Plot Holes

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
I recently vented some steam about plot holes, but I've just encountered another that's so big I could land a Jumbo jet in it!

In plotting any story we walk a tightrope that needs to include a certain amount of logicality mixed with incredulity—when a character does something unexpected, which alters the course of events. It can be counter-productive to overexplain why things happen: readers know how unpredictable life is and that people can be unreliable.

All the same, there shouldn't be glaring inconsistencies and totally unbelievable events. I recently finished reading a thriller by an author new to me, so far as I remember, for John Lescroart has written at least 27 novels, dating back to 1981. I read one of his recent stories, The Hunter, in which the protagonist, a private investigator, is prompted into tracking down the murderer of his birth mother. I enjoyed the intricate plotting, which drew on the real-life Jonestown massacre.

The antagonist, the murderer, turned out to have previously been implicated in atrocities in the Vietnam War, as well as killing at least five people since, including his brother. The climax of the story saw this evil villain seize the private investigator's girlfriend at his converted warehouse home, holding her hostage and demanding that the P.I. hand himself over in an exchange monitored by the SWAT team surrounding the building.

We've seen this setup many times in fiction and Hollywood movies, where one person is exchanged for the other, under the guns of the opposing force to ensure that there's no betrayal. What made my jaw drop, after reading 350 finely-crafted pages, was the injured girlfriend was released to a police officer, whereupon the baddy closed the door! Instead of the P.I. being under the gun, he meekly approached the door to knock on it, to be let in! Why the hell would he do that? They'd got the girl out, so why would he hand himself over to a homicidal nutcase to become a hostage?

Of course, it set up the confrontation between the good guy and the bad guy, but in a way that was so unfeasible, it made me feel cheated.

Oh, and the illustration on the cover, which shows a bullet smashing through what looks to be an empty wine glass, has nothing to do with any violent incident in the story. Bewilderingly, in the thanks that Lescroart gives at the end of the book, he praises the cover art!

When I think of how much care and attention I give to the plots of my Cornish Detective novels, and other stories, such as my current WIP an American Civil War novella, I'm bewildered as to how such plot holes don't get spotted. Even if the author makes a careless error, surely the editor should spot it?

Have you come across any plot holes recently?

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