There’s an engaging story in first-time novelist Kurt Hafner’s Spiders Web. It’s an interesting spin on the crime/spy thriller genre because the victim is a company. But unfortunately, even when the story becomes exciting, it gets caught up in flaws that push readers away.
First, Hafner makes it challenging for us to empathize with the victim by not telling us enough about the company. We know it’s named after owners Rolf and Sabine Brenner, two British entrepreneurs, that it’s based in London and has a subsidiary in Chicago. We learn that it’s an electronics manufacturer with valuable patents but not what its products are. So it’s hard to feel bad when someone starts spreading rumors about the company, bringing down its stock price.
Additionally, there’s no central plot, just several loosely connected, largely unrealized narratives involving the Brenners, various crooks, international police, kidnappers and a wealthy financier who saves the company with brilliant business tactics that are never explained.
Hafner spends too much time explaining back stories of minor characters who aren’t important to the narrative, such as a police lieutenant who’s looking forward to a date with his lovely girlfriend Abigail, whom he knew in junior high school but met again at a college prom, then fell out of touch with but is now seeing and … you get the idea.
Some of the subplots, such as romances between characters, also don’t add to the story. And an editor could have caught persistent grammatical errors such as “it’s” for “its,” “you’re” for “your” and “who’s” for “whose.”
Hafner can tell stories: as the characters and plotlines converge, the pace picks up. But readers have to overcome too many barriers and eventually get mired in the author’s web of too little information in some places and too much in others to declare this story a success.