Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Andrew Donaldson: Dan Brown Burned Again by Critics

By Andrew Donaldson for The Times


Gone GirlGone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (Phoenix) R135

ONCE Gillian Flynn’s psychological thriller gets its hooks into you, gentle reader, you’re trapped. A simple plot – Amy Dunne disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary and police suspect her husband, Nick – but its structure is ingenious, with alternating narratives from both Amy and Nick gradually building a picture of a disturbing marital meltdown. Reese Witherspoon wants to film it. More intriguing, it made the Women’s Prize fiction longlist, where it will no doubt prompt the usual annoying rubbish of what constitutes a “literary novel”.


InfernoRetailers appear to be staking their livelihoods on it, but most critics have wasted no time in rubbishing Dan Brown’s Inferno. Here’s a brief round-up of some of the bitchiest and best out there. “Increasingly,” said the London Sunday Times, “Brown’s novels have heaped the portentous on the preposterous.”

“As a stylist,” The Telegraph noted, “Brown gets better and better: where once he was abysmal he is now just very poor.”

“It’s all twaddle, but at least it’s entertaining twaddle,” said the Daily Mail.

“The book’s musty passageways seem to be not so much holding history up as sagging under its weight,” sniffed the Washington Post. “Narration appears lifted from a Fodor’s guide.”

The Financial Times said much the same: “To help unsophisticated readers, Brown writes like a tour guide, ever anxious to stress the fame of the places and art treasures we glimpse along the way.”

Some were a little kinder. “The pages fly by. Only lunatics would begrudge the blockbusting bard’s determination to popularise great Italian poetry,” the Guardian said before offering an example of Brown’s bad prose: “the powerfully built woman effortlessly unstraddled her BMW motorcycle.”


The Shining GirlsIs the supernatural genre fiction’s new black? The metaphysical mojo is on the rise. Witness, for example, the success of Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls. Recent ghostly chillers getting heaps of praise include Sophie Hannah’s The Orphan Choir (disturbed woman “hears” things), John Boyne’s This House is Haunted (scary children, creepy mansion, mortal danger) and, for the highbrow, Joyce Carol Oates’s The Accursed (weird rituals in forests).


“The dominant model for understanding criminal behaviour has been, for most of the twentieth century, one built almost exclusively on social and sociological models. My main argument is that sole reliance on these social perspectives is fundamentally flawed.” – The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime, by Adrian Raine (Allen Lane)

Book details


Please register or log in to comment