This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.
This sounded quite interesting from the blurb, but the actual book turned out to be a real disappointment, the main problem being that there was no one to root for and the story wasn't particularly interesting. I made it to halfway through with an ever-increasing drumbeat telling me that I could be reading something else - something that intrigued, or engaged, or fulfilled, or delighted me. This novel did none of those things. The characters were unlikeable, with no redeeming virtues. They were not even deliciously evil - just mean-spirited, argumentative, unsavory and uninteresting. I had no compelling reason to read on at all.
The writing itself wasn't awful, but there were oddities in it here and there, such as when I read “not even the vein in her forehead seemed to pulse.” There really isn't a vein in the forehead that might pulse noticeably. There are veins between the eyebrows, but these are usually rather hidden by the musculature. The only place around the forehead where you might normally see a vein pulsing would be at the temples where there are noticeable veins and the skin is thin enough to see them pulse, but this 'throbbing vein' motif is overdone in books these days, even for calling attention to its absence.
At another point I read, “He could not discern if she was beautiful. He knew her too well” Once again we have the emphasis on beauty, and put there by a female writer, like if a woman doesn't have that, she has nothing. Why do women do this to themselves? Are we really so shallow? This especially doesn't work in this context, because a person who has feelings for someone, even of "mere" friendship, would more than likely see them as more appealing than others did, even to their looks, so this writing was doubly problematical. Fortunately most of the book was not like that. Unfortunately, it was not well-written for other reasons, most notably, that it was a huge tell with little show, and it felt like I was being lectured to a lot of the time.
There were large paragraphs of telling us of people's feelings and actions, and those felt heavy and sluggish. They made for unattractive reading. Worse than this though were the endless flashbacks. I am not a fan of flashbacks at all; they bring a story to a screeching halt, and all moment and compulsion on the part of the reader is lost. I took to skipping these rather quickly, but it was hard to do so because it was hard to tell where a flashback was starting, so this was annoying.
The plot is about a bunch of old farts who have grown old together in a Chinese restaurant. Where the 'number one' came in I have no idea unless there was a reveal in the second half of the novel. There was no allusion to it in the first half that I saw. I had to wonder if it was an attempt to borrow some cachet from Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency which I read and was not impressed with either. But anyway, these employees ought to constitute some sort of a family, and as such, family members might argue and not always get along, but it was way overdone here and left a sorry taste in the mouth. I did not want to read a whole novel about these people, especially given that the plot wasn't really very interesting either.
I wish this author all the best in her career, but I cannot recommend this novel as a worthy read unless you want to have that dangerous mutant vein pulse in your forehead until it bursts!