mark monday's Reviews > House of Smoke

House of Smoke by J.F. Freedman
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's review
Aug 09, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: murdertime, i-gave-up

i gave up on this trite tale of a lady detective solving an utterly dull mystery at about the halfway mark. points of non-interest:

1. terrible intro. laughable. after that, the writing improves...BUT the author commits a cardinal sin in having the same scornful attitude towards the world be rendered not just through various character povs, but in his so-called 'third-person omniscient' parts as well. the characters and the author really should not be expressing the same blanket contempt towards the world; i.e. the author's voice and the characters' voices should not be the same exact thing! that was a real novice error there, freedman.

2. i was interested in this one because of its santa barbara setting. i've been there a lot and know the city fairly well. the author does too, but my gosh, freedman makes santa barbara sound downright ugly. it is NOT an ugly city. it has its issues, many of them, but santa barbara is actually beautiful.

3. if you are going to write about a tough but sympathetic lady detective, please make her tough and sympathetic. don't make her cringe so much. don't make her sound like she runs from her problems or just keeps her head down in nearly every situation. and don't make her an almost-home-wreckin' slut for crissakes! now i have nothing against sluttiness in general. but here it was just one more way in which the protagonist was anything but tough or sympathetic.

4. i will give freedman some mild props for including a totally inappropriate, needlessly graphic, way-outta-leftfield Lesbionic Interlude right in the middle of the novel. all attempts at narrative focus and realistic characterization fielded by House of Smoke (great title, btw) literally screeched to a halt for this scene. although it was another hallmark of this novel's muddled goals and this author's questionable decisions, still...i did get some personal enjoyment from that part and it certainly kept me reading for a few more pages. but then immediately afterwards, i lost interest, and just wanted to have a smoke then roll over and get some shuteye. no spooning with House of Smoke occurred. and i felt a little dirty.
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