The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

July 3, 2008

June Busted Out All Over

I went over the list of books I read in June and found that taken as a whole, June was a mediocre reading month. I read 11 books and would recommend only two of them without hesitation.

June started off with a lesson in GOOD BEHAVIOR by Donald E. Westlake. This is one of Westlake's Dortmunder books. They are always good for several grins, a lot of chuckles, and usually a few belly laughs. This title is no exception. Dortmunder working with nuns? Westlake must do some great drugs, how else to explain his unflagging originality? Oh, yeah, talent. Bags of talent.

Debut book from Aussie Adrian Hyland, MOONLIGHT DOWNS. This is a really intriguing story, particularly for those like myself who've had no exposure to modern Aboriginal culture. I generally won't write synopses (see amazon or B&N for those), so will only say that this is a book well worth the read, whether you like crime fiction or not.

Okay, those were the two best books I read in June. Best as in books I enjoyed without reservation. The middle-of-the-road books -- books not horrible but either not original or not engrossing yet I might read another book by the author someday -- were as follows:

Robert J. Randisi's LUCK BE A LADY, DON'T DIE. I'll say this for Randisi, though his prose may not sparkle, he does capture the voices of the Rat Pack very nicely in his dialogue.

NOTHING TO LOSE by Lee Child. A disappointment, something I rarely say about a Jack Reacher novel. The story was more plod than plot, and never developed that 'edge of your seat' tension Child achieved in ONE SHOT and BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE.

TAMING A SEA-HORSE. I was glad that Robert B. Parker recovered from the gaffe that was A CATSKILL EAGLE, but this book felt like Parker was starting to re-tread some of Spenser's tires. This feeling was born out when later in the month I read FAMILY HONOR, the first in his Sunny Randall series. FAMILY HONOR was a reworking to lesser effect of the wonderful Spenser tale, EARLY AUTUMN.

I hate to say I felt let down by Duane Swierczynski's SEVERANCE PACKAGE. I so enjoyed his previous two books, THE WHEELMAN and THE BLONDE, that my expectations may have been a trifle high. SEVERANCE PACKAGE read like a comic book rather than a thriller or mystery. Swierczynski was suddenly channeling Stan Lee instead of Ken Bruen. I know the author is also experienced in writing comics but I wish he would not try to overlap the genres. No amount of originally scripted violence makes up for a lack of characterization.

The last two mediocre tales are older titles from bestselling authors, but my To Be Read stacks are so many and so high that a number of the books are beginning to yellow. David Baldacci's THE CAMEL CLUB and Nelson Demille's THE GOLD COAST -- not bad, but not riveting. Both authors have produced far superior work, and I've no doubt both will do so again.

And I read two books that I did not appreciate at all: Lyn Hamilton's THE XIBALBA MURDERS and Mary Kay Andrews' DEEP DISH. Re Hamilton, I just did not like her writing style, it felt stiff and she left characters and setting undeveloped. The Andrews book was bad enough that I went through the last liquor in the house. Not even Glenfiddich could improve my opinion of it. For some reason, when I picked the book up I thought I was getting lighthearted crime fiction. In fact, it was a romance of sorts. Or out of sorts. About two people who are competing to get to host a cooking show. Even now I feel a yawn creeping up all over me.

So much for June.

Ah, me, I do have hope that July will be provide better entertainment. What with Robert Crais and James Lee Burke producing new works, Megan Abbott's QUEENPIN next up in the nearest To Be Read stack, and a promise to myself to track down Louise Penny's last title, things are indeed looking up.

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