Dan's Reviews > The Wrong Case

The Wrong Case by James Crumley
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's review
Feb 03, 11

Read in January, 2011

Sometimes you can't go back.

I remember this book fondly from two decades ago but in between I've read Chandler's The Little Sister at least a couple of times, which novel it greatly resembles. So greatly that it damaged my enjoyment of it this time around. In part because, while Chandler is no whiz at dialog (one under par I would say), Crumley is actually terrible. His characters all sound painfully affected; hippies all talk extra hippy saying man and bread and trip every third word to show how counterculture they are; cops are straight out of good cop central casting, always tediously chiding Milo for sailing close to the wind where the law is concerned; and the gangsters are just downright embarassing.

And that's too bad, because Milo is a pretty good character: the drunken scion of a rich Montana family of drunks, down and out but hanging in there and drinking until the ship of his trust fund comes in. Crumley's descriptions of drunks being drunk really make the book. And it's a good thing, because Milo is drunk a lot--we're talking Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf territory here.

Unfortunately the mystery too often gets in the way of the drinking and throwing up and recovering. Serious fail, Crumley. I found myself thinking back to Jesus' Son a lot during the bar scenes and wishing I were reading that book instead. That or The Little Sister.

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