The Sculptor by Gregory Funaro

Immersion is one of the most important aspects in a novel. If I’m going to dedicate my time to a work that lies at the almost 400-page mark, I expect that some factor will keep me going. Unfortunately, this immersion was absent in Funaro’s The Sculptor. But it wasn’t the worst reading experience I’ve ever had either. Actually, I found it easy to get through the book at a consistently fast pace, so it wasn’t like there were points that dragged. So, why didn’t I feel immersed? Why was I consistently aware that I was reading a book instead of falling into it? I’ve had this effect with other novels before, and the best way I can describe it is that I feel like I’m simply standing on the surface of the story, or I’m watching it from far away.

What really hooks me and pulls me into a story is the characters. Characterization is what I get the most enjoyment and fulfillment out of, both in reading and writing. Unfortunately, this time around, I got cardboard cutouts instead. Sam Markham was the intelligent agent who doesn’t always play by the rules, Cathy Hildebrant the pretty (this word was used any time another character was describing her) cohort who was in danger and needed a male protector with a tragic backstory. And don’t even get me started on Rachel what’s-her-face, who gets a quick, expositional character sketch in the beginning, and is consistently referred to as being present for the rest of the novel without us seeing her at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good romance when done convincingly. I truly believe that good chemistry between characters can be the hook for a reader, or at least for me. But because we didn’t get much characterization beyond the stereotypes, the romance felt completely out of place. I have to wonder what Funaro added this for.

Another reason why I wasn’t immersed was because the story itself wasn’t uniquely characterized enough. From the first couple of chapters, I was getting heavy Thomas Harris and Dan Brown vibes. Harris because of his specific serial killers with tortured pasts, and Brown because of the art history professor who’s the “best in the country” helping with the investigation. Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking inspiration from other works, especially those you admire. And perhaps this is because I enjoy reading both Brown and Harris so much, but I felt as though I was reading a bit of a copycat. There wasn’t enough unique qualities to the story or most of its characters for it to feel new and memorable to me.

The only parts that delved into the meat of the story were the sections from formerly-Christian’s POV. Little bits were revealed at a time, aside from that info dump in his last chapter. But because we had those tinier pieces of info along the way to build up the tension, I didn’t mind the longwinded reveal of the rest of his backstory (though the location of it, when he was pursuing Cathy and Mark, seemed strange). All in all, I felt that the idea behind the Michelangelo Killer was wasted in this book because the surrounding parts of the story did not complement the potential and decent execution of the character.

 

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3 thoughts on “The Sculptor by Gregory Funaro

  1. I could not agree more. And it is really too bad, because like you said, it was a fast-paced, easy read. But it could have been much better. There is definitely the Harris and Brown vibes. I mentioned Brown as well and because I love that art history/puzzle type story, I was expecting a similar feel. But the depth of his motive, buried deep within the pretty professor’s book was almost just too much and by the end was he was ready to just shoot her, I wasn’t even buying that.
    I feel like Funaro started out with this amazing idea (as we all do) and probably put an awful lot of research into it, but he just couldn’t write it.

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  2. I like that you bring up the issue of this being a poorly done “copycat” novel. I say poorly done because, surely, I’ve read books where I could care less about the similarities because I’m lost in the story. Yet, like you, I couldn’t do that with this book. The whole mother-son dynamic, especially after reading Bloch’s Psycho, seemed like a poor imitation.

    I actually didn’t like all the info revealed because it was all told, not shown in any way that made it interesting. Some characters only existed to confirm the main players’ hunches. It also drove me nuts how Cathy and Sam were correct nearly every time they had a suspicion. I want that surprise in the end as much as I want to be “right”. It’s great when I guess what’s going to happen based on the clues given in the story, but what’s the best is when there’s a twist pulled that I didn’t expect, but that still makes sense.

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  3. I completely agree with how fast paced the novel was to get through. I think that sense of you watching everything from afar in the book is because it seems more like a visual take on this would have gone down better. I sort of think that if it had been a movie, people would have had a better reaction to it. You perfectly describe the distance for that.

    I like that you mentioned Rachel, she seemed key in the beginning, as if she was Sam’s partner and then disappeared to make room for Cathy. I hadn’t realized how far of a shove back she took until you mentioned it. And yes the romance! It just felt forced and out of place.

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