richardderus

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The Dog Stars

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Rating: 3.5* of fiveThe Publisher Says: A riveting, powerful novel about a pilot living in a world filled with loss—and what he is willing to risk to rediscover, against all odds, connection, love, and grace.Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and to pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life—something like his old life—exists beyond the airport. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return—not enough fuel to get him home—following the trail of the static-broken voice on the radio. But what he encounters and what he must face—in the people he meets, and in himself—is both better and worse than anything he could have hoped for.Narrated by a man who is part warrior and part dreamer, a hunter with a great shot and a heart that refuses to harden, The Dog Stars is both savagely funny and achingly sad, a breathtaking story about what it means to be human.My Review: I've tried and I've tried to think of a nice way to say that I don't like Iowa Writer's Workshop stuff because it's always Very Writerly. I was, as you see, unsuccessful. It's always full of good lines, it's always got charming or beautiful or moving imagery and characters with flaws and sometimes even dialogue with some zest.But it's always Very Writerly. Thick and heavy and nutritious like spelt or brown rice. Sulphur molasses in gluten-free muffins. Serious and Good For You.I hate that. Sorry, Mr. Heller, but that's you all over.I like dystopias and post-apocalyptic stories, since I am the least chirpily optimistic person walking on Planet Earth. I want them to make sense, however, and not be rehashes of zombie munch-fests. This one makes sense. The pandemic that collapses the population? Totally buy that. The evil/vile behavior of the humans afterwards? Totally buy that. (Actually, from what I see, we haven't waited for an apocalypse to behave like scum to each other. But I digress.) The source of the dog Jasper's jerky treats? Brilliant, and also very frugal.I like the story, too, up to the point where Hig, our pilot main character, flies off and Finds Himself. I know, I know, all characters must go through stuff and change as a result of it to make a novel really interesting. But the fact that Hig goes off'n gits him a woman is a little over the top. It's artificial feeling, like something inside Heller (or an editor outside Heller) said "there's no hope! give the poor bastard hope!"It was, in my humble opinion, a wrong turn. The story up to then was an interesting, stream-of-consciousness exploration of an average joe who, inexplicably, survived the Apocalypse and kept on moving, breathing, numb from loss and scared, but real. And then, suddenly, he gets A Message and has to move move move to find the source! And he finds him a gal! Who knows, maybe that little impotence problem will clear up, they'll have a family....That's not the same book I started reading, and I don't much like that book.But in good conscience, I can't tell you it's a bad book. It's a pretty good book that could've been a really, really good book. It takes the subverbal vocalizations of its main character and puts them front-and-center, makes the style the point, makes the point the pleasure of reading. I just have this one little problem with the whole enterprise: It feels to me like it's been overthought, overwrought, and overworked. All down to that workshoppy aesthetic, and that happyendingitis that comes from thinking about the audience and not the story.Well, so. Three and a half stars for the good, good phrases Mr. Heller has made and the promise of that first half. It will do.
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

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Book Circle Reads 158Title: [THE MAN IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT]Author: [[SLOAN WILSON]]Rating: 4* of fiveThe Publisher Says: Here is the story of Tom and Betsy Rath, a young couple with everthing going for them: three healthy children, a nice home, a steady income. They have every reason to be happy, but for some reason they are not. Like so many young men of the day, Tom finds himself caught up in the corporate rat race - what he encounters there propels him on a voyage of self-discovery that will turn his world inside out. At once a searing indictment of corporate culture, a story of a young man confronting his past and future with honesty, and a testament to the enduring power of family, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is a deeply rewarding novel about the importance of taking responsibility for one's own life.My Review: 1955. That is, if you're math-challenged, 58 years ago, and the year that Simon & Schuster published this book. So Wilson was writing it in, it's safe to say, 1953 (60 years ago). And this is what Wilson said:Money, I need money, {Tom} thought. If they don't build a new public shcool, I should be able to afford a private school. I should get everything but money out of my head and really do a job for Hopkins. I ought to be at work now....Money, Tom thought. The housing project could make money, but it depends on re-zoning, and Bernstein says we shouldn't ask for that until they vote on a new school.A new school, he thought---so much depends on that! ... I should work for a new school, and I should work harder for Hopkins, and I should be making plans for our housing project. Where did I ever get the idea that life is supposed to be anything but work? A man's work should be his pleasure---I shouldn't expect anything more.Tom Rath has just been to see the overcrowded public school his daughters have to attend because, unlike his own father, he can't afford to put them in a private school. He muses on these thoughts while waiting for a late commuter train into the city, where he will take on a lowly personal assistant's position and, in the process, displace a number of female employees from their physical space.Sixty years since Wilson was penning these words, and not that much has changed. Now, of course, it could easily be a mom having these platform reveries, because we've been sold the bill of goods that nannies and au pairs are plenty good enough to raise the kids we've had but don't feel like raising even if it means NOT having a home theater, six DVR-equipped TVs, and each kid with an unshared Xbox. If mom's better at business, dad, YOU stay home and raise those people you engendered. Read to them, make them a snack after carpool, help with their homework. Hiring out parenthood sorta makes it pointless, doesn't it?Ahem.Me and my rants.Wilson's book analyzes the sources of Tom's inner discontent as disconnection and materialism. I agree. The alarm bell sounded by this, and by the 1956 movie, went unheeded despite the fact that both were hugely popular and successful in their own spheres. (The movie was as good as the book, for once.)At every turn, MONEY the getting and spending of, obsesses and defines Tom. His wealthy grandmother is being cared for by a greedy granny-nanny, and the hijinks appertaining thereto are most instructive for today's audience. Tom's boss, the venal and piggish Hopkins, plays out before Tom's increasingly revolted gaze his own probable future of alienated kid (extra probable because his three are TV obsessed brats), estranged wife, and grasping mistress(es). Then things get complicated when a wartime indiscretion with an Italian lass provides a surprise to Tom's unsuspecting wife.Wilson wrote of his own time. Change the props, update the clothes, and make it about Betsy the wife, and nothing much has changed.I'm sad about that. So much needless hurt caused in this world from sheer, wasteful greed for MORE when there's more than enough right in front of these hungry-souled people.
Hadji Murad

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Book Circle Reads 160TITLE: [HADJI MURAD]Author: [[LEO TOLSTOY]]Rating: 3* of fiveThe Publisher Says: In [Hadji Murat], Tolstoy recounts the extraordinary meeting of two polarized cultures--the refined, Europeanized court of the Russian tsar and the fierce Muslim chieftains of the Chechen hills. This brilliant, culturally resonant fiction was written towards the end of Tolstoy's life, but the conflict it describes has obvious, ironic parallels with current affairs today. It is 1852, and Hadji Murat, one of the most feared mountain chiefs, is the scourge of the Russian army. When he comes to surrender, the Russians are delighted. Or have they naively welcomed a double-agent into their midst? With its sardonic portraits--from the inscrutable Hadji Murat to the fat and bumbling tsar--Tolstoy's story is an astute and witty commentary on the nature of political relations and states at war. Leo Tolstoy is one of the world's greatest writers. Best known for his brilliantly crafted epic novels [War and Peace] and [Anna Karenina], he used his works to address the problems of Russian society, politics, and traditions.My Review: Flat prose exposing the bones of a story better told in the Wikipedia entry on Hadji Murad, the historical Avar leader.The story was among Tolstoy's papers at his death. Louise Shanks Maude, the wife of Tolstoy's good friend and primary translator of non-fiction Aylmer Maude, included Hadji Murad in their 21-volume Oxford University Press edition of the Collected Works of Tolstoy. The Maudes were Fenians, communal-living enthusiasts, and both came from English families firmly rooted in Russia. This constellation of characteristics made them uniquely sympathetic to Tolstoy's rather unusual social views.Louise Maude did no service to Tolstoy's memory by publishing this story after Tolstoy's death. His own attitude towards the work, based on his correspondence, seems to have focused more on finishing it and with it putting a flourish on his life-long argument with the deterministic world he saw about him. Tragedy being inevitable, Tolstoy takes the historical tale of Hadji Murad (known to him from his service to Russia in the Caucasus) and presents an honorable man's desperate struggle to escape the inescapable fate awaiting him: Death in the attempt to save his beloved family from death, which they will suffer anyway because of his foredoomed death attempting to save them from death.How Russian.There's a very involving tale here. What there isn't is a novel or novella of any satisfying substance. The story as it's published reads more like notes towards a novel. The action and the characters are crudely carved from Tolstoy's accustomed fine marble, but lack any fine detail and indeed are only partially revealed; most of the work needed to create a memorable character is left to the imagination of the reader. That it can be done at all is down to the artist's eye for good materials that Tolstoy possessed, refined by a long lifetime's work. What a pity that its audience isn't legally confined to Tolstoy scholars.
The Case of the Gilded Fly

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Rating: 2.5* of fiveThe Book Description: Theater companies are notorious hotbeds of intrigue, and few are more intriguing than the company currently in residence at Oxford University. Center-stage is the beautiful, malicious Yseult, a mediocre actress with a stellar talent for destroying men. Rounding out the cast are more than a few of her past and present conquests, and the women who love them. And watching from the wings is Professor Gervase Fen--scholar, wit, and fop extraordinaire--who would infinitely rather solve crimes than expound on English literature. When Yseult is murdered, Fen finally gets his wish. Though clear kin to Lord Peter Wimsey, Fen is a spectacular original--brilliant, eccentric and rude, much taken with himself and his splendid yellow raincoat, and given to quoting Lewis Carroll at inappropriate occasions. Gilded Fly, originally published in 1944, was both Fen's first outing and the debut of the pseudonymous Crispin (in reality, composer Bruce Montgomery), whom the New York Times once called the heir to John Dickson Carr . . . and Groucho Marx.My Review: Tedious, fusty, and supercilious.Well, that about sums that up.
Crapalachia: A Biography of Place

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Rating: 4.5* of fiveThe Publisher Says: When Scott McClanahan was fourteen he went to live with his Grandma Ruby and his Uncle Nathan, who suffered from cerebral palsy. Crapalachia is a portrait of these formative years, coming-of-age in rural West Virginia.Peopled by colorful characters and their quirky stories, Crapalachia interweaves oral folklore and area history, providing an ambitious and powerful snapshot of overlooked Americana.My Review: Memoir...I remember...that's what makes this book so damn good, Scott remembers and he tells us that he remembers, wants us to remember with him. I've never lived in West Virginia, I've only driven through it in my expensive car and thought, "ye gods and little fishes, is this for real?!" and pressed a little harder on the gas to get the fuck out of there. I've never even spent a night there. I drove an extra hour out of my comfort zone (6 hours behind the wheel is enough for me) so I wouldn't have to.But I remember with Scott McClanahan. I'm 20 years older than he is. I've lived the entirety of my life in upper-middle-class assurance of comfort and joy. When I haven't had any money, I've had friends and loved ones and even random strangers who shared with me. And it never, ever looked like the pictures Scott paints in my head.It's beautiful, this picture, these pictures, but it's not pretty. It's warty and cold and shaped funny. But oh how much there is to celebrate in the life of a kid who knows where home is and what his family is made of and scoops up the mud he's standing on to make something new of something old.She hobbled along some more and I walked behind her.She said: "This is the grave I wanted to see. This is the grave."I asked: "Whose grave is it?"I walked in front of the stone and I saw it was her grave. It was the grave of Ruby Irene McClanahan, born 1917 died...Then there was a blank space--the space where they would put the date of her death.She touched the shiny stone and explained...her really good deal on the tombstone. She told me I should start saving. It was a good investment.The tales of this Crapalachian boy are muddled and mixed, of course, as all memories are, and as honest as they are, they aren't always factual. In the appendix to the book, Scott tells us the places he knows he mashed things up and rearranged them, since after all he was writing a story and stories have their own needs. But he never violates, not once in this book, the one Commandment of Memoir: Condescend not, lest ye be caught and pilloried. (See: James Frey.) I wouldn't write about how people stared at {Uncle Nathan} when I pushed him down the road. They stared and shook their heads....I knew I would never write about Nathan's light-blue eyes--eyes as blue as Christmas tree lights.I knew I would never write about his soft heart. The softest heart I have ever known.I knew he believed in something that none of us ever do anymore. He believed in the nastiest word in the world. He believed in KINDNESS. Please tell me you remember kindness. Please tell me you remember kindness and joy, you cool motherfuckers.Why read some thirtysomething kid's memoirs? What kind of philosophical point can someone that young make? I wonder, is it even necessary to make a point? Can it be enough to read a book like this, about a young life seen from middle age (can't be much under 35, this kid, and that's spang in the middle of life), and eat the textures and smell the regrets of someone new to the idea that The End applies to him, too? He has children, he tells us so. He tells us that he went from place to place in the world leaving dirt from West Virginia there, giving the dirt to strangers and leaving it in the soil of New York City and Seattle and suchlike. So his children, no matter their wanderings, would have something of their, his, his grandmother's home waiting.I don't know that I believe him. "Oh lordie, I'm feeling horrible," she said. Then she clutched her chest. "I'm having chest pains." I kissed her cheek and I said, "I'll see you next week." She told me my grandfather Elgie used to have nightmares begging for the whistle to stop.She wasn't dying.She was lonely.So I left and I heard Ruby shouting again, "Oh lordie, I'm dying." I didn't turn back. I wasn't sure we were even born yet. We were all inside of a giant mother right then and we were waiting to be born. Just like tomorrow, at dawn, we will be held in the arms of a giant mother. We will find warmth and maybe even war there.I want us all to be ready.Ready? We're none of us ready, ever. As his kids grow up he'll find that out.And then there's the story of the little girl and the locket. It's near the end of the book, it's a memory from adulthood. It made me cry for a half-hour, angry and hurting and so so sad, helpless in the face of a world we've made with action, inaction, consent, and indifference (driving faster to escape someone else's reality ring a bell?). But hey, Scott? I remember. I'm with you.
I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual: A Memoir of Nazi Terror

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Rating: 4* of fiveThe Book Report: At the age of seventeen, in the arms of a thief, Pierre Seel felt his watch sliding off his wrist. So begins the astonishing chain of events that led to the Schirmeck-Vorbruch concentration camp, where Seel suffered unspeakable horrors for the sole "crime" of being a homosexual.The story of survival in the camps has been told many times, but Seel's is one of the only firsthand accounts of the Nazi roundup and deportation of homosexuals. For nearly forty years he kept his experiences -- including torture, humiliation, and witnessing the vicious murder of his lover at the hands of the Nazis -- a secret in order to cover up his homosexuality. He found a wife through a personal ad, married, and raised three children. "The Liberation", he writes, "was for others". Finally, haunted by his experiences and by the silence of others, he decided to bear witness to an aspect of the Holocaust rarely seen. As he noted, "If I do not speak, I will become the accomplice of my torturers". The result is a terrifying and heartbreaking memoir, extraordinary for its frankness and courage.My Review: Horrible what hate does to people, makes them bestial and vicious and base. Seel saw all of that, from his entry into the list of homosexuals kept by police to his arrest and deportation. Gay people in concentration camps were not accepted and cared for as were other prisoners, they were victimized by the others as well as the guards.What is it that you hate so much, straight people? Christian, Jewish, Muslim people? What in your souls says "I hate" so loudly that even your big bully imaginary friend hates too?Well, anyway, after an amazing wartime changeup and a forced conversion to straightness in the 1950s, Seel finally came to peace with himself in 1981 and, in 1994, finally wrote down the painful facts of his past.It's not easy to read, but I wish I could make every religious person and every anti-gay bigot read it. I can't, so there's no point in going on about it. If something in you thinks that it's okay to say "sure fine be *that way* but ewww don't talk about it" then you're the reason books like this are necessary.
Lake on the Mountain: A Dan Sharp Mystery

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Rating: 3.9* of fiveThe Publisher Says: Dan Sharp, a gay father and missing persons investigator, accepts an invitation to a wedding on a yacht in Ontario's Prince Edward County. It seems just the thing to bring Dan closer to his noncommittal partner, Bill, a respected medical professional with a penchant for sleazy after-hours clubs, cheap drugs, and rough sex. But the event doesn't go exactly as planned.When a member of the wedding party is swept overboard, a case of mistaken identity leads to confusion as the wrong person is reported missing. The hunt for a possible killer leads Dan deeper into the troubled waters and private lives of a family of rich WASPs and their secret world of privilege.No sooner is that case resolved when a second one ends up on Dan's desk. Dan is hired by an anonymous source to investigate the disappearance 20 years earlier of the grooms father. The only clues are a missing bicycle and six horses mysteriously poisoned.My Review: Well, that's fine so far as it goes. The "mistaken identity" is more like a con game's perp being discovered in a lie; the secret world of privilege part is heavily focused on the heteronormative christian right wing's assertion that it alone defines right and wrong.So it's about perfectly cut out to suit my prejudices!Round writes a deeply damaged and badly wounded noir hero in Dan Sharp, and gives him a drinking problem, a miserable proletarian past, and a penchant for dating screwed-up straight rich boys. Dan's not pretty. His appeal to the pretty men he lusts after is in his anger, his endowment, and his complete willingness to cut and run when he damned well feels like it. Means it will all be over and no lingering emotional ties need be fretted over.Take out "proletarian" and it's me. So again, score one for Round in the designed to appeal to me sweepstakes.The actual murder mystery bit comes with two adjunct plots, one missing person case that Dan is going to solve or die in the trying, and one complex self-realization plot: Dan put the receiver down and stared at the wall. The room had shrunk over the last few minutes. He tried to ignore the nameless sorrow under his skin, the gnawing doubts that mocked his hope that life could be a fine thing or that happiness was possible. An acid loneliness came pouring in -- the same loneliness that enticed him to drink and told him he had no friends except the one on the table in front of him.Well, yeah.The resolution of the missing person case, when it happens, makes Dan go on a hard journey into his bitterness about the past. His family life was, um, rough and turbulent. His missing person was under the same sort of spell that Dan was himself, and then *click* a light goes on that illuminates for Dan the murder's shape which had eluded him (and the police) until now:Grief. It was a powerful word beginning with a soft utterance and ending in a feather's caress. There's no way to say it without beginning and ending in a sibilant whisper. Intake of breath or out, it's still the same -- like a verbal palindrome. {The victim} had felt its pull, soft and seductive enough to make him sacrifice himself. He'd given in to its drowning embrace, giving up what he wanted most -- his freedom -- for what he couldn't live without: his boys. In doing so, he'd lost both. There wasn't a prayer or lamentation or elegy in the world that could convey, in words or music, the tragedy that this had brought about. There was nothing that could revoke or undo the senseless horror of what had happened to him....Losing his sons was a threat the victim couldn't endure. Dan, being a deeply loving dad despite his screwed up self, figures out the identity of the culprit, the reason for the crime, and the whole point of his own involvement in the missing person case from the blinding flash of insight that grief is at the heart of all the troubles in all these cases.This is the way I like my noir. Dark, bitter, and with a chaser of sadder-but-wiser. I'll read the next book, and that's sayin' something for an overbooked and underlifed biblioholic.So why not a full four stars? Because the novel, while first in a series, is far from Round's first book. There are pacing and bloat issues. About fifty pages of the book could go and no one would suffer, while the story would gain. Some scenes...notably the resolution of the first death...were rushed and not fully interwoven into the narrative, while others, notably the set-up of Dan's crappy relationship with a man destined to shuffle out of his life in short order, were longer than dramatically necessary to introduce the character flaws in Dan that we need to know about. So a small bit knocked off there, and a bot more for the curiously unnecessary and stunted relationship between Dan's son and the son's best friend, which felt completely grafted on and was unnecessary given how it ended.But I go back to this fact: I will read the next one. I'm looking forward to it, as a matter of fact.
Sacrifice Fly

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Rating: 3.5* of fiveThe Publisher Says: Raymond Donne wasn’t always a schoolteacher. Not only did he patrol the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as one of New York’s Finest, but being the nephew of the chief of detectives, he was expected to go on to bigger things. At least he was until the accident that destroyed his knees. Unable to do the job the way he wanted, he became a teacher in the same neighborhood, and did everything he could to put the force behind him and come to terms with the change.Then Frankie Rivas, a student in Ray’s class and a baseball phenom, stops showing up to school. With Frankie in danger of failing and missing out on a scholarship, Ray goes looking for him, only to find Frankie’s father bludgeoned to death in their apartment. Frankie and his younger sister are gone, possibly on the run. But did Frankie really kill his father? Ray can’t believe it. But then who did, and where are Frankie and his sister? Ray doesn’t know, but if he’s going to have any chance of bringing them home safely, he’s going to have to return to the life, the people, and the demons he walked out on all those years ago.Intense, authentic, and completely gripping, Tim O’Mara’s Sacrifice Fly is an outstanding debut from a stellar new voice in crime fiction.My Review: It's a first novel. It's got holes...the techie dude has a disk drive in his computer? like a desktop? no way...it's got people who disappear for good in unceremonious ways...a first date ends in a cop call, the lady gets in a cab and *piff* never heard from again?...and the baseball angle isn't particularly well integrated into the story...we never see or experience Frankie anywhere near a baseball and it's his future we're supposedly believing is in the Majors? Plus the author appears to be a Yankees fan. Strikes one and two. He's two fouled-off pitches into strike three for being nasty about the Mets.But it's got something, it's got some verve and energy that I like, and it's set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I've had some ties for quite a while, so I'm as happy as the problems will let me be that I got this book as a gift.The resolution to the death of Frankie's father is less a story of murder than of an unregrettable death. Ancillary violence is overplayed a bit to give things a noir feel. It works pretty well. The cop-world feels authentic, and the inhabitants of Ray's former life are like the cops I've known in the past. His schoolteaching life, mercifully, isn't a lot in evidence. The idea of it is enough to make the point that this isn't a man who takes the easy way through life.Muscles reached into his pocket and took out two white pills. "Take these," he said."Ibuprofen?""Wintergreen. Every time you exhale, I get hit with a faceful of vodka. Where the hell'd you go last night?"A snippet of smile-inducing chit-chat between Ray and his physical therapist, whose tender ministrations to Ray's badly damaged knees he spends the entire book avoiding. It's this sort of throwaway moment that marks a writer to watch. It's natural, it's funny, and it's well played for a smile when one's needed."The mayor has little interest in abandoned pools. Or abandoned people.""You're preaching to the choir," I said."Do you know, when they decided to shut this pool down, when they decided they could spare no more resources for the maintenance and security? That same year the millionaires running this country announced massive tax cuts. The federal government paid billions of dollars to the arms builders to produce weapons they told us they hoped to never use. They even found enough money to help other countries buy weapons and train soldiers and contribute to the culture of death."Sing it, soul brother! I testify! Speak the truth!So yeah, I'll be picking up the next book in hopes that some of the apostrophized plurals and the whack-a-mole character vanishings and the like will be smoothed out. Because this is one promising debut and one interesting series character.The Yankees shit's gotta go, though. Me and my voodoo dolly are at the ready, should it prove necessary.
Bad Monkeys: A Novel

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Rating: 3.5* of fiveThe Book Report: Jane Charlotte has been arrested for murder.She tells police that she is a member of a secret organization devoted to fighting evil; her division is called the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons--"Bad Monkeys" for short.This confession earns Jane a trip to the jail's psychiatric wing, where a doctor attempts to determine whether she is lying, crazy--or playing a different game altogether. What follows is one of the most clever and gripping novels you'll ever read.My Review: "Clever" is a good word for this book. In fact, maybe "clever-clever" is even better. "Jane Charlotte"? She needs a boyfriend named "Austen Brontë" in that case.And that is the very last and final connection anywhere within the oddly shaped covers of the book to Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë. From here on, we're on a profane and sometimes profoundly blue trip through the Halls of Micturation that form Jane's psyche. Is she addled? Drugged? One helluva fast-thinking sociopath, like in The Usual Suspects?Dunno. About half-way through, I lost steam. See, this is the issue I perceive in so much bizarro/New Weird fiction. It goes on too long. It takes the joke, beats that sumbitch to death, scoops up the jellified meatiness, and then sets to stompin' on it in hobnailed boots. And after a while, one loses the desire to be on the sidelines looking on.So, a month went by, and I picked the book up again. (It was stabbing me in the kidney as I got into bed one night.) Idly flipping to the Book Dart (if you don't have these, get some, they're amazing), I resumed reading with a slight smothered yawnlet.*slog slog pantpant slog*And I finished the book, unable to toss it aside for one reason: I had to know how the HELL this guy was gonna get off the horse at the end of the ride.Good, good job, Sir Matt the Ruff. I did not see that ending happening.
Troublemaker

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Rating: 4* of fiveThe Book Description: Who killed gay bar owner and all-around nice guy Rick Wendell? Was it Larry Johns, the attractive young man found wiping his prints off the still-smoking gun mere moments after the murder? If so, why was Johns naked? And what happened to the large sum of money Wendell had just withdrawn from the bar's bank account? Hard-boiled, openly gay insurance claims investigator Dave Brandstetter aims to find out in Troublemaker, the third volume in Joseph Hansen's legendary and critically acclaimed Brandstetter mystery series.My Review: It's always risky to read or perhaps especially re-read an entire series back-to-back. Fortunately for me, the noir tropes overlaid (!) with gay tropes whisked me past any potential eyerolling and gusty sighing over the flaws present in any book.I've heard tell that some folks don't find Hansen's descriptive passages all that much fun. I don't understand this opinion. I can see, hear, feel along with Dave...and Hansen's words cause that. Since I experience Brandstetterworld so viscerally, I am verschmeckeled by reports others can't.This story is a real downer for family-oriented types. Dave neglects his man Doug, the families of exactly no one in the story are anything other than vile, venal, and grasping...sounds like the real world to me. At least it accords with my own experience of family life. The mystery of who kills the victim is more easily solved than the mystery of why any of these people aren't dead at each others' hand. And frankly, good riddance!Dave, of course, solves the crime and Justice prevails. The idea that someone would kill for $25,000 doubtless made more sense forty years ago. Now that's not enough to buy a decent new car.What a wonderful treat it was to immerse myself in this series again. Now it needs to be made into a TV series. Who knows someone who could make that happen? Anyone?
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