|Reviews for Pretty Poison|
| Chronic Guardian chapter 9 . 4/18/2013
(All Inclusive Review)
... Most intriguing. You've created a spring board for the imagination while still maintaining a contained narrative. Although this one instance is over, the reader is now capable of imagining many others to follow, particularly given Wildstorm's propensity for crossovers. In essence, you've introduced a vast new line of thought while only writing nine chapters.
Ten points of interest (in no particular order):
#1: You got away with not introducing the quarry until the penultimate chapter. Keeping them out of sight both saves you the trouble of extensive development and leaves a lot of room for reader speculation. Nice.
#2: Similarly, with the mansion raid, your narrator was a good pick to have a bit of brash skepticism as well as an outside view of how Lynch operates without actually having to explain how he gets away with it. I'm not saying you couldn't, only that leaving it up to the reader's imagination leaves a number of possibilities... and makes one wonder who in the world is willingly chasing after this guy.
#3: Great job on dealing with the Gen 13 side of things. The way you don't openly state exactly what they are, but still leave all the incriminating evidence, is both fun to read and on the upside of believable when dealing with a non-super universe.
#4: Given how the plot unfolds, an outsider such as myself easily identifies with Mike Western; there's a lot going on behind the scenes that leaves us wanting more. You really layered on the intrigue to the point where I was wondering how you would wrap it all up in one chapter at the end of chapter 8. But things resolved satisfactorily (although, given the length, I wonder if chapter 9 was not better off in two parts) and there aren't too many loose ends left to worry about.
#5: Character "voice" is wonderfully done. You've a near flawless grasp on diction, if I may say so, and it really adds to the "reality" of the piece and draws the reader in.
#6: I must wonder... how much does Corteza know? And who is her REALLY working for? Him not talking to Lynch seemed more of a personal decision rather than an extension of Joss and Hector's will (both are happy to meet with Lynch). Although I doubt he tipped off Ferris, I find it's still possible that he is part of something larger at play.
...Or he's a plot convenience; does it really matter at this point?
#7: I am at a loss for how the title of the work correlates to the story... unless it is a reference to Western and co.'s unhealthy interest in matters over their heads. Care to enlighten me?
#8: Your side characters are enviably well written: enough investment to work well within the setting but not enough that you're always wondering if they'll come back. They play their role, leave, and are still memorable for it. Most excellent.
#9: I thought I spotted a few typos... but was quickly reimmersed into the story and when I came back looking for them they had mysteriously vanished. And no, they weren't dialogue exceptions. Still... Anyway, if I find them again I'll notify you, fair enough?
#10: I think I see why you recommend this to GSG readers... the worlds of the normal and those who wish they were normal intersecting. As put by Angeal Hewely: "Then Angels dream of one thing: to be human". I mean... yeah, the cyborg's of GSG have accepted their existence to a point, but there is still that yearning for the original state. It almost mirrors the "man is fallen from grace" struggle of humans separated from their original joy by sin. Maybe I'm reading into it too far...
Anyway, in short: I thought it was very interesting. Thank you for your work,
| Chronic Guardian chapter 1 . 4/3/2013
Great set up (and likely with many undercurrents I'm unaware of, besides)! Being unfamiliar with either series, I think that you do a fine job of introducing the key players and the general setting in a nice, believable way that doesn't feel like a stream of blatant, expositionary statements.
Hmmm... considering Michael has enemies in high places who want his work, making this deal is probably just the thing to level the playing field. Of course, getting involved with this crowd probably isn't any better, and then there's the question of how readily they return favors. Whatever the case, the stage is set for a great chase and plenty of mind vs. mind (just the way I like it).
There's also a lot of great descriptions of character reactions (Such as "Sam's half-empty drink paused on its way to his mouth, and he glanced across the table at Michael. Michael pretended not to notice.") where we get subtle interactions between characters that establish their general attitudes and habits. Subtlety has never been my strong suit, so it's always appreciated all the more to see it done so masterfully.
You've left me with a piqued curiosity and a great many speculations. Excellent for a first chapter.
Continuing when possible,
| taerkitty chapter 2 . 10/24/2012
Chapter 2 - The View from the Ground
The opening "how to be a spy" narrative seems a bit long.
"Spies earn burn notices - real ones." Unsure why the 'real ones' is there. Michael has a 'real' burn notice, yes?
"Love is impossible to nurture. / Undeserved trust can be a fatal mistake." The two thoughts need a bridging statement, such as "Love is impossible to nurture. Keeping a friendship alive is hard enough. Real friends are people you can trust, and spies can't afford to trust anyone."
Opening is good - we dovetail immediately from the first chapter, and it's a counter-perspective. We ended with Michael, Fi, and Sam, and now we start with Lynch and Anna.
"... once the girl tells him what she thinks she knows." "The girl" is 'off' in this case. Either Anna recognizes Fi as a peer and uses her name, or she uses either 'she' or 'that girl'. The "what she thinks she knows" is also a bit too verbose and not in keeping with their character dynamic. Lynch and Anna know the truth, so they don't need to mention it to each other. It sounds too much like you're addressing the reader this way. Perhaps
"... once she tells him what she knows." Anna spat the last word, then turned up her left cheek in a half-grin.
(Then have Lynch do something that's the equivalen of a wink and start his dialog.)
"Some of them are third- and fourth-generation." This is rushed. You're trying to get the point that the IRA is a multi-generational affair, but if it's to come out, it has to be a bit more organic. This means it'll be more interactive, too.
"Dammit. How'd she find out about Newtown? You think she's ex-IRA? With that accent..."
Anna studied herself in the polished doors. "Probably third gen. Maybe fourth."
Lynch cursed himself for overlooking the obvious. "I should have remembered what a family business the IRA is."
(At this point, Anna should react, but in a way that lets the conversation down easy.)
"She doesn't know the real story, of course, but the version she knows is damning enough." Again, this feels somewhat 'talking to the reader'.
... before he spoke again. "You think she knows the real story?"
"No. No way to."
He evaluated her words and found he agreed. "So what do you think she knows?"
"Whatever it is, it's something damning enough."
(Of course, this makes assumptions on Anna - her personality, her dynamic with Lynch, and how much she knows. If I'm incorrect about any of those, please accept my apologies.)
I'm going to stop nit-picking on the dialog. It could be a matter of style, or a matter of canon. If you want me to poke at dialog further, I'll be glad to, but I'm right now afraid of stepping on your toes if I continue.
"One man and a cart have been in and out." Is this from some sort of paranormal ability? It's a valid choice to keep the reader in the dark, but even if so, there should be something she does, sees or otherwise senses that leads her to saying this.
"She unlocked the door ... She scanned the room..." Two sentences starting with the same word. Perhaps start the sentence with "After scanning the room, she.."?
"You think you're the first girl / Yes. Why do you bother lying?" I love this exchange.
The whole 'flowers in the suite' scene was very well done.
"Anyone seeing them would wonder how the man had survived the event that had put them there." The scene is her and him. The 'anyone' doesn't really fit. "She gave them a second glance, wondering how John had somehow survived them." Maybe. Dunno.
"Arf." LOVE THAT!
"As Miss Fi says." Unsure when Fiona told him to keep moving?
"What sort of secret agent engraves his name and number on his camera, I wonder?"
I'd end the chapter at this point. The transition to Sam Axe's background is very abrupt.
"and dispatched it handily and asked for more." Two 'ands' in the sentence. I'd replace the first one with a comma.
"He'd stoically endured ... / He quickly gained a reputation ..." Two sentences starting with the same word.
"... that made agents with less talent / While said partner ..." We switched from plural to singluar here.
"So what am I doing with these two?" I *think* he means Michael and Fiona, but it could be Lynch and Anna. This uncertainty should be avoided.
"My people grieved those Widowmakers like family." This doesn't track. Earlier, we established "Word was the shipment was headed for Norhtern Ireland. But even the IRA didn't have the cash to pay for it."
The exposition on the Widowmaker breaks the fictive illusion. This is all dialog until this point. This elaboration come out of the blue.
"I think Lynch wants us to know as little as possible about these kids. Which makes me determined to learn as much as possible." Perfect Michael!
Nice ending. Comes rather suddenly, but a phone call is often impromptu. It's a good hook to entice the reader to read on.
| taerkitty chapter 1 . 10/20/2012
"In adverse situations, I've always tried to do the thing unexpected. It keeps me alive and free."
Good summary of the series premise. He seems a rather plain-spoken sort, so "the thing unexpected" seems not as in-character as simply "the unexpected".
"Barry the money launderer" - While I adore the subtitles for supporting characters (e.g. "The Greedy Mark"), it doesn't seem to work here. Or maybe it does, but I'm used to avoiding this when writing non-BN fiction.
"Sometimes it just means you're the one who's got the farthest to fall."
Very in character. Excellent.
"Barry was part of the meager network of contacts Michael had salvaged from his former life..."
Hm, this is superflurous. If he's part of the network, it'll show up over time. If not, then no amount of saying so will change it.
"But he'd agreed, after taking a few basic precautions." This is tricky. 'He' in the previous sentence meant Michael, but the only named person is Barry. If you substitute the last 'him' in the prior sentence with Michael's name, then this 'he' would be definitely Michael.
"It was just the sort of place Michael would have picked..." Great paragraph. It shows the setting, of course. But it also shows Michael's mindset, and it foreshadows The Client's savviness.
"...he specifically asked if Michael Westen was available." I'm surprised this didn't set off alarm bells.
"More fieldcraft, Michael thought." Again, great insight on the characters.
"Michael speculated what sort of man considered keeping his hands in sight..." Again on the insight. (I think I'm going to be saying that a bit.)
"Michael had once been duped into bird-dogging a man on the run for a contract killer." Hm. Better to leave that to come out in conversation. In his business, we know he has secrets, and we know he has reasons to be particular about who he choses to work with. I'm willing to accept them at face value, w/o being told why.
"Fi. I didn't expect to see you here." Why she left her post is handled in the story, but not as adeptly as I'd expect. It's a gradual build, and there's obvious history between the two, but the timing is off. Michael is professional enough to not want to settle it here, in front of the client, but I'm expecting more spark, more play. Instead, she shows up, and it settles down to routine again.
"Her hand still rested on her purse, which he knew contained a Browning Hi-Power." Again, Fiona being Fi, we know she's packing. And the specifics aren't important. The fact alone she's fiddling with her purse is enough to get the point across.
"Then Michael recognized the camera." Very nice intro for them both.
"Not if you find them first, I bet." Perfect Sam. "Uhh. Yeah. You charge by the hour?" And again.
"Michael and his two associates traded glances; the featureless rectangle of black plastic ..." This is a good 'tell' - it's not something that's inherent in the character, and it is important to the story.
'"Fi," Michael said in warning tones.' This is where I mark the start of the chapter close. It's quite effective - we have the team in one place, and we know how everyone feels about them.
The chapter as it stands is a great opener - for the uninitiated, we have an intro to the setting, the leads. We get some very colourful supporting cast in the form of Lynch and Anna. I really love this start.
There's a '9' on the bottom of the page, btw.
| Whyt Wulf chapter 9 . 12/21/2011
I've never been in to Burn Notice - only watched an episode or two. However, this story was brilliantly crafted, which is nothing less than I have come to expect from you. From the couple episodes of BN I've seen, I could hear Fi's voice every time she 'spoke', and I could imagine the Man in Black facing off against her red dot.
You kept me up much later with this story than I should have been, but I'd say the lost sleep was well worth such a great story.
| Stormbringer951 chapter 9 . 6/20/2011
This review is a little late, but still...
Good use of tradecraft and a well-written story,. I enjoyed the interactions between Jack, Anna and the Westen crew as they try to figure each other out. The story was also tightly plotted (I can imagine this as an actual episode) while containing a lot of background detail, and some extra plot details, for followers of your Gen13 stories.
There is one real criticism though. IO is far above Michael's punching weight; they make Management look like street toughs. Mike can't really do his thing, because if IO takes a real interest then they will squash him. He gets to be clever and figures things out, but he can't really do much MacGyvering and saving the day without being swatted by IO (unless he's going to be very very clever). Something to take into consideration for (fingers crossed) any future crossovers.
| skywiseskychan chapter 9 . 5/23/2011
Well done. I like how you tied things up nicely. Yes it was basically exposition, but it was also I think very necessary to explain why it was done that way. What I'm curious about is if the phone calls they reference listening to are just the intra-westen crew or also westen to lynch calls. Those would give rather more away but I think from what you've written before its implied that those calls are blank.
I'm also wondering at the guy who's name I can't remember who studies patterns just 'losing interest' in something like IO. Was that just him getting called off by Sam or did Lynch do something more insidious? I would be surprised if he would stop looking just on Sam's word.
As for the 'snipers' I liked it. Sure it did give Lynch a hard time getting away but it was a nice touch to make sure of his intentions. So was listening to Fiona and Sam talk about it, both at the time and later at the resort.
However I think my very favorite line was when Anna was correcting herself. Yes, there is a world of difference between being anything he wants, and being whatever he will let me. I thought that was very well done.
| Enfleurage chapter 9 . 5/18/2011
Yikes! You build tension better than anyone I read and left me worried for Michael, Sam and Fiona and wanting to know more about Jack Lynch and his little group. Another outstanding story. Thank you so much for your continued brilliant writing!
| Timbo chapter 9 . 5/18/2011
Not much to say aside from 'Well done!' Everyone seemed in character and the story was good from beginning to end. I doubt a sequel would make sense, but I'd love to see what you could do with a straight 'Burn Notice' story.
| Stormbringer951 chapter 8 . 4/24/2011
The previous disclaimer applies here, especially. (Read: kids with implied superpowers, just roll with it)
Another staple of Burn Notice: the con scene, to put pressure on the mark. This feels especially ominous, given the way that Anna is apeing Ivana Baiul. It's great to see the attention to spy detail here, and how savvy their marks are - Corteza might not be big time, but he's smart.
The same go for the two kids. Of course, the slow have probably been recaptured already. It's nice to see Michael taken off guard for once, though. I bet he wasn't expecting that. Can't wait to see what happens next.
| skywiseskychan chapter 8 . 4/18/2011
Wow Anna sure was cold being cold to Sam. For a while it almost made me wonder if she was just acting or if Anna had gotten one of her sisters involved. She certainly does seem far more polished in her espionage by this point in the story. Maybe its because I’ve been rereading the rest, but it is clearer now than earlier that she has become a serious contender as a spy. Of course then her little talk apologizing for playing Sam was fun. Even if you never write about it I’ll enjoy the thought that she occasionally gives him a call from day to day.
I wonder just how much they will find out about Ivanaa and IO after you had Anna effectively masquerading as her ‘mother’. Sure she’s younger, but with the dress up it makes me amused. If the real director of IO shows up though it could be dangerous if the Burn Notice crew doesn’t realize its NOT Anna.
Finally poor Michael. It’s good to see his targets are nice and world wise. But panicking a whole den of illegal immigrants/migrants/emigree’s is kind of a high price, especially if it draws attention right where they don’t want it. I also just sort of saw the little text at the bottom of the screen there at the end with “Mikes Clients” labeling them.
| Stormbringer951 chapter 7 . 4/16/2011
Note: this chapter may be a little more difficult for Burn Notice fans who aren't familiar with Thescarredman's other stories.
So, an IO team finally make an appearance. Well, it's not unexpected, but I'm wondering how you're going to play it. Unlike Jack, he doesn't have the resources to tangle with them so I'm guessing that he and Ferris won't be meeting face to face. Probably. Whatever happens, the arrival of the team means that the tempo of the main plot is going to move up a gear, right? By the way, I loved the background information from Spencer. These little tidbits about the world of black and grey ops are what really sell the fic to me (metaphorically speaking, of course).
| skywiseskychan chapter 7 . 4/15/2011
Interestingly I was rereading the previous chapter before this one and realized that the 'voiceover' could just as well be referring to Michael and the gang as any of their potential targets. Oh such tangled webs we weave.
You used Spencer! That’s absolutely awesome. I was wondering as the scene began to unfold just who Sam could have gathered in to help try and crack the uncrakable. Choosing Spencer was a genius move. Of course if they keep on this course they really will be getting in over their heads. It’s a little frightening thinking of spencer set loose on the shop. He might just be good enough to find it. Not that anyone would believe him. Also, kudos for getting Ana back together with Sam.
Maddie versus Ana. 'FIGHT!' It's nice to see Madaline's experience still working out for her. I'm glad that your allowing the Burn notice crew to be true to what they are in the series. Including little foibles like Maddie's being almost if not impossible to fool unless she wants to be.
Uh oh, looks like Ferris is too smart for her own good. Maybe Castro will end up with a modernized army after all. That would be kind of amusing.
("As soon as my girlfriend dumps me." Which won't be long, if I keep standing her up and neglecting her.
"Hmph. Coming from any other guy, I'd be insulted. But I'll be expecting a call if she does.")
"WHAT DOES Sam do for those women?"
| Stormbringer951 chapter 6 . 12/20/2010
Interesting. I guess this is the part where we begin to see the MacGyvering and on-the-spot improvising that characterises Mike's plans?
What's the planned length of this story anyway?
| Timbo chapter 6 . 12/19/2010
This is moving right along, you've done a good job so far weaving the two worlds together and really giving it a 'burn notice' feel. Good job with the conversation between Sam and Lynch, I'm sure it made Sam even more curious as well as cautious. Nothing to criticize here, good work!