The Travel Writer, by Jeff Soloway (2014)

Genre: Mystery
Interest Level: Adult
The Travel WriterA travel editor goes missing from a posh hotel in Bolivia, and New York City-based travel writer Jacob Smalls is tagged by the hotel’s PR agent (a former lover) to find out what happened, under cover of writing a puff piece. He lives to travel, especially on others’ tabs, and despite knowing little about the case he leaps at the chance. The missing woman, Hilary Pearson, was the first editor to give Jacob a paid gig, so he feels he both knows her and owes her, though they’ve never met. He gets a free flight to La Paz, and is joined at the last minute by Hilary’s office colleague, a whining office boy named Kenny who deludes himself that Hilary is his one true love. The novel suffers from a number of problems, most notably characterization and dialogue. Jacob is a self-absorbed and obnoxious person, the worst kind of traveller. He relishes the 1200-thread count sheets, pities the workers’ daily struggles, and spends far too much time in this book giving his thoughts on everything from heaven to love to subway riding. Kenny is idiotic beyond reason, turning what was likely meant to be humourous into torturous reading. Jacob’s treatment of his travel companion alternates between nasty judging and brotherly affection, giving me mental whiplash. Hilary and Pilar are portrayed as vindictive and self-serving as well – no one comes out of this looking good. Soloway is an editor himself, and I suspect editors and travel writers will get a lot of insider references that went over my head. I loved the descriptions of the Bolivian landscape (“a forest of stars”) and the luxurious hotel, but overall this mystery disappoints. Thanks to NetGalley for the advance e-copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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