Benedict Hannan is going to Scotland. Winter is well under way, but the possible rewards have made the trip worth the effort for the London auction house owner. An old school friend and former lover, Euan Ardmillan, has invited Benedict, as well as others, to his estate to bid on pieces from the family collection. Benedict is interested in seeing Euan again, but even more interested in the Staff of Asklepios, a phallic artifact of great renown.
But Benedict has been led to the estate under false pretenses and soon realizes Euan might no longer be quite so affable as he pretends. At the same time, a thief is prowling the estate and threatens to steal the Staff before it can be sold at auction. Benedict will have to decide if he can believe his old friend or if a certain cheeky thief is actually the only one he can trust.
I’m not sure really where to start with The Shooting Season, except to say that I’m not a fan. I struggled to connect with any of the characters and the plot is almost beyond absurd. There is some intrigue and action on page that helped keep the pacing strong, but that is the most positive aspect for me.
Benedict isn’t a likable character from my perspective. He’s got lots of religious guilt about his homosexuality, but he proceeds to be an absolute hypocrite about it. He constantly lusts after other men, but when they proposition him, he becomes offended. Having guilt is one thing, but I find hypocrisy, especially religious hypocrisy, to be enraging in real life, so my patience for it in a fictional character is pretty much non-existent. But luckily, this religiosity is cured by one magical night of sex. Per usual. And then there’s Benedict’s obsession with the Staff, which is just a big dildo, which he wants for his collection. It adds a creep factor to his character and I just envisioned him clutching this dildo for all it’s worth like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. Sebastian, the thief, is basically a non-entity. His reason for being at the Ardmillan Estate borders on the absurd and his interest in Benedict never reads as believable.
One of my biggest frustrations with this book concerns the use of italics. You wouldn’t think something so minor could disrupt a book, but boy did it ever. For whatever reason, many of the proper nouns in The Shooting Season are italicized. Not the names of characters, but instead places and things. Now obviously these should be capitalized, but there’s no reason to italicize them and when there are multiple names on a single sentence it became maddening to read. Here are some examples:
“laid The Staff of Asklepios, named after the Greek God of Medicine and Healing.”
“ornament from the throne of Tipu Sultan, the slain ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, and I bid on an ancient Egyptian bronze statue of a cat representing the goddess Bastet.”
While all of these proper nouns should be capitalized, the italics are unnecessary and distracting. It’s frustrating as a reader and it’s bad grammar. I even checked with two English majors to see if there was any reason italics should be used and there isn’t. There doesn’t seem to be rhyme or reason to it in The Shooting Season. It seems like a small thing to be so aggravated by, but it was sort of the last in a long list with this book.
The Shooting Season wasn’t a favorite of mine. The main characters aren’t engaging and, while the actual writing is fine, the italics quirk left a sour taste in my mouth. I’d recommend giving this one a pass.