Let's Talk Books

Non-Book Review: The Fourth Courier

What, I hear you say, is a non-book review? It is exactly as it sounds, I’m reading, or trying to read a book that I’m going to abandon because, you know, there’s just only so many hours in the day. And, obviously, if I abandon said book, I won’t be writing a full review. Or, at least, the usual kind of review. And I’m tired of writing a review that’s going to come off negative. Like TO WOO-WOO. I tried to be positive. No, really, I tried to find something good to say about a book that is, essentially, depressing in nature and content. But sometimes, as you know, it’s difficult to be upbeat and positive about a book that didn’t speak to you, on any level—even when you do manage to finish it.

So I’m giving up with THE FOURTH COURIER, that I started reading last Friday, yes, believe it or not. It has been stop and go all the way. I’d get so far and then, read a paragraph that drove me nuts.

Let’s get this out the way, the author, Timothy Jay Smith, knows how to write. I mean, his prose flow, and his descriptions are really evocative and full of colour, and he really nails the details. But!

And isn’t there always a but.

Like too many white, male authors of a certain age, he defaults to a standard set of blueprints for every single female character in the novel, that, well, it’s derogatory. Not only that but, if we’re to believe Smith, nearly every single woman in Poland, in 1992, was a battered ex-wife of some nasty piece of work, though still living with said bullying husband, because, you  know, it’s in the script. That and they’re an “easy” woman when a good-looking Yank comes along. I’m trying to be polite here.

Or they’re painted as some middle-aged frumpy housewife beaten into submission. And just as bad, the woman heading the Serious Crimes Unit (btw: would she have been head of this unit in 1992 Poland coming out from under Russian control?) was a hard as nails, ball-busting, chain smoking bitch, wearing sexy clothes to a crime scene in the middle of winter and, of course, driving a bright red sports car.

I mean, come on. You can’t get much more cliched than that.

So, only 60 torturous pages in, I’m abandoning this one, and jumping into a full-on fantasy for my next read.


  1. I’m sorry to hear the clichés were too much for you. I don’t think I would mind that so much as long as the plotline is interesting. Lots of books are full of clichés really, maybe a lot of people see the world in stereotypes as well. It’s a bit of a never-ending circle this way though. I hope your next read will be better anyway!!

    • Alexandra says

      I can get through all the clichés, Inge, if, like you, the characters in general are okay, and the plot-line is interesting enough. But when one too many of the components are off kilter, it just makes the read boring.

  2. Alexandra I recall reading a similar book but abour Russian women and as you said it was so depressing and stereotypical that I could not stand it anymore either!

    • Alexandra says

      Oh, I’m glad I’m not the only one then. I just thought that the author could have done better. But, in the end, the story was glacial as well, the nail in the coffin.

  3. Ah, noes… the female cliche thing again?
    It kinda says something about the dudes too… Like in the 90s Poland was full of wife beaters? Like… really? No nice people in sight? 😀

    • Exactly, Norrie, I mean, come on, was everyone such a cliché? It’s just demeaning. And when the guy writes fairly decent prose, it’s even more of a shame. I just gave up.

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