Naomi by Douglas Clegg

(No Series)

The subways of Manhattan are only the first stage of Jake Richmond's descent into the vast subterranean passageways beneath the city--and the discovery of a mystery and a terror greater than any human being could imagine. Naomi went into the tunnels to destroy herself...but found an even more terrible fate awaiting her in the twisting corridors. And now the man who loves Naomi must find her...and bring her back to the world of the living, a world where a New York brownstone holds a burial ground of those accused of witchcraft, where the secrets of the living may be found within the ancient diary of a witch, and where a creature known only as the Serpent has escaped its bounds at last.

I’m usually a devoted follower of Clegg, and have been itching to read Naomi since I learned of its birth. It wasn’t the beautiful, wrapped up, pretty bundle I dreamed of though ­ instead it was rather confusing, mislead, a bit jumbled, and tainted with weakness in a few spots.

For redeeming qualities, the story held a few. The idea was unique enough, and it’s always fun to read about ancient witches and all that entailed in the ‘older days’. Some of the characters, particularly Maddie, were rewarding to read through, and since it was hard to figure out much of the time which canal the story would end up passing through, I was kept on my toes a bit to see what would pop up next.

What earned lower points on the scale was that the beginning was a bit confusing and hopped around a bit, many of the underground scenes were just too muddled to follow, making it harder to keep my interest at high peaks, and some of the scenes were so bizarre they induced mild headaches.

Jake seemed like a decent guy never getting the good side of things. The ending of the novel didn’t serve him justice like I thought it would. He comes across as the protagonist but at the end seems to just be there for a ploy in a larger game, not coming to a straight resolution of his own.

Maddie was strongly written; I dug her determined personality and felt for her issues. The story surrounding her scenes was the most entertaining. I kept waiting for a wrap up where’d the two would meet or at least cross lines, but this never happened. Naomi wasn’t as big a deal as one would think when reading the back blurb ­ story is told through her eyes at the beginning but never beyond that point.

While I don’t fault Clegg’s characters that much, the story didn’t work well with them involved.

Each scene was alive with action but each scene also lacked a degree of consistency. I found myself wanting to speed read or skip to get back to the continuance of a sub-story line. The beginning was confusing, while interesting. The middle stayed confusing and started branching off into too many different lines. The ending was the strongest area, especially the last chapter or so. Even though Jake didn’t get all he deserved, the resolution served up a nice, ironic justice and happy ending of sorts for another central character.

The style is narrative and literary. At times it flows smoothly, yet at other times comes across a bit stiffer. Because of the point of view and style used, not much suspense was incorporated through the characters, and any attachment I formed with them was more from reading about their plight, not experiencing it.

Although Naomi didn’t fail in every way, it failed where it needed to succeed the most. The story was inconsistent, the pacing unsteady, the characters good but not focused on evenly, and the style withdrawn. Give it a chance if you’re a follower of Clegg, but if you’re a newbie sampling his work, try others by him instead.