First To Find by Morgan C. Talbot
First To Find by Morgan C. Talbot is the first novel in the mystery series, Caching Out. Margarita is an avid geocacher who finds herself the recipient of a mysterious geocache made in her honor. When seeking out the cache, Margarita soon finds herself seeking out a murderer instead. With the help of Australian roommate, Bindi (who is working on a mystery of her own), Bindi’s overly sensitive nose, and some fellow geocachers, Margarita must find out who’s killing Silver Creek’s geocachers and why, before she ends up a victim herself.
I really like the concept of the book. I’ve heard about Geocaching in passing a few times, but never really understood exactly what it referred to until I read First To Find.
Unfortunately, while the idea behind the book promised to be interesting, the finished product didn’t quite follow through.
I’ll begin with saying that there were one or two interesting characters in the novel. The Australian roommate, Bindi, for example, was someone who I enjoyed reading about. Her sensitive nose (while a little unbelievable at times) was something different and I appreciated Talbot’s consideration into how this would effect Bindi’s, and even Margarita’s, everyday life; from how often the garbage needed to be taken out, to the difficulty of being around a bar with strong alcohol.
However, the sheer volume of characters left me reeling and gave very little opportunity for any characters to develop. There are dozens of characters mentioned; some very important, some with one or two minor scenes, and some just passing by. It was not only hard to tell who was there to add to the plot and who was just there, but many of them had given names as well as geocaching names making it hard to keep up. This onslaught of secondary and tertiary characters, especially with the majority being introduced in bulk, often left me confused and pulled me from the story as I tried to remember who was who and if I had already read about them, or if they were being newly introduced. I feel the novel could have been greatly improved (it probably would have been a 4/5 star read) if Talbot had gone through and taken out mentions of those characters who added nothing to the plot. There were also moments where a character was introduced solely to share a bit of information that could have just as easily been shared by someone already mentioned, cutting in half the number of characters the reader needed to keep track of.
The writing and dialogue were another two areas which could have been improved. While the descriptions tended to be well done, there were some minor issues with spelling and grammar, as well as a few instances where characters’ names were mixed up, likely due to the amount the author was trying to keep track of. The biggest problems I had with the writing were a few phrases that came across as rather offensive, like calling Death an ’emo anorexic’. That definitely left a bad taste in my mouth and, while I’m sure it wasn’t intentionally done, really bothered me. Many of these issues could have been fixed with more editing and careful consideration into word choice.
The dialogue, especially at the beginning, seemed to be stilted at times, sounding ‘staged’ and unnatural. While there were instances where I found myself smiling to laughing with the conversing characters, and it did get better towards the end, those moments were unfortunately outweighed by the rest.
The mystery of the novel was definitely on the right track. I liked where it was heading and I wasn’t able to guess a lot of things until near the end, and I love a mystery that can surprise me. Unfortunately, I can’t tell if it was the amount of time I spent trying to keep track of all of the characters that made some things more surprising, or if it was the writing of the mystery itself.
I have to admit that for about 75% of the book, I found my mind wandering to other things or easily putting the book aside for long stretches of time. However, the last few chapters had me hooked. As soon as Talbot dropped the majority of characters, the story line began moving, things started making sense, and I was fully able to appreciate everything that was going on. The writing also improved and the climax was one of the better written sequences (though there was one big question it brought that was never answered).
Overall, I would say the bones of a good story were there, but the amount of characters that Talbot tried to cram into the novel took away from everything else, causing a good idea to go to waste. If there were ever to be a rewrite in the future and I was told that half of the characters were written out, I would likely read it, if only because I can see some real potential in what the novel could have been.
Entertainment Value: 2.5/5
Average Overall Rating: 2.33/5