March 8, 2011
As in previous books, the author ties the story to an artistic/philosophical movement. (Who could forget the ultra-creepiness of the surrealists in TOROS & TORSOS?) Here the nihilistic underpinnings of Dadaism are exposed (and perhaps the author is setting the stage for the coming of existentialism?) as post-war rhetoric gone seriously off the rails.
The author seems to enjoy breaking the rules that his own characters lay down. For instance, when Brinke declares, "Killers simply don't kill for the complex or arcane reasons that they do in mystery novels," McDonald promptly proceeds to prove her wrong -- and yet, because this is fiction (and because McDonald can't resist playing - ahem! - head games (nor should he)), he also proves her right.
Hector and Hemingway are not the only familiar faces from previous books. Characters that play larger roles in other books in this series also make cameo appearances here (Donovan Creedy from PRINT THE LEGEND; Quentin Windly from TOROS & TORSOS), helping the reader to visualize Hector's life as a whole, not merely as episodes. In the same way that certain people appear, vanish, then reappear in one's own life, the same way those people sometimes have great, then little impact or influence in our lives, this is true for various characters of Hector's acquaintance.
The essence of young Hector's character is on more prominent display in ONE TRUE SENTENCE than in other books: his charm, his sexuality, his knight errantry, his 'do-it-myself' attitude, and especially his romantic side, his vulnerability to the woman he loves, are all revealed in greater depth. Hector is not quite yet the rugged, intellectual crime-writer readers have come to love but, under Brinke Devlin's influence, the metamorphosis is underway.
When reading a novel by Craig McDonald, the reader can take nothing for granted. Especially not the notion that one book will read much like the next. Where HEAD GAMES was wildly action-oriented, PRINT THE LEGEND was steeped in creeping paranoia. For all it's written in third person, ONE TRUE SENTENCE has almost the feel of a memoir but overlaid with -- or cloaked by -- a traditional mystery of its time period. While the events of TOROS & TORSOS sprawled across decades and continents, ONE TRUE SENTENCE occurs over one week, in one city. If you've read the previous books in this series, you may think you have some idea of what to expect from McDonald. You don't. He's getting more sly (and funny) about his inside jokes. And if you don't think so, I'll leave you with one character's alias: Elrond Huppert.