A well written & what appears to be thoroughly researched book by a journalist who was at the center of the birth of comedy's "new stand-up" era i...moreA well written & what appears to be thoroughly researched book by a journalist who was at the center of the birth of comedy's "new stand-up" era in the 1970s & early 80s. Knoedelseder seems to have spoken with all the surviving major players who were involved in the early days of LA's legendary The Comedy Store, and who were involved on one side or the other during the comedians' strike of 1979.(less)
THE MISSING INK by Karen E. Olson is a promising first entry in The Tattoo Shop mystery series -- and I'll be back for the next installment. I wavered...moreTHE MISSING INK by Karen E. Olson is a promising first entry in The Tattoo Shop mystery series -- and I'll be back for the next installment. I wavered between assigning three or four stars to this novel, but in the end the potential it shows outweighed the few concerns I had about it.
The mystery in this novel involves a tattoo shop, a potentially stolen identity, multiple murders, and more than a few shady characters. In other words, just another day in Vegas, right?
The protagonist of THE MISSING INK is Brett Kavanaugh, owner/operator of The Painted Lady, a tattoo shop inside The Venetian on the famous Las Vegas Strip. Primary supporting characters include Brett's three employees at the tattoo shop and her brother, a detective with Las Vegas Police Department.
Most of the action takes place on or near the Strip, and Olson does a nice job of placing these characters in real locations in Vegas (including the Venetian, O'Sheas, and Circus-Circus) -- and even places the fictional Versailles Hotel/Casino in the area of one of the few empty spaces on the Strip.
At times the plot gets a little bit too convoluted, and Olsen allows a few characters to waver a bit to long in the netherworld between "I think he's a good guy" and "nope, he's a bad guy" -- but overall, this is a smartly constructed and well written novel by a skilled author who clearly knows where she wants to go and how she wants to get there. (less)
Ruby Murphy is a detective who isn't really a detective, pursuing a case that isn't really a case, in a mystery novel that isn't really a mystery nove...moreRuby Murphy is a detective who isn't really a detective, pursuing a case that isn't really a case, in a mystery novel that isn't really a mystery novel.
In fact, for long stretches of HEX, I forgot that I was reading a mystery at all. This sounds like a bad thing, but in author Maggie Estep's more-than-capable hands, it's not.
Thus, if you're looking for a page-turning potboiler that propels you with ever-increasing rapidity toward a shattering conclusion, then HEX is most definitely not the novel for you.
However, if you appreciate carefully crafted characters, realistic moments, and a plot that isn't in any hurry to get where it's going (if, in other words, you believe that the journey can be more important than the destination, and the folks you meet along the way are the most important of all), then this first installment in the Ruby Murphy mystery trilogy may be the book for you.
HEX is not cinematic in nature, but I find myself thinking of this novel in terms of film. Its meandering, slow-to-develop plot is evocative of European films (or American films of the pre-blockbuster era). Its sprawling cast of characters, many of whose paths cross, some of whom remain virtually isolated, seems to have sprung from the mind of Robert Altman or Paul Thomas Anderson. And the way its narrative focus has the propensity to drift toward seemingly unrelated or unimportant topics is reminiscent of life as viewed through the lens of Terrence Malick.
(By the way, to its eternal credit, HEX doesn't contain one sentence anywhere near as muddled or pretentious as my previous paragraph.)
In the end, I most appreciated Estep's ability to build a world populated by characters who felt real, whose relationships made varying degrees of sense, and who seem to be living their lives, not serving a greater plot or narrative. And I'm most definitely looking forward to meeting these folks again in the remaining two Ruby Murphy novels. (less)