Friday, December 3, 2010

The Daughters of Freya - Michael Betcherman & David Diamond

Summary:  Journalist Samantha Dempsey never imagined her life would turn out like this. Her 19 year-old son has fallen in love with an older woman. Her mother is a basket case, still haunted by the death of Samantha’s brother in a car accident years ago. Her once-promising career as a journalist has ground to a halt. And the cracks in her marriage are wide and getting wider.

In the midst of all this turmoil, Samantha gets an email from a desperate friend whose 21 year-old daughter has joined The Daughters of Freya, a California cult that believes sex is the solution to the world’s problems. He wants Samantha to write a story that will expose the cult as a fraud.

Samantha pitches the story to Jane Sperry, the editor of a San Francisco magazine and an old college friend. Sperry sends Samantha to Marin County to write a piece on the cult but she soon finds out that there is more to the cult than meets the eye.

She discovers that the cult’s ‘spiritual guide’ has a secret and insidious agenda, and wealthy and powerful partners who will stop at nothing to prevent her from revealing the truth.

As Samantha risks her life in an attempt to penetrate the inner workings of the cult, she must deal with a personal life that is threatening to fall apart and a past she thought she had left far behind.

The Daughters of Freya is not a book; it's a 'real-time' email mystery delivered straight to your inbox...Opening your email will never be the same again!  (Summary and image from - email experience given free for review)

My Review:  Technically, The Daughters of Freya is not a book and it’s not an audio tape. It is a mystery comprised of 115 emails sent straight to your inbox over a period of three weeks.  They appear as emails between fictional characters in which you have been BCC’d. Intrigued? I was too, and decided to review this "email experience" even though it is a bit of a reach from what we normally review.

At first, I was simply curious about the alleged sex cult and what Samantha would uncover, but when her investigations led to a sordid secret and a murder, the story became more intense. By the end of the first week, I was checking my email obsessively, and it was maddening to have to wait for new email to find out what would happen next. Before long, I was kicking myself for asking to experience this email mystery like the rest of humanity instead of all at once (as I was offered).

The authors arranged the emails in each installment so that you read things in the proper order to minimize confusion. I would have loved if the each email could have come separately “real time”, but I think it would have been more confusing if they had. Instead each email installment is timed to achieve maximum suspense and, although they are more detailed than you would find in an actual email, it’s little enough to be forgivable and helps convey the story.

I appreciate Betcherman and Diamond's ingenuity in using emails, but it did create problems that were difficult to resolve within the confines of their chosen medium. One minor conflict arose when they chose to insert links into certain emails to add dimension to the story. Usually these links led to sites that were “in house” and part of the world the authors created. However, a few times, these links led to outside sources without any indication that you were “clicking out” of the story. Until I figured out how to tell the difference, I wasn’t exactly sure how far down the B&D rabbit hole I was supposed to go. I would suggest that in those special cases, they provide a disclaimer or indicator of some kind before taking the reader off site.

While the ending of this story felt a bit lackluster for me, I feel this had more to do with the chosen method of delivery than with the actual story itself. When the characters got into a situation where they no longer had access to the Internet (via computer or phone), the only other way to gain vital information was to read an online newspaper article about what happened during the interim sent from one secondary character to another. I’m sure in a standard book or movie the final scene would have been very intense, but this was where I felt telling a story through a series of emails actually hurt the narrative. It lacked emotional depth and I missed having a traditional conclusion and epilogue.

While The Daughters of Freya did have a few issues, it definitely added more than a little zing to my inbox and I enjoyed the mystery.  At only $3.99, it would make an entertaining, creative, and  inexpensive mini-gift this Christmas. I've already given away THREE of them, so I should have some feedback in about 3 weeks.  Click here to visit the The Daughters of Freya website, here to preview the story, or here to give this unique email mystery as a gift. 

My Rating: 3.75 Stars     For the sensitive reader: A few instances of profanity and some detached discussion of sex within the context of the cult.

Sum it up: An unique way to add a little mystery to your day.

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