The Good, The Bad & The Ugly ~ six recent reads

The Good

Mr. Resnick, I hope you never tire of writing Eli Paxton! A new hard-boiled detective you just have to love. Thanks, also, for the short story – it puts ‘Marlowe’ into a perfect relationship with Eli. I was worried that maybe he was going to go soft with Marlowe around, but I can see it will work out perfectly.

Good, modern-day, hard-boiled detectives are hard to find. Eli Paxton seems to be one. Granted – being hired to find a dog doesn’t seem like the best case in the world, but we all know that hard-boiled detectives are always struggling with a poorly funded bank account and one has to take what work one can get. Of course, the case is much, much bigger than one missing dog.

I need more room on my book shelves, because every Eli Paxton book is going to need a home.

Absolutely her best yet. Good mystery, deep characters and exquisite prose. There is a stand-alone mystery that is really well done, and there is also the on-going problems with the Surete itself. At the end of the last book I was quite upset and it seemed that evil wouldn’t be punished…. ah, all good things come to those that wait.

This fun con story has been re-published by Hard Case Crimes.  What a welcome addition to the publishing world they are!

Johnny Hayden and Doug Rance are con men who feel they have the perfect con ~ perfect because the have the mark’s secretary/girl-friend taking part.

Ah yes, the girl – Johnny says, “She had a special beauty nude. Most women look better clothed. Bodies are imperfect. Clothes hide, and also promise, and the promise is too often better than the fulfillment of it. Not so with Evvie.”  And ~ she has a grifter’s soul.

There comes a moment when the con is almost done, and you know in your heart of hearts something just has to go wrong… but never in my wildest imagination did I have a clue.

The Bad

This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

I have mixed feelings about The Black Country. I enjoyed The Yard a great deal and was eagerly awaiting this novel, in order to follow Insp. Day and the rest of the Murder Squad.

This second book has Day, Hammersmith and Dr. Kingsley (all from the first book) sent out of London to the Midlands to investigate a missing persons case. I assume that Scotland Yard felt the missing would be found dead, or they would have sent other detectives rather than two key members of the Murder Squad. That was the first thing I questioned.

This book is darker than The Yard. The village is Blackhampton, a mining community. Small, grim and insular. This allows for the superstitious and secretive nature of the people. Grecian describes the village and its people extremely well. The village is ‘sinking’ into the hollowness beneath it created by the mining and this allows for a climax at the end that I found more suited for a ‘thriller’ than a police procedural which is what I had hoped Grecian’s series would be.

And that is my question/thought. Perhaps Grecian doesn’t see this series as ‘historical police procedural’. Perhaps he is leaning towards a more gothic, darker series. Both this book and The Yard involved children – crimes done by and to children – and I am hoping that this is a coincidence and not what the rest of the series will be. I find the idea of a police procedural at a time when police were just being to develop their skills and forensics was still in its infancy to be a very intriguing idea and would like to see the series develop along those lines.

Grecian has brought in sub-plots and extra characters. Some of them are necessary to the story and others not so much so. Not all loose ends are tied – I found it strange that when Campbell, the local constable, disappears no one in the village, or our Yard detectives, seems worried or concerned.

It is pretty obvious, early in the book, what has happened. I found the ending unsatisfying and unlikely. Given the attitudes of the time towards children I found it unlikely that the two children would have been treated as they were even though Day and Hammersmaith have shown their concern for children in the previous book.

I really like these characters and have great hopes for the series, so I will read the next one, as well, before deciding if I am going to follow the series over the long term.

Picked this up hoping for a hard-boiled detective that was female. While she does get a physical beating the dialogue isn’t quite sharp enough for me to call her ‘hard-boiled’. It was enjoyable, but the plot was very predictable and I didn’t get involved with her character enough to hunt for more in the series. I would read one if it fell into my lap, mind you, but I am not going to hunt them down.

The Ugly

I am having a difficult time reconciling the fact that this book has been placed in the finalists for ‘Best First Novel’ for the Anthony Award. The level of writing among ‘first novelists’ must be pretty bleak this year.

I am also having a difficult time with the fact that writers I respect – Patricia Cornwell, John Grisham, John Connelly and Christopher Reich all have glowing blurbs for this book.

What am I missing? Pavone’s method of telling the story – a section dealing with the ‘climax day’ interspersed with chapters giving you the story leading up to this day is supposed to (I think) help build the suspense. For me, it did exactly the opposite; giving strong unmistakable signs of what the true story was. There was no suspense and not really any surprises.

And there was no reason to care about the wooden characters, (in fact, most of the character are woefully short on character and the option from not caring about them was to dislike them) or the situation which I found inconsequential. It wasn’t a ‘spy’ story. Kate had worked for the CIA, but the story is about a crime, a theft of money. There is no ‘spying’. Don’t pick this one up if you are hoping for a book that will compare to the great spy/thriller writers, past or present.

Some things bothered me: for example, Kate, who is supposed to be an experienced spy, does really stupid things – leaves fingerprints all over, etc.   Her behavior just wasn’t real.

There is nothing wrong with Pavone’s writing skills.  He is very capable drafter of words.  But he just doesn’t have a good story here, in my opinion.

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