Book Review: The Missing Element

Title: The Missing Element: A James Becker Mystery

Author: John L. Betcher

My Review:

I only choose to review books that I think I’m going to enjoy – it takes a fair bit of time to read a book and it’s, quite honestly, time I’m never going to get back or time that could be better used (if I don’t enjoy the book) doing something that I do enjoy.

That being said, when I agreed to read and review The Missing Element by John L. Betcher, I wanted to like it. I can’t even begin to imagine how challenging it is to self-publish a book and, for that fact, to work diligently in writing an entire novel. So, as I began reading The Missing Element, I truly wanted to like it. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

In theory, the novel has an interesting premise. A small-town lawyer, with a much larger background, gets called in to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a friend of a friend. There is all kinds of potential in this storyline. Betcher, unfortunately, does not deliver.

There are many areas of this novel that I didn’t like. One aspect of this novel that I found disturbing was the use of dialogue. In many cases, the dialogue was really awkward which made it almost painful to read. For example, when the missing woman’s husband invites in Beck (a friend of a friend and a lawyer) to talk about his missing wife, he tells Beck to sit down and get comfortable and then says, “May I serve you a beverage?”. The mix of relaxed conversation followed directly by awkwardly formal language makes no sense. This type of weak dialogue appears regularly throughout the novel and it becomes increasingly difficult to read and digest as the novel progresses. I started marking passages that made no sense to me in terms of conversation, such as the use of words like “hinky” and a conversation where the main character’s wife tells him she is going to spend the day, “running to a fashion warehouse to see if they have any new and inspiring options to spice up some of my clothing designs…Of course, if you would like to do something together that would be my preference.” These are only a couple of examples – the awful dialogue was appearing so frequently that I actually gave up marking the pages!

The characters are also two-dimensional and annoying. Beck, the lawyer, alternates between insincere formality and cockiness with no rhyme or reason. He also goes on and on about how fascinated he is by his wife – which is a lovely concept but has NOTHING to do with the novel! The rest of the characters show no depth. As the novel progresses, it becomes more obvious that it is not going to improve.

I feel badly because I don’t want to squash anyone’s dreams. I’m sure when Betcher wrote The Missing Element he felt truly inspired. Unfortunately, there are many missing elements in this novel – amazing dialogue, a wonderful storyline and great characters. I hope that Mr. Betcher will take on board what I have to say and will find a way to improve his next novel if he chooses to write one. He obviously has some creativity and the ability to develop an interesting premise but he needs to do a lot of work to develop a strong novel. As much as it saddens me to say, I wouldn’t recommend The Missing Element.

*I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel.*


Susan is married and lives in Ontario, Canada. She is loves to read, work out, spend time with her family and try new things!

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