I read recently that this series featuring Diane Fry and Ben Cooper, two police detectives in Derbyshire, England, is popular in Canada. It's nice to...moreI read recently that this series featuring Diane Fry and Ben Cooper, two police detectives in Derbyshire, England, is popular in Canada. It's nice to know I'm amongst much company. But I'm not surprised. This is British to the core but not in a stereotypical way. Instead the characters are nuanced, they grow from book to book, they create conflict through their personality quirks and because of their past history. There is never a dull moment in any of these books so far, including The Dead Place. However, at one point in this book, I was getting a tad annoyed (and distracted from the story) with Fry's constant anger. She seems to be in a snarky, irritable mood all the time in this series, always looking for the wrong way to look at things. It's wearing, and her detective skills are at odds with that kind of emotionalism. But just as I was about to be turned off by her attitude enough to close the book, Stephen Booth switched it up, and I once more became engrossed in the plot and the characters.
It is a long read, which in this case is a good thing. There are some characters that you just want to stay with for a long time, and Cooper and Fry and their ever-eating colleague Gavin Murfin, fit the bill.
When Booth revealed whodunnit, I have to admit I was confused. This is why many authors have wrap-up scenes -- to unconfuse those of us who get lost. Booth's wrap-up is more than just an explanation though; it's a continuation of the relationship between the police detectives and an exploration of the characters affected by the crime. Sometimes one gets lost because the author is trying to be too clever and leaves out crucial details as a way to prevent the reader from solving the mystery. But here it's more that the story has so many threads that come together in a tighter and tighter weave that you need to be able to hold it all in your memory. I wasn't able to. Still, I enjoyed the challenge, and I enjoyed the story. It's well worth spending a few hours with.(less)
After reading mysteries of varying quality by writers unknown to me, it was a pleasure -- a comforting, familiar pleasure -- to pick up where I had le...moreAfter reading mysteries of varying quality by writers unknown to me, it was a pleasure -- a comforting, familiar pleasure -- to pick up where I had left off in Stephen Booth's Cooper and Fry series several months ago. I devoured it.
Then I lay back, somnolent from total satiation. That can be the only reason I took so long to write this review, for the book is good. In the previous books in this series, there had been much about Fry's or Cooper's personal stories woven throughout the mysteries, with angst and unhappy feelings dominating Fry's story. It was a relief that this book concentrated on the mysteries, with only a sliver of personal story. It's not that I didn't enjoy learning about these characters, what shaped them, how they came to be in Edendale, it's that it was time for a change-up and a lessening of the angst.
The mysteries themselves were satisfying -- complex, engaging the mind, unfolding right to the end. And I was rather pleased with myself that I saw the final detail coming, although I did not solve the central whodunnit part. I saw some reviewers had complained that there was too much detail. But I had just read a book with too little, which is extremely unsatisfying. You could shrink the book down to almost novella size, like this other writer had done their story, but then you'd miss out on the nuances, the red herrings, the feeling of the Peak District, the characters coming to life and drawing you in to their lives, the emotions, the mood, the colours and smells and sounds of the events and the landscape. You'd miss out on caring what happens. It's the details that separate a so-so writer from the ones who absorb you into their stories.(less)
This is a needlessly big book and it's filled with visual imagery that so realistically conveys the grimness of life and its grossest aspects that you...moreThis is a needlessly big book and it's filled with visual imagery that so realistically conveys the grimness of life and its grossest aspects that you just want to go kill yourself or hide under a rock.
The day I got to the point in the novel where the graphic intensity reached levels that both bored me and turned me off, I received a pep talk from Jonathan Lethem in my NaNoWriMo mailbox (National Novel Writing Month), to wit:
"The comings and goings, loosening and tightening of faucets, shittings and pissings and nose-blowings of everyday circumstances. Keep them at the periphery, in the subliminal range, unless you really want to try to make something of them, and then you'd better make it good. I'm trying to tell you to ignore transitions. Skip to the good stuff."
Although MacBride is a good writer who has a great command of the language, he could've used this advice. By the time I read the pep talk, when I was about halfway through the novel, I was skipping entire pages, including repetitious reflections filled with guilt and dumb-ass thinking.
But the thing that really got to me, that changed my mind from "liked it" to "it was OK" was when Logan suddenly became stupendously stupid, just so as to fill more pages and keep the plot going a little longer. I thought: really? A detective can't put two and two together when it's given to him one right after the other? Really??? I'm supposed to think he's a good detective when he's that oblivious? Uh, no. Aside from that, the unrelenting grimness is not something I want to read. I set aside the book for a few days, just to recover. But though I finished it, I didn't care about whodunnit. I almost always care! But this book wore me out that much.
In the end, I learnt a lesson as a writer. As Lethem put it so well: "Write like you'd read—and notice how much you customarily skip as you read."(less)
A good solid read. It didn't quite feel like a first book as there was a lot of interesting back story that could have been books unto themselves, but...moreA good solid read. It didn't quite feel like a first book as there was a lot of interesting back story that could have been books unto themselves, but it was woven into the plot well. I sometimes found Bosch a little tedious, but thinking about it, his behaviour was logical for someone with a great deal of anger from past trauma. Will continue to read this series.(less)
I won this book in a Twitter contest held by the UK's The Crime Vault for for "What would you name your series character?" I came up with Inspector Ev...moreI won this book in a Twitter contest held by the UK's The Crime Vault for for "What would you name your series character?" I came up with Inspector Everlast Forlorn. And I won ten books! I read the descriptions of all the books and chose to read Roberta Kray's first.
I'm not familiar with Kray. I didn't know if this book was the start of a series or mid-series or what. But it didn't matter. She weaves in memories of previous cases so effortlessly that a new reader would learn some of the backstory while old hands would not be bored and start flipping pages to get to the new stuff again. By the end of the book, I still couldn't say definitively that this book is part of a series, but I did feel like I was in the middle of a story about the main characters. It would be interesting to see what happens next.
I liked the characters. It took me awhile to get to know them, and I felt like sometimes they bordered on the stereotypical. All in all though, I was left not quite knowing enough about the crime solvers and thus wanting to know more.
The plot was convoluted. And this is where my brain-injury-imposed reading limitations put a serious dent in my ability to solve the mystery. I didn't. And even when it was solved in the book, it took me awhile to piece the picture together in my poor head because it's not a simple crime. I never fully understood the final motive (I wonder if I missed the explanation that some authors include, or if there wasn't one), and I think that's because the reader needs to sink right into this book and be able to follow the characters and build up the big picture and put the pieces together like one does a jigsaw puzzle. And I couldn't do that. It's a book for rereading and for engaging the mind, for sure.(less)
Geeze, I thought I'd marked this book as read and had written a review already. I guess I got distracted! Or was that when the computer was in the sho...moreGeeze, I thought I'd marked this book as read and had written a review already. I guess I got distracted! Or was that when the computer was in the shop... Anyway, I always enjoy Paretsky and was thrilled to see a new (to me) book out by her.
It's been such a long time since I last read one of her books, I'd forgotten that she can get a little preachy in some areas, a little Law and Order like. But as I was about to get turned off, Paretsky refocussed on the plot and the action and the relationships between the characters. She draws vivid characters, imbues their relationships with a rainbow of emotions, and makes the story leap off the page. The mystery is never easy to solve either. A good read.(less)
This one totally ticked me off. Yes, it was well written, well plotted, good characterization, draws one in. But. (SPOILER ALERT) When an author kills...moreThis one totally ticked me off. Yes, it was well written, well plotted, good characterization, draws one in. But. (SPOILER ALERT) When an author kills off a main character in what is to become a series, as opposed to a stand-alone literary novel, which this was apparently not meant to be, it just irks me. No. It. Pisses. Me. Off. I will never read this author again.(less)
Sacred and Profane is one of those infrequent books with a perfect title. The title tells you exactly what the book is about; even better, it is lifte...moreSacred and Profane is one of those infrequent books with a perfect title. The title tells you exactly what the book is about; even better, it is lifted out of a dialogue in which this concept is emphasized.
Titles are tricky. I've always liked the process of coming up with titles. Sometimes, it's like pulling hen's teeth and makes one want to scream. Even so, I was astonished and horrified to learn that publishers -- not authors -- choose or have the final say on book titles. Giving feedback I understand; making the decision, no way. So I wonder who came up with this title? Was it one of those instances where the author's choice stood? Or did the publisher's marketing department have a moment of genius? Either way, it makes the book.
The book itself continues the story of the relationship between Peter Decker, a cop with bad habits and an angry heart, and Rina Lazarus, an orthodox Jewish woman. I had read this book before, a long time ago, but though I couldn't remember how the mystery part of it unfolded, it really didn't matter, for the main plot is the conflict between Decker and Lazarus and within Decker himself. Sacred and Profane also explores some of the tenets of orthodox Judaism within the parameters of the two conflicts so that it is part of the story, not extraneous or preachy. The mystery itself is standard hard-boiled police stuff. And in the end, I kind of lost track of who did what and who was responsible for what. Faye Kellerman didn't do a wrap-up like some other mystery authors do...for the mystery anyway. She did for the relationship.
Sacred and Profane is part of a series that must be read in order as the relationship between Decker and Lazarus grows and regresses so much within each book that you'd be lost if you read one out of order. It is worth it though to start from the beginning and not let the fact you have to read the books in order put you off.(less)
OK, it's rare for me not to finish a book. I'm endemically inclined to finish any book I pick up, even if it takes me years. But this writer has a rea...moreOK, it's rare for me not to finish a book. I'm endemically inclined to finish any book I pick up, even if it takes me years. But this writer has a really annoying habit of jumping around in time. At first, I thought the publisher had screwed up the ebook formatting and left out pages. I'd be in the middle of a scene, "turn" the page, and I'm suddenly somewhere ahead in time. When I kept reading, I'd eventually enter one of the character's thoughts of what happened from the point the writer left off. I felt like I was getting mental whiplash every few pages.
That was bad enough. But the editor did a piss poor job with quotation marks. I'd be reading dialogue, enter another bunch of thoughts (or even a simple "he said") as indicated by a close quotation mark, then suddenly realise I was reading dialogue -- except the editor forgot to put in the open quotation mark to indicate the character had started speaking again, necessitating me to go back and reread it.
The mystery itself is interesting. But when the physical act of reading is this difficult, it's not worth pursuing. Thank goodness I borrowed this from the Toronto Public Library and didn't buy it.(less)
This was not my usual kind of read in that I prefer to start mystery series from the beginning. But I saw this, liked the plot description, and borrow...moreThis was not my usual kind of read in that I prefer to start mystery series from the beginning. But I saw this, liked the plot description, and borrowed the ebook from the library. It had good characterizations and action -- both dramatic and interpersonal -- that kept me reading. But I found the stereotypical violent solution a bit mundane, entirely too predictable, even if it was done sideways so to speak. I think I'm fed up with violence being seen as the only solution to violence. I mean, really, could we use a bit more imagination. Also, I solved the whodunnit before I was halfway through the book. Either my brain is improving markedly or the authors made the clues entirely too obvious because I haven't been able to solve a well-put-together mystery in over a decade. That plus since from what I've read of the series it seems that violent solutions are the hallmark of the main character, I'll probably not read another in this series ... unless there's nothing else to read. But I don't regret picking it up. Aren't readers contradictory!(less)
Unlike previous books in the Cooper and Fry series, this book has a lot of Law & Order type preachiness in it aka informing reader of the state of...moreUnlike previous books in the Cooper and Fry series, this book has a lot of Law & Order type preachiness in it aka informing reader of the state of a situation, in this case farming in the UK. Or maybe I just noticed it more this time. I know it's hard to pass on necessary information to readers, or to inform them of a real-world injustice, in a natural way, usually through dialogue; I would've liked it to have been better done, to truly sound like natural venting from one of the characters. But the plot was still intriguing, and character growth still kept me engaged.(less)
This had the best ending I've read in ages from any author. It made me want to immediately start reading the next book in the series. Stephen Booth re...moreThis had the best ending I've read in ages from any author. It made me want to immediately start reading the next book in the series. Stephen Booth really hit the writing mojo with this book, after a few that were okay but hinted at maybe the series was flagging. No more! The series has found new life with The Kill Call.(less)
Middles. I've been thinking a lot about middles recently because I've been going through the final edits of my first novel She. The beginning needed l...moreMiddles. I've been thinking a lot about middles recently because I've been going through the final edits of my first novel She. The beginning needed little work (probably because I spent the most time on it in the writing phase), and the ending went fast. But the middle...oy! Why is it middles are the hardest part to write? I wondered that again as I was reading In A Strange City. It seemed to sag there for a bit, and I kind of got lost. But the latter could've been because my brain was fried from all the editing and writing I was doing and didn't have much left over for reading. And then the final action sequences began, and the book picked up. Even the final chapter, the one that came after all was solved and resolved, was intriguing and kept my attention.
The entirety of this book also felt like a middle. It is number six in the Tess Monaghan series, and it feels like it's between the first part of Tess's adult life and the rest yet to come. Her personal story is moved along, but instead of there being action and drama in it as well as in the mystery part, all the action is in the mystery. Her personal life does need a quiet time. One's life cannot be all drama. It's exhausting. Still, it's an unexpected change from the previous books in the series.
I wasn't sure about the title, but I'm guessing it's an allusion to the fact Tess knows nothing about Edgar Allan Poe and this case is her entrée to Poe and his effect on her native city, something she'd never thought about before. Overall, a decent read.(less)