Saturday, April 30

Nick of Time - a review

Nick of Time by Tim Downs
Nick of Time is the 5th Bug Man book staring Nick Polchak.  I will avoid major spoilers for Nick of Time, but there may be spoilers for the earlier books.

Nick Polchak is getting married.  At the end of the previous novel, Nick proposed.  But the story ended before we knew who he proposed to!  Alena?  Kathryn?  Well a fan vote on Tim Down’ website led to Alena being chosen.  So know the Bug Man is only days away from being married, something that tends to terrify his friends more than him, though he isn’t without his share of worries. 

A week before the big event, Nick goes to a meeting of his peers, which one of his close friends invited him to.  When he gets there, his friend is noticeably absent.  Upon investigation, Nick discovers evidence that his friend has been murdered.  Despite getting married in less than a week now, Nick undergoes a search to find his friends killer, leaving his bride wondering where on earth he is.  But Alena isn’t the type to sit around with her fingers crossed.  After days of not hearing from Nick, she decides to track him.  Will she find him in time, or has Nick gone too far this time?

Nick is easily one of my favorite investigators.  He’s a forensic entomologist, which means he studies bugs and uses that knowledge to solve crimes – typically murders.  He’s a quirky character and never knows quite how to interact with people, which results in many comedic moments that never feel stale.  Even in the fifth book, Tim Downs never wears a joke down.  Those that feel familiar are still just as funny then he still manages to create fresh moments of humor.

Alena is another great character.  She trains dogs and has over thirty of them.  Her favorite is a cadaver dog – it can track dead bodies.  It a lot of ways she’s like Nick, only with dogs instead of bugs.  Though I didn’t like how the Ends of the Earth ended – I didn’t feel that proposal felt real – Alena makes the most sense for Nick to marry.

Despite the strong characters, though, the plot didn’t hold up, especially compared to his Downs’ past novels.  My first problem is that most of the story could’ve easily been avoided.  Before going on his trip, Nick buys Alena a cell phone because she doesn’t have one.  Her house doesn’t get a signal, but she can get one is the closest town.  Nick promises to call her every night at 9pm until he returns home.    Well, every night something happens that prevents Nick from calling, setting Alena on edge.  She goes several days wondering if something happened to him, if he forgot about her, or if he’s trying to run away from the wedding.  Never once does she try calling him!  His number was pre-programmed into it, and he showed her how to call.  She never even considers calling him!  And whenever Nick things about calling her, it’s either not 9, or he doesn’t have a signal.  Instead, he calls the pastor and asks the pastor to relay messages, instead of leaving a voicemail message on her phone.  

Why doesn’t he leave a message?  Because her inbox isn’t set up.  Wait – he entered his contact information.  Why didn’t he set up her voicemail box?  He knows she’s never used a phone before!  The whole situation could’ve easily been remedied if she had either called him, or if he had set up her voicemail box.

After forcing myself to ignore that element of the story, I started to enjoy it again – until the end.  I won’t spoil the end for you here (sorry to anyone googling the end of the book), but I felt it was entirely unrealistic.  Characters acted in ways that I simply cannot imagine them acting.  It was (for the characters) silly, dangerous, and entirely thoughtless.  The character this bugged me the most for was Nathan Donovan, a friend of Nick’s in the FBI, and who starred in his own novel, Plague Maker.

When I closed this book, I had many conflicting thoughts.  On one hand, I loved being able to read more about Nick.  With the exception of the phone business, they were still extremely strong, likeable, and funny characters.  They felt as I expected them to feel this far into a series such as this – they’ve obviously grown since their introduction, but their quirks still mean they have other ways to grow.  However the plot often took turns for the worse, especially at the end, leaving me the most dissatisfied I’ve felt with one of the Bug Man novels.  Whenever a sixth book comes out, I know I’ll read it, but my expectations will be dramatically reduced.

That said, if you’ve never read a Bug Man novel before, I’d highly recommended not reading this one first.  Though Downs’ novels don’t usually have a continuous plot that has to be followed, I’d still recommend starting with the first book, Shoofly Pie, which is a great introduction to Nick Polchak.  For those who are fans of the series, you’ll probably enjoy many elements in this book, especially during many of Nick’s antics.  However, don’t expect the story to stack up against the prior books.

2.5/5 stars

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

You can also check out my review of Wonders Never Cease, another novel by Tim Downs.

1 comment:

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