After a slow 2018, I hoped to get back on track with the ever growing number of books on my digital and literal shelves. Outside of books about autism or disability, I tend to read crime novels. So finding a crime novel with an autistic main character was the merging of my book interests.
Going Underground is the first book in the Jonathan Roper series. Roper works for the metropolitan police, although I’m not sure if his role is ever fully qualified. He is on suspension at the beginning of the book so I presume he is directly employed by the Met. The fact that this piece of information is confusing and lacks clarity demonstrates one of the biggest issues with the book, that information that should be clear just isn’t. My thoughts about this book can pretty much be divided into three categories:
- This book needed a good editing before release.
- The stereotype of “super genius autistic with savant skills but no social skills at all” that permeates so much of media representation is heavily relied upon.
- Despite the above, I enjoyed the core of the book and will keep reading the series.
The main story-line is interesting and has enough twists to keep you turning the next page to find out what happens next. The two main characters have an engaging working relationship and their partnership is a strong point of the book – always important in cop books. The fact that these two things were strong enough for me to look past what I discuss in the next paragraph and decide to read the second book in the series, says a lot for how much I enjoyed it.
While the stereotypical socially incompetent man with autism who has amazing and borderline fantastical abilities is frustrating, I could have gotten past it if not for the final third of the book. Roper has perceptive abilities throughout that book that teeter on the edge of being full-blown super-powers, but the way they are presented is okay until the ‘Rainbow Spectrum’ is introduced. This is a mental technique that Roper uses and once it is introduced, it is used to justify and explain all of Roper’s predictions, investigative paths and most of his actions related to the case. Everyone just accepts that his Rainbow Spectrum will be right and follows what he says and praises Roper for almost everything he does. This was the point where I became frustrated with the overused genius trope.
As for needing a good editing before release, this is a criticism I’ve seen a lot of reviewers raise. I’m not sure if this book is meant to be written in an omniscient third person (which if it does raises an issue in terms of perspective and the big reveal at the end of the book) or if it’s meant to simply be third person and is therefore just riddled with perspective jumping that should have been edited out. Sometimes the POV character jumps mid-paragraph, and that’s jarring. There are a lot of spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes and sections where information that should be given isn’t or is rushed. The entire finale of the book falls flat because it’s rushed and sections where action would have been a good change of pace are briefly summarised so that we can see Roper being clever in an interview scenario that makes little to no sense.
All of this really is a shame because there was something so enjoyable about the core of the book and maybe that was just because it was a merging of two special interests but I wanted it to be good all the same. I doubt that the super-genius autistic trope is likely to go anywhere in the second book but I think, with the parts of the book I really did enjoy, with a good editing I could find the sequel all that more engaging.