Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I read a lot of books – reading is one of my favorite pastimes, and I read all sorts of books. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Comedy, Historical Fiction, Non-Fiction, you name it. I read contemporary books, classics, old favorites, and books that aren’t officially out yet (via the Amazon First Reads program). I read a lot, and I can tell you without hyperbole that The Gate House is one of the worst books I have ever read.
When you read as much as I do, you run into a lot of bad books – books that are confusing, poorly-written, cliché, predictable, or filled with typos and grammatical errors. But The Gate House is none of those things. What it is is bloated, boring, and in desperate need of an editor.
The Gate House is a sequel to Nelson DeMille’s previous novel The Gold Coast, and while I’ve never actually read the original book, I now feel like I’ve read it three times. Why? Because The Gate House constantly recaps and revisits the events of The Gold Coast, and almost all of these digressions feel totally unnecessary. Inside of the first 20 pages, you’re given all you need to know: John Sutter (our main character) had a wife named Susan who cheated on him with Mafia don Frank Bellarosa before shooting the don dead. John divorced her and has spent the last ten years out of the country. See? Simple. But DeMille (through John) constantly recounts the events that have lead up to this point, and it gets absolutely maddening – the third time John took me through a detailed flashback of the shootout at Giulio’s Restaurant (something that happened IN THE PREVIOUS BOOK) I almost gave up entirely.
And that’s one of my biggest issues with The Gate House – the fact that everything has to be reiterated or revisited, over and over again. For example: John doesn’t like his father-in-law William because he’s a miser. Simple, right? But every time John is about to have an interaction with William, he has to go on a full-paragraph internal monologue about how they don’t like each other, and all during their conversation, he’s thinking the exact same things – how William is stingy, how all William cares about is his money, Willie The Cheap, Big Will The Skinflint, Scrooge McDuck, Dolla Dolla Will Y’all…okay, not that last one, but you get the idea. And every other character interaction is the same thing – John reminds us who this person is (in a few paragraphs or even A FULL CHAPTER), what his/her traits are that he likes or dislikes, and then constantly references those traits all throughout their interaction, as if the reader would completely forget from one line to the next.
But okay, let’s play Devil’s Advocate: Maybe DeMille just needed to pad out the book a little…y’know, maybe there wasn’t enough content to fill out a full novel. Well, the version of The Gate House that I picked up (at a huge discount via a library sale, thank God), is 770 pages long. Seven hundred and seventy pages. There’s plenty of room to cut out all the flashbacks, and all the repetitive monologues…but that would highlight the major flaw in this book:
It takes 342 pages for the antagonist of this book to make a threat against John (something John goads him into doing), and a full 398 more pages for him to follow through on that threat. And in between, does he pop up to taunt our hero, to threaten him further, or to provide obstacles for him to overcome? Nope. He disappears completely while John meets other characters, has conversations, drinks Scotch, spends time at home, and talks and talks and talks…which, by the way, is the exact same thing he does for the first 340 pages of the book.
But wait…if it takes 740 pages to get to the climax, and the book is only 770 pages long, surely that climax is a rip-roaring 30-page extravaganza, right? Nope. It takes up a total of ten pages, and the rest is the denouement.
The Gate House gets the biggest thumbs down I could ever give.