The Custer Conspiracy by Dennis Koller is the first mystery I’ve read in years. Before this the last mystery I read was Sherlock Holmes. I can’t inject in matters of genre but I will gladly do is regarding form. The Cuter Conspiracy is a thriller/mystery centered around a previously hidden conspiracy around General Custer’s death during the Battle of the Little Bighorn of the Great Sioux War of 1876. My education neglected this fraction of history and was therefore initially lost until the book expounded the point.
On starting the book I was bombarded by generic (“canned”) phrases. I’ll list a few below to showcase my point:
1.) Context: Ex-wife of main character talking to husband about how she got keys to his house. “I got the keys to your house from TJ. Your son, in case you’ve forgotten.”
2.)”I’ll find the son-of-a-bitch who did this to you, Matt. I promise. And when I do, he’ll pay.
3.)”With a glare that would make hell freeze over.”
After encountering them as frequently as I had, I decided to ignore them. I kept reading looking for characters and narrative. I looked deep. I looked for characters who belong in their own story. I didn’t want to see hollow characters where the plot could’ve advanced no matter the person. Character-driven narrative. Instead I got 2-2.5 dimensional characters. The main character is bland. I’m not looking for someone exciting. Rather someone real. Someone who speaks like a genuine person and a personality that isn’t a poor amalgamation of hyper-masculine type male.
The female main was certainly near-real. She almost had her own voice, she did realistically. What ruined it was she was nearly-always perceived through the lens of the male lead, the character I mention above. His oversimplification, his inability to express himself in terms organic to himself warped what good perception of the female lead one could’ve gleaned. Of course, she was too the love interest who always “flashed a heartbreak smile.”
When the characters failed me, I moved onto narrative. This kept me reading. Koller succeeds here in constructing a narrative, despite the above, kept me interested. Tension control is a major aspect of thriller/mystery types. Koller handles this well by keeping the stress high and keeping the reader demanding a proper resolution. The build-ups, the small peaks within the major plot line, worked great in terms of momentum building.
Lastly the resolution. Honestly it did the best it could for what it was given. By the time you get to the resolution though, you know who it’s going to work out (even if you don’t have the details).
All in all I give this book somewhere between 2.5/3 stars. The narrative certainly kept this alive for me. I would have otherwise stopped reading it. I however, encourage you all to read it and make an opinion of your own.