The Unspeakable PerkOctober 1, 2011
I was totally fine with The Island Mystery until I read The Unspeakable Perk. Now I wish George A. Birmingham and Samuel Hopkins Adams had traded books. That way The Island Mystery would have been charming as it needed to be and The Unspeakable Perk would have been as cynical as it ought to have been. For the record, I am only comparing the two because they’re novels about American millionaires’ daughters on fictional islands. If you add in Romance Island, this starts looking dangerously like a trope.
That said, I like The Unspeakable Perk a lot better than The Island Mystery. If there is one thing Samuel Hopkins Adams is super consistent about, it’s his charm, and that’s one of the few things that will win me over to an otherwise unsatisfying book.
Not that The Unspeakable Perk isn’t enormously enjoyable. It’s just that it falls to pieces a little bit when you sit down and think about it. On the other hand, the hero is basically the scientist version of Clark Kent. Imagine Clark Kent is a doctor stuck on an island for a number of months, and one day a Sabatini heroine comes along and they start flirting. He’s awkward and shy and his glasses are sort of disfiguring, and she’s straightforward and secretly unconventional and easily swayed by popular opinion/prone to misunderstanding things/disinclined to accept explanations. And there’s disease on the island, and unrest among the natives, and an entertaining, loosely-knit group of foreigners in lieu of local color.
There’s some fighting, a lot of orchids, a plot that’s convoluted without being terribly interesting, and some casual xenophobia, but it’s fun. I enjoyed reading it, I adored a lot of the early scenes with the two main characters, and most of the time it didn’t bother me that nothing made very much sense. Adams is one of those authors who can pull stuff like that off. Most of me is pretty impressed with him, but the rest is a little disappointed.
Yeah, that was ambivalent.