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

December 10, 2008

Overdue books

Just a quick catch-up on recent reads:

Real Murders by Charlaine Harris: A cozy that wants to be a thriller when it grows up. Right now it's at that awkward stage.

The Getaway by Jim Thompson: A classic, though not one as easy to pigeon-hole as Thompson's fabulous The Killer Inside Me. Some readers have characterized the ending as surreal but I think this book is more of an allegory. Imagine finding the love of your life, who in turn loves you so much as to do anything, literally anything, for you. Then imagine that neither of you can be trusted not to murder the other. That's Thompson's idea of hell, and I think he pretty well nails it.

Hear the Wind Blow, Dear by David M. Pierce: This book dates from the early 1980s and it shows. The main character is kind of an embryonic Elvis Cole, but don't let that intrigue you. The plot doesn't match up. However, I was quite taken by the natural way the author handled the main character's mother, who suffered from Alzheimer's. He never let the situation get maudlin or shrill or take the focus off the mystery, it was merely a part of her character and something for the hero to deal with.

Tilt-a-Whirl by Chris Grabenstein: I can see its appeal to others but this one wasn't to my taste. I was unable to maintain my suspension of disbelief because of character behavior that too often seemed unlikely or inappropriate for the situation.

The Big Heat by William P. McGivern: I was blown away earlier this year by McGivern's quick, sophisticated repartee in Very Cold For May but this book is a very different kind of story. This one is much more hardboiled, very masculine, very late '50s-early '60s feel. Interesting but not clever or deft the way May was. Still, I'd be interested in seeing the film version that starred Glenn Ford.

The Kennel Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine: From 1933, the story is a locked-room mystery, now a cliche in crime fiction but probably not so shop-worn at the time. Even making allowances for that, the main character, the dilettante detective Philo Vance, has so many affectations that he should have been the murder victim. I was ready to kill him by page 30. And the story's construction is made unwieldy by use of a first-person observer who could not realistically be expected to accompany the hero everywhere and yet does. For once, thanks to William Powell's screen talents, a movie is better than the book.

Bloodhounds by Peter Lovesey: How did I end up reading two locked-room mysteries in a row? At least Lovesey's story was clever. A little too clever because I have some questions I'd like answered. Either the author overlooked some rather obvious holes in the story or he deliberately placed them there as yet another in an endless string of nods to the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. If puzzly-puzzle whodunnits in the classic British style are to your taste, here's a book for you. If you prefer that the characters be well-developed or hardboiled, this one might not be for you. Still, Lovesey is so clever and tactfully acknowledges so many subgenres of crime fiction that I wasn't bored nor did I want to throttle any of the characters (as I did with Philo Vance).


  1. O.k., I have to admit that I'm sad you didn't like Ceepak. I know...I know...we definitely don't have to like the same kinds of characters. Ceepak for me is a ray of hope that folks are out there like him...values, intelligence, a code...But, that's why there's so many different books available - something for everyone.

  2. Hey, if we all liked the same books it would be too easy for the publishing industry. You've recommended other books I've loved, Jen, and I think your recommendations are worth noting. If we enjoyed every book in common what would we have to talk about?

    [mimicking Bogart] "We'll always have Crais, schweetheart..."

  3. [Swoon]...Yes we sure do! :)

  4. Though I found Tilt-a-Whirl easy to listen to, I'm with you that the situation in the book didn't quite click for me. The other thing I didn't like, but I'm sure others do, was that it was told through Ceepak's partner. Perhaps, if Ceepak was the narrator and expressed his internal thoughts more, I could have got into him more. Oh, well.

    BTW, Corey, as a crime fiction aficionado (domestic and foreign), what did you think of 'In Bruge' getting three Golden Globes nominations today? Have you seen it? It's one of my favorites for the year and was glad it picked up something.


  5. le0, I loved IN BRUGES. And I'm not generally much of a Colin Ferrell fan. But yeah, this was the kind of movie that might have been scripted by Ken Bruen so it was probably the most satisfying film I saw this year. Well, I did see IRONMAN twice... Anyway, I'm tickled that IN BRUGES is getting some recognition. (And wasn't the scene with the outsized American tourtists hysterical?)

  6. That scene in IN BRUGES had me rolling in the theater! The dialog and comments by the characters throughout the film had me repeating them in my head for days afterward. The plotting was extraordinary, too.

    Though Farrell is not a normal favorite of mine, Brendan Gleeson is. And, both did a great job in their roles. Even Ralph Fiennes' character went beyond what I thought the villain would be like. Now I'm trying to figure out how to introduce the film to my wife...