I found this in a bin at the village hall. Seeing books in the bin offends me, so I rescued it. Anyway, I like a bit of Rankin, so why not try anotherI found this in a bin at the village hall. Seeing books in the bin offends me, so I rescued it. Anyway, I like a bit of Rankin, so why not try another crime writer?
The best I can say is it's alright, but it's not really a crime novel. It's soap opera with a bit of crime in the background as a device to connect a group of characters who seem to be the author's main preoccupation (probably because they seem to be leftovers from earlier novels). Slaughter seems obsessed with the minutiae of her characters' lives, and the story very much takes a back seat. A third of the way through the novel we've found out almost nothing about the crime or the investigation, but we know the characters inside out without ever finding out why we're supposed to care.
Slaughter is very much of the 'tell-don't-show' school of novel writing, where everything is explained instead of coming out through the storytelling. She has to tell us what her readers are thinking as they say something, whereas a more skilled writer achieves that by writing the dialogue properly. Her dialogue isn't quite as clunky as the execrable James Patterson, but her plotting is much more rambling (Patterson is brilliant at plotting, but couldn't write dialogue to save his life).
Male crime novelists tend to write taut thrillers rather than the rambling, over-written, easy-reading on offer here. Men like five-minute showers; women like to luxuriate in the bath for an hour. If that generalisation holds good, then this is very much a feminine novel.
Genesis is anything but taut. The first nine pages consist of the thoughts of a woman whose only purpose in the novel is to be the one who finds the first victim. She sits in a car, looking out of the window and thinks through her entire life story, including the life stories of her family, in a way that absolutely nobody does in real life (any more than they look in the mirror and mentally describe their appearance: that much-loved staple of poor writers who don't know how else to describe their characters – see the chapter in How Not to Write a NovelHow Not to Write a Novel called "What colour am I?"). Again and again, characters sit and think about their lives while the story takes a back seat. This gets quite tiresome.
By the time I had read the first third of the book, I still had little idea about the criminal (except that he – or maybe she – is implausibly sadistic) because the author was so obsessed with the characters' back stories that the novel still hadn't got going. If this was Ian Rankin, the narrative of the first 200 pages would have been dealt with in ten. And that was the point where I gave up. ...more
It's a good thing Ian Rankin approves of Adrian McKinty: I wouldn't want the Scot to think the Irishman is ripping him off. McKinty's Sean Duffy doesIt's a good thing Ian Rankin approves of Adrian McKinty: I wouldn't want the Scot to think the Irishman is ripping him off. McKinty's Sean Duffy does bear striking resemblances to Rebus – the hard but controlled drinking, the outsider status, the love of obscure music, the old-fashioned moral code – and there is a similarity in the plotting that makes comparisons inevitable. But the main similarity is that they're both excellent, and with this, the fourth in the series, McKinty is starting to show the same consistency as Rankin. If you're running out of Rebuses, as I am, then get your hands on some Duffys. You won't be disappointed.
McKinty's novels are set in a strict time and place: Belfast during the Troubles. By Gun Street Girl, the fourth in the series, we are in 1985, with the Anglo-Irish Agreement about to spark the touchpaper of a seemingly inexhaustible powder keg of political and sectarian violence. Duffy, a Catholic in the overwhelmingly Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, is tutoring a colleague in a seemingly open-and-shut murder-suicide that has resonances across the water in arms dealing and political machinations. Along the way he has romantic run-ins with a journalist and a British spook.
As ever, the plotting is meticulous and the period detail compelling (despite one error: on a visit to Oxford Duffy is driven down the M40 from Birmingham – a stretch of motorway that didn't exist in 1985).
Another thing in McKinty's favour is that he sends polite 'thank-yous' whenever I write complimentary reviews of his books. I get the feeling he'd be just as gentlemanly if I slagged him off. But he'll have to write a bad book first, and he hasn't done that yet. ...more
McKinty's second Sean Duffy novel builds on the quality of the first. Duffy is a fascinating and realistic character, and the plot is satisfyingly twiMcKinty's second Sean Duffy novel builds on the quality of the first. Duffy is a fascinating and realistic character, and the plot is satisfyingly twisted, keeping the reader guessing without getting confused. The writing is splendid, with some quiet humour and a poetic quality that McKinty is careful not to over-indulge.
A torso is found in a suitcase. Before Duffy and his colleagues can identify the killer, they need to identify the victim. Superbly plotted, the novel takes the reader down dead ends (and some deceptively not-so-dead ends) as Duffy encounters a cast of believable characters and a sub-plot of an attractive young widow, who might or might not be involved in the main plot. Some characters don't really come into the investigation, which keeps the reader guessing, but provide social context or maintain the continuity between this novel and the last (and probably the next).
The Ulster of 1982 is realistically portrayed (albeit with some justified dramatic licence) and the attitudes of the security forces are just as I remember them from news reports of the time and my brother's accounts from serving there with the British Army in 1979 and 1981. It's a nice touch that the author always mentions Duffy checking his car for bombs every time he leaves home: it's deliberately repetitive, emphasising the mood of permanent vigilance and justified paranoia for a policeman in what was practically a failed state.
Duffy has to navigate the nightmare maze of organisations with conflicting interests: the alphabet soup of RUC, IRA, UDR, UDA, MI5 and even FBI and IRS, with the DeLorean car plant adding to the political confusion. The recurring biblical quote of "through a glass, darkly" adds to the confusion and mystery.
These are the elements that create the approving comparisons with Ian Rankin, who is the master of the modern British detective story. The title bears little relation to the story, and the minor quibbles I had with the first book in the series, The Cold Cold Ground, apply to a lesser degree with this one, but these aren't significant enough to detract from an excellently written novel. ...more
We had to read this at school: not as great literature but as an example of what was meant by melodrama. It was a perfect lesson. This is the stage eqWe had to read this at school: not as great literature but as an example of what was meant by melodrama. It was a perfect lesson. This is the stage equivalent of the 'penny dreadful' - like a parody of a 19th Century murder mystery, but without the jokes. It was ahead of its time in that the the villain was unmasked by the most obvious of tricks, but one that has been repeated again and again since....more
Zandri is by no means a master of the crime genre, but Murder By Moonlight is a good read with a complex plot, clearly defined characters and a few goZandri is by no means a master of the crime genre, but Murder By Moonlight is a good read with a complex plot, clearly defined characters and a few good twists along the way. His writing is sparse, while the division into short chapters – sixty-six in all, some of them no longer than a single page – ensures a fast-paced story.
Overall, it's a fun read, and if crime is your favourite genre then you'll probably enjoy this.
It isn't perfect. Some of the situations don't ring true and nor do all the characters. Calling your detective 'Dick Moonlight' and having him drive his late father's hearse seems a bit too contrived. You can't blame Zandri for making Moonlight a divorced, 40-something borderline alcoholic with personal 'issues' because almost every detective since Marlowe has been that. Ian Rankin gets away with it, so why shouldn't Vincent Zandri? But Moonlight's got a much younger, hot, intelligent, artist girlfriend and almost every woman he meets is young, hot, intelligent and seems to fancy him. Being a divorced, 40-something borderline alcoholic with personal 'issues' myself, I can safely say this is not the norm. Maybe I should trade in the BMW for a hearse.
A plot twist should be a surprise the moment you read it but seem inevitable two seconds later. Zandri's plot twists are surprising alright, but some of them seem to come completely out of the blue, and the 'dark secret' at the heart of the town seemed a bit clichéd. Once or twice Moonlight seems to guess the truth from nothing and I can't for the life of me see how he worked it out. One time he returns to the murder scene for no other reason than "something tells me…". That's not really good enough.
'Murder By Moonlight' is far from a classic, and the fact that it's Zandri's ninth full-length novel suggests that he's never going to write a classic. But it's not pulp either, and fans of detective stories will enjoy reading it on the beach....more
All the boxes are ticked: a mysterious serial killer, a suicide that possibly isn't, plus the political turmoil of Northern Ireland in 1981 during theAll the boxes are ticked: a mysterious serial killer, a suicide that possibly isn't, plus the political turmoil of Northern Ireland in 1981 during the hunger strikes. And the only person who won't settle for the easy answers is a Catholic policeman with a university degree and a penchant for Deep Purple. What, a rogue cop? In a modern crime thriller? You've got it. This could so easily descend into cliché. Fortunately it doesn't, and for two good reasons.
First, McKinty has set it in an unfamiliar place for this genre. Northern Ireland didn't "do" serial killers. What would be the point? If you had a psychopathic urge to destroy your fellow man, there were plenty of organisations that would not just turn a blind eye but give you a helping hand in the name of God and country. And it's a place and time he knows intimately, so the detail is authentic. The Troubles are never just background, but are intricately woven into the story.
Second, he's done a lot of work on the characters, making them all rounded and plausible. The only possible complaint is that, as a Catholic, Sean doesn't get more stick from his work colleagues, who are all Protestants and would view any Catholic copper as a potential Fifth Columnist. The only way to prove your loyalty was to get murdered by the IRA or INLA.
It's carefully plotted and vibrantly written. The tension and pace never let up for a moment. The blurb compares it to David Peace, which is true in that there are some very poetic moments and the period detail is grimily authentic, but overall it's more reminiscent of Ian Rankin, especially with DS Duffy's musical predilictions. Either way, that's high praise.
Down sides? Only a couple. Near the end (and this isn't a spoiler), there's the equivalent of the scene where the bad guy gives the old "before I kill you, I'll tell you how I did it so you can appreciate my evil genius as you die, HAHAHA!" speech. It's unnecessary. And McKinty is too fond of describing his characters' appearances, so he makes the rookie mistake of having the hero study himself in the mirror and describe his own looks (this was covered in the excellent How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs If You Ever Want to Get Published, under the heading "What color am I? Where the character has to be in front of a mirror to know what she looks like". And why is it called "The Cold Cold Ground", when all the bodies are found above ground (and, in one case, a good few feet above it)?
Those quibbles aside, McKinty has come up with a corker and I'll be looking forward to more....more
Elmore Leonard is the master of suspense crime thrillers, and 1985's 'Glitz' is the novel the catapulted him into the big time. It's hard to see why,Elmore Leonard is the master of suspense crime thrillers, and 1985's 'Glitz' is the novel the catapulted him into the big time. It's hard to see why, because the author is trundling along in third gear here.
'Glitz' is everything a pulp novel should be: well-plotted with well-defined characters: a story of flawed good people pitched against mundane, low-rent evil; a novel that entertains without ever approaching the status of art. Leonard's world has all the seediness of Raymond Chandler's, with our hero being drawn into a murky underworld and getting mixed up with some thoroughly disreputable characters, but with none of the humour or originality of imagery that raises Chandler to the status of genius.
Miami cop Vincent goes to Puerto Rico to recuperate after being shot, where he finds himself being tailed by bad man Teddy, whom he put away several years before and who harbours a grudge against him based on little more than the look in Vincent's eyes when he arrested him. A girl he meets leads him into the company of a casino owner and his wife, as well as a nightclub singer, which takes him to Atlantic City where he becomes a freelance murder detective after one of the above falls off a balcony. Meanwhile he hooks up with the nightclub singer and gets drawn into tidying up some of the nasty underworld activity associated with the casino. Teddy, perhaps disgruntled that his intended victim isn't giving him his full attention, commits another couple of pointless murders, partly to enhance his status as bad man and partly to give the book a high-enough body count to fulfil the requirements of the genre.
There aren't many plot holes, although some characters do some unlikely things that prove highly convenient to the plot. Some of the characters have annoyingly similar names: Teddy, Ricky and Jackie; DeLeon and LaDonna. The dialogue is excellent and perfectly pitched; the prose suitably economical.
'Glitz' is a fun read, but it's best read without the knowledge that some people think it's a masterpiece, which it clearly isn't. ...more
Leonard brings the LA noir of Chandler and Hammett up to date (well, 1990) in a classy piece of fiction that retains the noir as well as the humour thLeonard brings the LA noir of Chandler and Hammett up to date (well, 1990) in a classy piece of fiction that retains the noir as well as the humour that's the trademark of the genre. The first joke (though it isn't obvious) is that the title refers to Miami hustler Chili's attempts to get a major - and deceptively diminuitive - Hollywood star to be in a movie he's dreamt up and pitched to a B-movie producer.
Unlike focused heroes like Spade and Marlowe, Chili is a chancer. He's loan shark who's only in Hollywood chasing up a debt that's got him in trouble with the mob back home, but he has all the chutzpah of the 40s heroes and an uncanny ability to bluff his way into any opportunity and out of any trouble in ways that are just plausible enough for fiction.
The action is fast, the wisecracks are good and the characters believable and sometimes even likeable. Leonard isn't quite up there with Chandler, but he's plenty good enough. ...more