There are a lot of people who have declared that someday they’ll write a novel, implying that it requires only a little extra free time and nothing else. I hate those people, and Gregory Funaro reminds me of one of them. The Sculptor is so aggressively bad that I thought it had to be written as a joke, and as a result I can’t take him, or this novel, seriously.
The main problems stem from the fact that Funaro simply does not know how to write very well. His habit of starting most of his sentences with “Yes” or “Indeed” made me cringe. The fact that this book slipped past any editor’s desk simultaneously gives me hope for my own work, and makes me question the standards of certain publishers. Both the plot and characters are cliched, the dialogue is stiff and awkward and presented in giant infodumps (Cathy manages to crank one out even when she’s under sedation in the hospital), and his vocabulary seems to be quite limited. Every single female in the book is described as “pretty,” followed by either her hair color and/or her profession. Steve Rogers is “vain and self-centered.” I want to buy Funaro a thesaurus for Christmas. The characters have in-depth conversations with themselves on an alarmingly frequent basis. Cathy’s discussion with herself after a dream about her mother is utterly ridiculous and yet somehow manages to go on for several pages. We all talk to ourselves, let’s be honest, but if I were having this kind of dialogue in the middle of the night, I might question my own sanity.
Description itself is something Funaro largely sacrificed for the sake of his unrealistic dialogue. Having read the book, I’m still not entirely sure what either Sam or Cathy actually look like. When they make love for the first time, an important night considering they end up married at the end of the book, and Sam’s love for Cathy is what allegedly drives him to continue hunting The Sculptor, it happens in a rushed paragraph that’s all of one sentence long. The Sculptor himself is obviously intelligent, yet every now and then Funaro adds a bizarrely infantile word like “poopy-head” or “boobies” to his dialogue–a desperate and poor attempt to remind us, Hey, he’s CRAZY!!! Given the level of sophistication involved in his crimes, The Sculptor cannot in fact be the sort of “crazy” that Funaro is attempting to depict here.
The main purpose of this book appears to be Funaro’s desire to tell us how much he’s read about Michelangelo. I would have advised him to write an art history textbook instead. However, I will give him credit for devising a unique method by which The Sculptor kills and displays his victims, especially in using the Plastination process. While it may seem a rather labor-intensive endeavor, mission or visionary killers will go to great lengths to ensure their message is delivered properly, as with John Doe in Seven. The Sculptor has converted part of his family’s house to a studio, and spent years experimenting in order to perfect his “art.” Having done my undergrad in studio art and tutored people in art history, I did find this aspect of the book interesting, though having The Sculptor come from a wealthy family where money is no object made things a little too convenient for my tastes.
Take away The Sculptor’s MO and you’ve got characters and a plot you’ve seen a million times before. The FBI agent with a tragic past, the killer who was abused as a child and turns into a psycho, the career woman with a jerk ex-husband who gives it all up for love. Funaro did nothing innovative with these stereotypes, and because I expected nothing but the most cliched of endings–Sam and Cathy escape, the body of The Sculptor isn’t found–I guess he didn’t disappoint me after all.