Greg's Reviews > March Violets

March Violets by Philip Kerr
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Mar 12, 12

bookshelves: mystery
Read in March, 2012

The concierge was a snapper who was over the hill and down a disused a mine-shaft. Her hair was every bit as natural as parade goose-stepping down the Wilhelmstrasse, and she'd evidently been wearing a boxing-gove when she'd applied the crimson lipstick to her paperclip mouth. Her breasts were like the rear ends of a pair of dray horses at the the end of a long hard day. Maybe she still had a few clients, but I thought it was a better bet that I'd see a Jew at the front of a Nuremberg pork-butcher's queue. She stood in the doorway to her apartment, naked under the grubby towelling (sic?) robe which she left open, and lit a half-smoked cigarette.

"I'm looking for Neumann," I said, doing my level best to ignore the two coat-pegs and the Russian boyar's beard that were displayed for my benefit. You felt the twang and itch of syphilis in your tail just looking at her.


All of this description is for a woman who appears for a page and a half in the book, and most of those lines are dedicated to this flowery 'hard-boiled' prose.

That paragraph is a good example of why this is a three star book for me, even though the mystery and the story were good I just couldn't really get past all of the schlock. It's also why I find it very painful to watch most American movies from the 40's / 50's, my poor sensibilities are given too much a beating with canned stylized words.

Stylized shlock though has quite a bit of popularity. Just look for some of the words in bold on goodreads and you'll find more examples of the type of writing that makes me want to do an Oedipus to my eyes. It's phony. There is no soul (or whatever you want to call it), it's like automatic writing masked by a vague amount of cleverness (not much though because the cleverness is fairly obvious, but it's reassuring, I don't want to be reassured, being reassured is so boring).

I need to stop reading these mystery novels. There are parts I like about them, but too often they are making a part of me cower up and die.

I feel awful that I've used this book as a go to recommendation for people looking for a 'smart' mystery / thriller set in WWII or historical or something like that. It's not that it's bad, it's that it is so filled with cliches and the good parts are almost downed out by the incessant hard-boiled chatter.

I'm fucking tired of chatter. Ben Marcus come and take all of our language from us, just so I don't have to hear anymore of it.

All melodramatic nonsense aside, I think I'm going to give this genre a rest for awhile. I am interested in reading the new re-issues by Richard Stark coming out next month, and some more Lawrence Block but besides that I think my six month trek into the world of mystery novels has come pretty much to an end. I'm sure I'll go on it again sometime in the future, but for now I'm going to go back to the ghetto of literary fiction.
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by karen (new)

karen How I'm so tired to chatter.

this is not a sentence. please try again.


Greg fixed.


message 3: by karen (new)

karen is it? why do you think you need to have the word "how" there? are you trying to say, "how i tire of chatter??" or "i am tired of chatter?" because i don't think either of those thoughts are coming through. it feels like you are continuing a thought we have no evidence of your ever having started.


Greg I fixed it again. I can point you to some very grammatically correct reviews if you'd like. Stephen is floating a few of them today.


message 5: by karen (new)

karen no doubt.


message 6: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Speaking of nitpickery, is tit a Freudian slip in this sentence: Her breasts were like the rear ends of a pair of dray horses at the the end of a long hard day. Maybe she still had a few clients, but I thought tit was a better bet?


Greg probably was.


message 8: by Jason (new)

Jason Nice review. I felt similarly about Kerr's Field Grey from 2011, but couldn't put it into words as well as you did. Well, as well as you did once your grammar was fixed.


Greg Thanks. My grammar is awful and I'm lazy when it comes to editing.

I enjoyed the second book in the series, The Pale Criminal much more than this one. I'm not sure if I'm going to continue with the series though.


Chrisl Here's another quote ... "When he spoke it was a medium-sized brown bear of a voice, growling from the inside of a short cave, and always on the edge of outrage. When he grinned, the mouth was a cross between early-Mayan and High Gothic."


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