RAVENS has a great idea for a plot - two drifters, on the way to somewhere else, overhear a story about a local lottery win and they quickly hatch a plan to take advantage. Take the household captive and threaten everybody they hold dear until the money is handed over.
There is a blurring of norms going on in RAVENS - on the one hand you have the two drifters - Shaw and Romeo - one clever / one a bit thick - there's a power relationship between these two that feels the stresses and strains as the novel progresses. The hostage family - the Boatwrights aren't a tight unit in their own right with a lot of tension between teenage daughter Tara and her mother - who is frankly a bit odd. Part of the complication between mother and daughter plays out in their reactions to Shaw in particular - Tara flirting, clearly not sure if she is acting or not, and the rest of the family slipping quickly into a form of Stockholm Syndrome - so quickly it was surprising.
The entire scenario needs a couple of important elements to work. A real and present danger, a threat, the constant maintenance of that threat and something to make the reader believe that the family believes the reality of that threat. But RAVENS doesn't go there. At all. In fact, the central plotline seemed to emerge occasionally from a mismash of subplots that got so confusing and distracting that any sense of overlying threat to the Boatwrights just disappeared in a cloud of fluff. Granted Shaw seems to be making up most of the plot as the book goes along, but at no stage did I really feel like they were actually going to do anything - I just didn't believe the menace. Perhaps it was that some of these subplots, the religious overtones, the families dysfunction, the drifters joint and individual dysfunction, the lack of conviction for the part they are playing from just about everybody in the plot (probably part of the design - less than convinced criminals / less than convinced victims), and it just seemed like there was too little happening in a scenario that attempted too much.
I really wanted to like this book. An opportunistic, fraught pairing of no-hopers who have a go, granted not the go you'd be proud to tell you grandmother about, but a go nonetheless. Despite there being a few places within the book where I distinctly remember thinking this is it, we're off, it never quite launched and I came away from the book with a feeling that I had obviously missed something.