The fourth star is given only because I know where she is going with all this. This was an interesting book with a lot of plot elements that don't quit...moreThe fourth star is given only because I know where she is going with all this. This was an interesting book with a lot of plot elements that don't quite balance. Ilsa J. Bick is a wonderful writer, and in her last two books she has proven herself a master of the sophisticated dispersal of information. She knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat, driving you crazy with what she withholds from you and keeping you on the hook with what she gives. This is difficult to do, and in Draw the Dark, she hasn't quite mastered it. There were too many times when the reader is allowed to figure something out far enough ahead of the protagonist that the reader feels frustrated waiting for him to get there. The story of his parents and the Sideways Place needed just a little more integration with the rest of the story, or even just a little more resolution perhaps. I find it difficult to criticize the book much because it was so close to being just right. It has so much going for it, it's just a little more ambitious than Bick can handle. But just a little. The fascination with the brain that continues in the Ashes trilogy is evident here. Lots about Alzheimers, and PTSD and what it does not just in terms of how it feels, but what trauma and disease do to the structure of the brain. She never shies away from things that are uncomfortable, gory, or gross whether in terms of physical trauma or just how awful people can be to each other. The plot of the book just might be great, I just would have liked to read the same story written by the author in her current state of mastery. She's not quite there yet, but you can see that she has it in her. Hence the 4th star. If I hadn't read her later work, I might have given it three, though I'd have gone 3.5 if goodreads allowed it. But, I can't not know where she is headed as a writer and it makes me feel more generous. (less)
I am rounding this up because my love of Flavia, Dogger, and yes, Aunt Felicity, is strong enough to give back the half star this book should have los...moreI am rounding this up because my love of Flavia, Dogger, and yes, Aunt Felicity, is strong enough to give back the half star this book should have lost. It should have lost the half star in part because of some loose threads in the plot, and partly because due to inclement weather, Gladys the bicycle was only mentioned, not featured. Still though, I could spend all day happily reading as young Flavia rhapsodizes about poison. (less)
Although written at a reading level appropriate for young readers, it wasn't simplistic or lacking in substance. I had one little nitpick with the plo...moreAlthough written at a reading level appropriate for young readers, it wasn't simplistic or lacking in substance. I had one little nitpick with the plot which would have, if goodreads allowed such a thing, have knocked half a star off, but I decided to round up rather than down. A nice easy read, I finished it in one day. I am going to add it to my Pinterest "When Bad Covers Happen to Good Books" board since I never would have wanted to appear in public with this cover, but that is what Kindles are for, right? If you want a nice, easy read that manages to still be clever, well-written, this is a good choice. It is an excellent palate cleanser between your very serious literary tomes, and if you need a gift for a middle grade to ya age reader, it would be hard to do better. (less)
I wrote in a status update when I was about half through The Long Goodbye, that reading a Raymond Chandler book is like walking through a fog and watc...moreI wrote in a status update when I was about half through The Long Goodbye, that reading a Raymond Chandler book is like walking through a fog and watching the landscape around you take shape as your eyes adjust. What you see at the beginning is only a hint of the overall structure of the story, and the picture gradually emerges as more details arrive. Because Chandler is such a master craftsman though, it doesn't emerge in a linear way, with one fact leading to another. It is more that the shape of things becomes clearer to you as you meet more characters and start to see the connections between the people, between the past and the present and all the possible futures. Marlowe narrates action, but he rarely lets you inside his head. He tells you what he does, but not what he thinks. He tells you what other people do and say, but doesn't tell you much of what he thinks about it, or what he speculates is behind a person's words or actions. He misses almost nothing, but keeps his conclusions to himself until he thinks the time is right to speak. Raymond Chandler is one of the greats. His sentences are spare, elegant, and effective. Marlowe is a tough guy, and a self-described romantic. By romantic, he does not mean flowers and candy and sweet words. Well, rarely sweet words. I've been trying to put my finger on what quality of his exactly causes him to describe himself that way. I think it is in his adherence to his own rules, the sense of duty he feels towards people to whom he knows he doesn't owe anything. It is in his preference for natural justice over that of the law ("The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer.") His tendency to keep going even when common sense (and a colorful cast of thugs and tycoons and lawyers) warn him off. The prose is occasionally romantic in its descriptions. For example, from Marlowe's first description of Eileen Wade: "She was unclassifiable, as remote and clear as mountain water, as elusive as its color." However, it is the wry, understated descriptions of scenes and people that fill most of the book. With a light touch of sardonic humor, and a clear eye, Marlowe sees straight to the heart of things most of the time, even when it comes to women, but that doesn't stop him from falling for people, romantically or otherwise. He doesn't go into his feelings, but the reader gets hints. Talking about a chess problem he has decided to work on one evening "Once in a long while when I feel mean enough I set it out and look for a new way to solve it. It's a nice quiet way to go crazy. You don't even scream, but you come awfully close." What struck me rereading this after maybe 20 years, is how on the nose Chandler's conception of the system remains. Speaking of big business, organized crime, petty crime, drugs, sex, government, democracy, bureaucracy, military service, alcoholism, human nature and the nature of society, he cuts through abstraction and tells you what it's about and he's right. No BS, no real judgment, just how things are. And the dialogue, oh the dialogue! "He don't run the police department," Green said. "He admits it. Doesn't even buy commissioners or D.A.'s, he said. They just kind of curl up in his lap when he's having a doze." I could go on, the entire book is beautifully quotable, but instead I will just recommend that you spend some time walking through the lightening fog with one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Many say the Long Goodbye is Chandler's masterpiece, and I would agree. Your "read" shelf is incomplete without it. (less)
In what one comes to recognize amidst the other perspectives treated within as the book's own voice, it addresses you, the reader, and invites you to...moreIn what one comes to recognize amidst the other perspectives treated within as the book's own voice, it addresses you, the reader, and invites you to come along on a journey through all levels of 1870s society. Take its hand and follow it where it goes, and you will be glad you did. I was amazed by this book. Leaving aside the power of the story and the characters for just a moment, the writing was masterful. Clever, cutting phrases deftly revealing truths physical and otherwise, a flawless narrative architecture, it was evocative, provocative, and engrossing. I was impressed with the adroit use of phrase and word repetition. It could have been heavy-handed and annoying, but instead it had the perfect light touch, using a word to describe something that was different on the surface from what was being described the last time the word was used, but without being obvious, that word would link an image to another image so that I was left with the feeling that every part of the book reflected every other part. Once again, I've seen clumsier attempts at this sort of thing, and they grate. This felt so natural that sometimes I wondered if I was imagining it.
I see in many other reviews here and elsewhere that a lot of people had a big problem with the way the book ended. I thought the ending was perfect. It may be a bit of a case of forewarned is forearmed, in that I knew that I wasn't going to learn everything that happened to everyone until the day they died. I was prepared for the story to end somewhat abruptly, but I didn't actually feel that it did. Yes, the author chose not to tie everything up in a neat little bow, but to do so would have been a disservice to the complexity of the characters and the story. I was quite happy with the place the story ended. I am quite pleased to imagine on my own what happened to everyone later and I think the book gave me enough material to do so, and that that is for the best.
I will be reading this book again someday, I am sure, and hope that when I seek out Faber's other work, as I undoubtably will, that it approaches the brilliance of The Crimson Petal and the White. (less)