Rose's Reviews > The Call of the Mild

The Call of the Mild by William Rabkin
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Jan 28, 10

bookshelves: mysteries
Read from January 19 to 27, 2010

I have three requirements when it comes to tie-in novels: a well-written plot; that the characters behave the way they behave on the show/movie; and that there's internal action as well as external, or in other words, that the story isn't just fluff. It's important to me that we see something deeper about the characters, in who they are as people and in their relationships to each other; when I read a "Monk" book, for instance, it's all very well and good to have Monk hilariously freaking out on an airplane ("I need a Bible." / "You're not a religious man." / "If I'm about to meet God, I want to have His best-seller in hand.") -- but the reason I love Lee Goldberg's tie-in novels so much is because of the way he shows how much Monk and Natalie, for all their quibbling, care about each other; or because his encounter with a John-Edward-esque character shows us how much Trudy's death affected him and is affecting him still; or because solving a case with his brother gives Monk the chance to help build up his brother's confidence, which he does with love, in the end. I want the characters to behave the way they do on the show, and I want the plot to be _interesting_ -- but if the author drops the ball in getting the Story to _matter_, it doesn't matter how good the other two points are. I won't care.

This was my first "Psych" novel despite the fact that it's third in the series; the description on the back cover, however, made the book sound simply too impossibly fun for me to wait to read (even if it generally burns my soul to read/watch things out of order). Rabkin is actually a frequent writing partner of Lee Goldberg's -- the two of them have penned episodes of both "Monk" and "Psych" -- and so, as with Goldberg's "Monk" novels, we are given a line of books by an author who has actually written scripts for the show the books are based on.

Which may be why, like the "Monk" books, I found the "Psych" books to be spot-on in their characterization. Shawn is Shawn, Gus is Gus (and, indeed, since the book was primarily from Gus's point of view, we got some treatful insights into his character), and Shawn's father Henry is _delightfully_ Shawn's father -- his scenes were some of my favorite in the book. Lassiter was also spot-on, though due to the nature of the plot he couldn't be featured in more than a few scenes; and O'Hara was in the book only two or three times, so I can't really say if I found her to be in-character or not -- which is fine, given, again, the nature of the plot.

The plot itself was interesting -- a sort of Boston-Legalized version of Christie's "And Then There Were None." If I was mildly disappointed in the plot, I think it's because the back copy of the book makes it sound like it's something it's not. While they do spend half the book traipsing around the woods, they do only spend _half_ the book there -- and when they're there, they're not so much complaining about dealing with freeze-dried pineapple as they are trying to unmask a killer before anyone else (including, perhaps, one of them) dies. I wish I could have read the book without back-cover expectations, because I feel I can't fairly say how I found the pacing to be; I was busy waiting for the story I'd read summarized to kick into gear, and so when it turned out to really be a different story (albeit a good one), it was too late to read it more objectively. Whoever wrote that back copy should be FIRED.

(Well, I generally make it a policy _not to read_ the back covers of books if I've already decided I want to read the book, because if I already KNOW I want to read it, why risk the spoilers?? So I suppose that this will teach me ... :P)

But for all that, "Psych" achieved the single most important thing to me: meaning. It was _about_ something, something that made the mystery more than just a puzzle to be solved, but turned it into something with high stakes and high costs. I loved Gus not being able to meet Shawn's eyes when they were being held hostage (but not for the reasons you'd think), and I loved Shawn offering to drop the case for Gus's sake, and I _really_ loved the final reveal of Shawn's recurring nightmare -- that was _brilliant_, and the perfect example of the ... the _more_ that I need in all my stories. The ending had me tearing up a bit.

And it's also worth mentioning that this is the _funniest_ book I've read in quite some time. More than that -- I'm sure I've laughed just as hard (and just as often) at Dave Barry's non-fiction books ... but this has to be the funniest _novel_ I have ever read. The scene with the mime was absolutely priceless.

So, a good book, well-recommended to any "Psych" fan (or possibly even to those of you who are not), and I'm looking forward to going back to the beginning and catching up on the next two books.
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