Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

Heads You LoseHeads You Lose by Lisa Lutz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a Goodreads (http://goodreads.com) first reads give away. I was thrilled when I found out I won this book. The book was a collaboration between two authors. Lisa Lutz would write the first and all odd numbered chapters and David Hayward would write the even numbered chapters. There was to be no discussion or outline, they would read the others chapter then add their own and pass it back and forth until they finished. I thought the premise was unique and held possibilities in an experimental way.

I received the book and read the editor’s notes. I was a bit worried when I found out that David was an ex-boyfriend of Lisa’s. Before the story gets started and between each chapter, the two authors write notes and critique each other.

After the first 5 or 6 chapters I was loving this book and was sure it was going to get 4 or even 5 stars. The notes between David and Lisa were as interesting as the murder mystery. There were a few passive aggressive things going on, like when Lisa told David he should do some back story for some of the characters, David did just that including a back story for the cat. When Lisa suggested that some of his language was a bit too ‘high end’ (and she didn’t want to Google so many words), David toned down his language throughout his next chapter and in parenthesis added definitions to words that most people would already know. At first this kind of thing was humorous and didn’t harm the story.

By the time I got to chapter 10 or so, things were falling apart. It seems to me that the writers let their pettiness and egos get in the way of the story. Instead of building on each others characters and adding to the story they seemed to spend their chapters tearing each others characters down (including killing them off) and trying to repair damage to their characters (including making them just injured and not dead). Towards the end they (the writers) were making comments about who is winning and losing. In my opinion neither one of them won and the story ended up losing. A collaboration and a competition are not the same thing.

As a mystery it had a strong beginning, but the more you read the more erratic it became. It went from solving one murder to solving 9 possibly 10 if you count the 4 possibly 5 people killed years earlier. The characters personalities kept changing with every chapter so by the end of the book you didn’t care who did it or who might die next and you wouldn’t have been a surprised if the cat (Irving, my favorite character) turned out to be the killer. By chapter 20 or so I had a good guess at who the killer was going to be (and I was right), so according to their notes I knew who did it before the writers. I didn’t have all the details figured out until the end (and neither did the writers from what I could tell).

The only thing that kept this book from getting 1 star and staying off my ‘burn-pile’ shelf was the fact that I actually liked a lot of the writing by both authors. As far as experiments go I can’t say this one failed (an experiment is something you do to see the results) but I can say that I didn’t like the results of this experiment.

I wouldn’t mind seeing this experiment tried again, but by two writers that didn’t have so much animosity towards each other.

I would only recommend this book to people who want to know what NOT to do during a collaboration.

View all my reviews


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