There's a sentence near the beginning of the book, one which drove me crazy, yet also encapsulates exactly one of the reasons why this book didn't work for me. Mac is telling us about how much she loves books and then declares she likes them more then movies because movies don't let you think. Which, isn't true at all. A good movie will engage your brain and cause you to think, though perhaps in different ways then a book does. But what Mac, and by extension Moning, meant was that a book allows you to use your imagination to fill in the gaps. We're going to ignore that movies can do that too (hello Jaws, my terror) and focus on the irony that then proceeds throughout the book as Moning proceeds to outline details to the detriment of the book. I have a big gripe when authors describe outfits for their characters in exquisite detail because it puts an expiration date on the novel. It is possible to go back to that novel in 50 years or so and see it as a time capsule, but unless the novel is brilliant that's unlikely to happen. This is not a brilliantly written novel, and nine years after it was written Mac comes across as a fashion victim and not the stylish, fashion obsessed character Moning tells you she is.
There's also the fact that Mac isn't a consistent character. She's what she needs to be for plot reasons. Need a naïve waif? Ok, Mac can be that. Need a tough, sarcastic, suspicious girl. Yep, Mac can be that too. And it would make sense if those changes happened because of character development, but they don't. And there are certain descriptions that feel added on because Moning wanted to make sure her readers liked and or identified with Mac. We're told over, and over, and over that Mac loves books. She LOOOOOOVES them. But she's not brainy or smart, nor do we really see her read anything. We're regaled with the color of her nails and she fixes her make-up but she never actually picks up a book. She's a fashion lover, pink and pastels all over - the stereotypical southern belle. But she's a bar tender, for added edge.
But my biggest complaint is that the book has no plot arch. There's a mystery and a problem but no acceleration and no resolution. I've seen a few people justify that by saying that the series is one book and this is just the introduction, but I hate that reasoning. I love when book series have an overarching plot. I will follow that plot forever, but the individual novels within the series should also have plots and be complete on their own. I shouldn't feel puzzled as to why the book ended. Plus, I just don't believe that Moning is a strong enough writer to accomplish that particular task.