd, but a successful satire needs to be smart and clever while it is mocking the overused plots and archetypal characters; this was neither. It read as awful as the very books it was poking fun at.

So why did I continue listening? When I don’t like a book, it’s abandoned after about 50 pages or an hour or two of listening, but I knew that this book had been selected as a 2013 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Novel by The Mystery Writers of America. Perhaps I was missing something and the story would pick up. It didn’t. However, the narration was good and Kirby Heyborne did a nice job with the various character’s voices, which kept me listening long after I would have thrown the book at the wall. But even with decent narration, after a while I became weary of listening to the clichéd bad guys with eastern European accents.

With a plot that was impossible to follow, unlikable characters and humor that fell flat for me, I have little to recommend. Possibly fans of the genre that read a lot of thriller and spy novels will discover what I was missing and enjoy the story.

Source: Review copy.
© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.



Leave a Comment
  1. laurelrainsnow / Jan 29 2013 7:39 am

    I liked the beginning, and then it took a nose dive off that cliff for me, too. I think I’m going to give up on this author, even though I’m a big fan of his parents. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  2. Suko / Jan 29 2013 7:28 pm

    Nice idea, a satire of a thriller, but it obviously didn’t work for you. Thanks for your honest review!


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