****I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review****
“The Prophet of Marathon” is, at its core, James’s coming of age story. He’s 30 and waving in the wind, unsure what he wants to do with his life, or where he wants to go. The one thing he does know: he doesn’t want to return to his family in New York and face his father. He’s rather lazy, but has gotten really good at blaming others for his misfortune, so when his father allows him to take care of his grandfather’s estate in Florida, James jumps at the chance to live rent free on the beach for a few more weeks, avoiding real responsibility like the plague. Then one fortuitous meeting later, James is working for a once disgraced preacher as he tries to rebuild his church. But not all is as it appears with John Wainwright (I mean, is anything really how it appears, ever?) and James finds himself finally growing up, and growing “a pair” if you will.
It took me a long time to get into this book, as it does start off pretty slow, with things really only picking up maybe 60% into the book. You learn pretty early on that the main character is just floundering, moving from one dead end job to another, with no passions to really motivate him to do anything but play online poker. As the book is presented in the first person, all we see is James’s perspective, and honestly, I never much cared for him as a main character. His lack of ambition and how nonchalant he seemed to treat things irked me. I was desperate for James to DO something, but he never does, not until the crosses and double-crosses are all out in the open, and James is caught in the middle. He wasn’t a man I wanted to root for most of the time, and just came off as rather whiny, especially for a 30 year old. I also wasn’t a fan of how all the women in the book were portrayed, as they are mostly just boiled down to their physical attributes, and if the main character would consider sleeping with him. It made them feel one dimensional, and made Wainwright’s daughter feel unbelievable as a character towards the end (no spoilers, but you’ll see what I mean when you get there).
Because I wasn’t jelling well with the characters, I was trying to get more into the various cons and plots that were present in Waldner’s book. While you can kind of see where it’s going, because we are only ever presented James’s point of view, you never see the “fun” parts of the plots and cons, just their outcomes, which was a bit of a letdown, and made the ultimate con a bit hard to swallow as it seemed like a LOT of work for James to have never suspected a thing. It’s a bit like Ocean’s 11 in that regard, where you only get to see everything laid out at the very end, but without the humor.
Waldner has a sophisticated way of writing, and he doesn’t shy away from language or sex (so be forewarned there, this book probably isn’t appropriate for readers under 15 or 16 with how often James has sex, and uses the f-bomb), which did add a level of authenticity to his main characters. And it did help with the ultimate con, once you get to it. But it took so long to get to that it made the book feel overly long. This became especially evident when, at the end, I finally became engrossed in the story and found myself wishing the book had spent more time on dealing with the aftermath of Wainwright rather than, well, pretty much everything else. Ultimately, while I like a good mystery and thriller as much as the next guy, with the characters and pacing, I just don’t think this was my cup of tea, but I can see why it may work really well for others who prefer those slow burn kind of reads. Therefore I’m giving this book 3 stars.
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