The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Read December 2018
Recommended for fans of survival stories
★     ★    ★    ★    1/2

Totally Unauthorized Review

It was very good, just the sort of read I wanted. Read it if you enjoy survival stories, or caving, or psychological mysteries where people are unreliable, conflicted, and determined.

I read for three reasons:

  1. A certain unnamed good friend strongly suggested it after reading it. Here’s how she sold it: “It takes stones of steel to write a full novel with only two characters and a cave for the setting. So far, it’s done very, very well.”
  2. I confused Caitlin Starling with Caitlin Kiernan, who also has a effed up book I want to read (The Drowning Girl).
  3. The darker, the better.

Like The Children of Time, it could have played on fundamental fears–in this case, claustrophobia–but somehow, through the writing, I was only riveted. Except for the water scenes. Those were scary.

Do not read the GR book blurb, as it does give far too much away, including one plot point that happens two-thirds of the way in. I read an early copy–hopefully very early–so I look forward to re-reading a print copy that might have even more polish. Just for me–for heaven’s sake, do not read the spoilers if you intend to read–

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The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley

Read December 2018
Recommended for fans of boozy detectives
★     ★    ★    ★    1/2

“When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.”

What an opening sentence. A kicker. Let me say straight out, this is a five star book; it’s just that five-star reads for me mean they need a place on my shelf and a re-read or more. This: this was beautifully written, not an extraneous word but so interestingly, humorously, perfectly descriptive:

“As I ordered a beer from the middle-aged barmaid, she slipped out of her daydreams and into a sleepy grin. When she opened the bottle, the bulldog came out of his drunken nap, belched like a dragon, then heaved his narrow haunches upright and waddled across three rickety stools through the musty cloud of stale beer and bulldog breath to trade me a wet, stringy kiss for a hit off my beer. I didn’t offer him any, so he upped the ante by drooling all over my sunburnt elbow.”

Crumley, and the narrator, C.W. Sughrue, set up an exhausting pace. C.W. is chasing an errant Trahearne for his ex-wife, who wants him back at his place and writing his next Great Novel. Trahearne seems intent on drinking his way across the west in the seediest bars possible, until he lands in this one. A fight lands Trahearne in the hospital, and the sleepy barmaid, Rosie, offers C.W. a job finding her lost daughter while he waits on Trahearne’s recovery and release before escorting him back home. The two detour through San Francisco following a lead. The plot’s a kicker; I did not expect all the places it went to.

C.W. knows how wretched much of his existence is, and his humor lessons the sadness. He also has a fair bit of compassion mixed in with the anger and the bitterness at those that exploit and are exploited. But he’s never far from a drunk, and he’s closer still to a beer and a whiskey. In these days, you did half your drinking while driving. The unencumbered sex, the porn–if you had any illusions about free love, the 1960s, and their aftermath, this will help disabuse them. Drugs? Why yes, it’ll help the booze along.

It took me a long time to finish this book, unusually long for its short length and quality–and for a mystery. All I can say is that it is because of the strength of the writing; out of very clear choices, I’ve stayed far away from C.W.’s world, and to immerse myself in it is both sad and exhausting. It’s like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas written by Raymond Chandler. 

“The next morning, the condemned man, who had slept like a child and showered like a teenager preparing for a date, ate as hearty a breakfast as the Holiday Inn could provide, then stepped outside to contemplate the delicate air and the clear blue sunshine of the high plains.”

Sad, beautiful, drunken, funny, tragic; highly recommended.

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The Last by Hanna Jameson. Well, I hope it isn’t hers.

Read December 2018
Recommended for fans of The Last Policeman
★     ★    ★    ★    1/2

I was all set to close the book (cough) on 2018; I had finished up the Peter Grant series in a very satisfactory way, was finishing up a couple other books, and was hoping to actually complete reviews for the books read, all in the same year–I know, I know. Foolish. Then I saw Robert’s review and the words ‘apocalypse’ and ‘mystery’ instantly jumped out. You could not have tempted me more with dark chocolate sea salt caramels. And wouldn’t you know it? Last was just as satisfying, a great mix of emotions and flavors.

It starts off quickly; no building of suspense, wondering when the end of the world will happen, letting our hapless characters wander around as we all get our bearings. It has happened; Jon, the narrator, begins the story three days after the news breaks. An American tucked away in Switzerland for a conference, and he and his colleagues have been routed to a somewhat isolated hotel. I hesitate to say much more; suffice to say that it unfolds quickly and seems very plausible. It combines the best of the apocalypse: a quick disaster, a prolonged sense of aftermath, the opportunity to explore self, meaning, and society, all done with solid writing.

“A lot of people confuse movement with progress,’ Dylan said. ‘I knew it was a bad idea but what were we gonna do, barricade them in? They weren’t ready to face any kind of truth.’ I leaned against the wall of the stairwell as Dylan got out his set of keys. The air in here was too thick, full of dust and last breaths. It stank. I hated the stairwell but of course the elevators weren’t working anymore; hadn’t worked for two months, not since that first day.”

I can think of a handful of books that this would compare to, and it’s no surprise that the publisher draws analogies to The Last Policeman and Station Eleven. I think that for many, however, this will be an improvement on both of those. Less bucolic and with a stronger narrative than Station Eleven,there is a definite atmosphere of fearfulness and psychological stress. Will these survivors break down? Like an inverse horror movie with the demons from within, how will they cope? Similar to The Last Policeman, the narrator is struggling with his own reactions and trauma response; though aware he is doing so, he’s not exactly doing so with great success. But he reflects and engages, and it provides interesting food for thought.

“I figure I should keep writing things down. The clouds are a strange color, but I’m not sure if that’s just me being in shock. They could be normal clouds.”

I will agree with Robert, one of the reviews that lead me to this book; the ending did feel rushed. Of course, for me, endings often feel rushed with suspense novels, as I’m speed-reading, trying to discover the resolution and relieve the tension. I’ll go so far as to say it’s a little Tana-French-ish in that the story is more about the psychological journey of the characters and less about the mystery. It is an intriguing ending, but yes; it does try to do too much too quickly, given the pacing of the middle.

Last but random note: one of the few end-of-the-world novels that integrates more than then an average white American in it.

Still, it was a fabulous way to end my 2018 reads. Definitely left me with a book-hangover. Many thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for the advance reader copy. The quotes, of course, are subject to change in the final writing, but I do think that Jameson’s style is one of the aspects that sets this above your average mystery or end of the world, and should be appreciated.

Four and a half cloudy stars

 

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Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch

Read December 2018
Recommended for fans of supernatural mysteries, Peter Grant
★     ★    ★    ★    1/2

 

The Post in Which I Muse on Audio Versions of Books
Stop reading the paper copy and give listening a go. You will likely not believe me; you will tell me that you hate audio books, that you lose track, fall asleep, and are 100% unable to pay attention. I believe you; until this series, you could have counted my attempts at audio books on one hand, as I suffered many of the same complaints. When I listened to Harry Potter while driving, I found myself getting sleepy. If I listened while cooking, I lost track of either my numbers or the plot (and that’s no good when it comes to spices, let me tell you). But then came Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, the reader for Aaronovitch’s books. As much as I enjoy the written version of Peter Grant, the audio is superb. 

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is a deity among readers. Trained as a theater actor, I suspect his versatility shows in his voices; from the Welsh pathologist, to Nightingale’s upper-class ‘posh,’ to the saucy junior apprentice Abigail, to the breathy, Cockney accent of a new character, to the semi-insane voice of a returning one. Aaronovitch writes in a multicultural London and uses it all, and I’d say Kobna’s only shortcomings are in the American (awkward) and Vietnamese accents (comes off similar to his Sierra Leone).

I did something I’ve never done with Lies Sleeping: I alternated between paper and audio for the duration of the book. I mean, except for that tiny part where I jumped ahead to the last paper chapter to see how it ended, and except for that other tiny part when I skimmed just a tad to see how we got to that part, but other than that, I was totally faithful about alternating between the two and not getting too far ahead. Since I save audio books for the car, this was no doubt a surprise to any friends who witnessed a month-long reading adventure. 

Anyway, it was a pleasure having Kobna’s voice echo in my head as I read. Aaronovitch’s writing is clever, full of references, complex interactions, Latin words, and all sorts of things where looking at the format of the word is nice. But he loves architecture to the detriment of other aspects of writing, and if you pay attention to his dialogue, it mostly consists of ‘said.’  Witness:
“‘Burnt…,’ said Dr. Walid. ‘We were just about to excise it…’
‘You can watch if you like,’ said Dr. Vaughn.
I barely heard her beca
use I’d just recognized the shape of the tattoo…
‘G for Gandalf,’ I said….
‘And I suppose you’re fluent in Elvish?’ said Dr. Vaughn, by way of retaliation.
‘No,’ I said, ‘but G is what Gandalf stamps on his fireworks…'”

On the one hand, it is a relief to be spared the adverbs of the beginning writer, who ‘laughingly, retorts, whispers, utters, and bemoans’ their way through entire scenes. On the other, the opportunity for character enhancement is missed. Solution:

Leave it to Kobna.


“Here’s a comforting thought for you, Peter,’ he said. ‘However long you may live, the world will never lose its ability to surprise you with its beauty.'”

Technically, it’s four-and-a-half stars for me. See, not a total fan-girl.
Stop reading here if you don’t want any spoilers. Silly goose; it’s the seventh book in a series. 

************************************************************* Continue reading

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Broken Soul by Faith Hunter

Read December 2018
Recommended for fans of Jane Yellowrock
★     ★    ★    

The Post in Which I Muse on the Series.

I dropped this series a few years back. Heavy on vampire politics and with a lead character who had a fair amount of romantic angst, it just wasn’t consistently interesting. However, my cousin was looking for new reads and I started her out on the early books in this series (this is under the philosophy of being willing to have said books returned in less-than-perfect condition). She loved it so much that she bought the rest of the series–Hunter having finished it by then–and brought them back to me to read.

So here’s the thing about series: they’re very much the same. It was interesting to me to fall back into a story after a few years and feel very familiar with everything happening. In fact, the plot ended up reminding me very strongly of one of the first three book. So it was with mixed emotions that I read on: one, that I wouldn’t have to invest much in my read; and two, that there probably wouldn’t be very much that was challenging here.

Perhaps that’s why we like series, because they offer a predictable world and story in a world that is neither predictable nor coherent. Depending on the author, you can be guaranteed the outcome; that the hero will live another day, that justice will triumph, that lower-level evil will be vanquished, that love will conquer all. I like series for these reasons too but I also want to feel like there is a greater sense of purpose (going back to that lack of parallel in the real world here…).

I’d be hard-pressed to find that in the Yellowrock series. Despite starting out as a contracted vamp-killer for hire, Jane, the lead, has morphed into a security consultant for the head vampire of the New Orleans area. As such, most of her job has surrounded detailed vampire politics. Apparently, Hunter is calling the upcoming visit of the European vampires her overarching series plot, because while I remember it from earlier books, it’s brought up again here in context of a lot of security preparations. The series structure is pretty straightforward: contract to protect vamps. Preparations. Weird stuff happens. Protect vamps. Figure out weird stuff. Work with/fight vamps (there’s always the troublesome ones). Fight extra-weird thing causing trouble. The End.  The side plot usually seems to consist of Jane deciding who she wants to date, what she wants to wear on their date, the date, and then emotional fallout after the date. 

It’s pretty straightforward storytelling. Hunter is very competent at it, to be sure; I’d say far above average from what I remember of various forays into the genre. I do like that Jane is a determined, stubborn, and faithful character. I also enjoy the impact of the Beast character, and that seems to have been evolving in interesting ways. There’s steady action in this book, which maybe keeps the reader from realizing that a lot of it is just that–action–and not actual steps towards solution. I felt like the New Orleans setting was used well, and had to laugh when at one point Jane mentions that the showers never got really cold.

I just don’t care about imaginary politics; I’m troubled enough with real-life ones. There’s also a bit more detail on guns and security issues, which is a non-interest for me. There’s some magical computer hacking with a Kid Genius, which is always somewhat problematic for me (I mean, why introduce computer stuff as an issue if you are going to solve it with a talented hacker?). Jane’s also only marginally improved on the emotional security front (one chapter end: “I’ve become a girl“) which was somewhat distressing, although I appreciated the nod to the flippy skirt she bought and danced in in book one. And, as was normal for this series, there is a distressing lack of females. Jane prefers being ‘one of the guys,’ and her environment reflects that. She lives with two guys, the majority of the vamp team she works with are guys (except Leo’s new second, so naturally, they have a conversation about Leo), and many of the women seem to see her as competition (Leo’s second, Katie the vamp from book one). Her friend Jodi makes a brief appearance, as well as a woman from the government Psy division. So there are women scattered around the book; I think it’s not problematic author portrayal as much as a character that is herself problematic. She continues to resent any soul-searching and only reaches out when she needs help.

I’ll likely try the next, if only because it’s sitting on my bookshelf, courtesy of my cousin. There can be a certain comfort in a decently written but non-demanding read.

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The Wrath of Angels by John Connolly

Read November 2018
Recommended for fans of horses, Claire Dewiitt
★     ★    ★    1/2

There’s a couple of things that keep me coming back to Connolly. One, he hits my prose sweet spot.

“For after Barney Shore had spoken of her, Harlan had become aware of movement in the trees to his right, a roving darkness obscured by the falling snow, as though the mere mention of her existence had somehow drawn the girl to them. He had chosen not to look, though; he feared that was that the girl wanted, because if he looked he might stumble, and if he stumbled, he might break, and if he broke she would fall upon them both, boy and man, and they would be lost to her. It was then that he had called upon his old friend, and he could not have said if Paul had truly come to him or if Harlan had simply created the illusion of his presence as a source of comfort and discipline. All he knew was that a kind of solace came over him, and whatever had been shadowing them in the forest retreated with what might have been a disappointed his or just the sound of a branch surrendering its weight of snow, until at last it was gone from them entirely.”

The second reason is that he blends a sense of supernatural, or otherworldly, or perhaps better, supra-worldly, into the every day world. I find that a fascinating concept to deal with. And last, but very much not least, is that Parker, and by extension Connolly, very much seems to believe in vengeance. Connolly’s pretty clear cut here; though his characters might deal drugs, or do the occasionally smuggling, direct crimes against people are what’s unforgivable. While Parker isn’t always that agent, his investigative work always seems to lead him that direction.

With The Wrath of Angels, I was hoping for a bit more, well, mystical, fallen-angel type action, an elucidation of the greater mystery. Eleventh in the Charlie Parker series, it does sum up the various hints from proceeding books and complies them into a sort of world-view. It also elaborates on the various players on the stage that have become somewhat cyclic. However, I don’t think it advances the overarching story particularly. It does turn out to be an interesting story in this one, albeit slightly padded. 

These days, I suspect mood is what ultimately edges a book into ‘good’ instead of a more lukewarm ‘I liked it’ evaluation, and I had this lying around waiting for the right mood. Sure, there were a few too many narratives that kind of felt like padding. And yes, we’re running around the Maine woods again. But I rather like the Maine woods, and the other viewpoints weren’t belabored enough to become boring. I imagine Connolly gets kind of tired of telling the same story, so playing with various viewpoints, including those of the villains, the ambivalent co-conspirators, and the victims, must provide a bit of intellectual stimulation. 

At any rate, this was another enjoyable book in the series for me. I think the trick is not to read them too close together. Much better to space this one out, as the publisher intended. 

 

 
 

A nice review from Kealan about the book’s shortcomings

And a nice review from Mihir about it’s positives

 
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Hex by Maggie Estep

Read November 2018
Recommended for fans of horses, Claire DeWiitt
★     ★    ★    1/2

I sought this book out because of Sara Gran, author of Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead, mentions it in an interview listing five of her favorite books and the writing lessons she learned from them. In this case, Gran notes that she learned you can take mysteries and set them in places you know and love; in the case of Hex, the oddly conjoined worlds of Coney Island, a Queens racetrack and Julliard School of Music.

So anyway, this is good stuff. I realized rather quickly that it wasn’t really about the mystery, not very much. It’s like one of those lit-fic books that is about a group of people connected to the main character, Ruby, sort of like a Tales of the City, I imagine, with a lot less sex and a lot more mystery. Although there is quite a bit of sex for a mystery book, at least the kind I tend to read, where lone private eyes are, you know, lone. It does lead to one detraction for me–besides the fact that it was included at all–in that all the women love sex, all the men are irresistible, although many of them have various hang-ups, and apparently, no one who has sex is gay. 

All of that aside, characterization is interesting. It’s all first person point-of-view, largely from Ruby’s viewpoint, although every other chapter is from one of her friends or neighbors. Somewhat surprisingly, because sometimes it seems like there’s a certain sameness to an author’s style, the voices all feel quite different. Estep manages to make most of them feel quite human: troubled, caring, vulnerable, funny. 

The writing is solid. The stables, the subway, Coney Island; all feel very real, artfully created for the reader in a few solid sentences. As Gran mentions in her description, “Maggie took the amateur sleuth mystery and put in a world she loved and understood.” I can picture the opening scene so clearly, I feel like I’m there:

“I’m eyeing a willowy blond woman’s red wallet when the F train stops abruptly, causing two large Russian ladies sitting across from me to loose control of their grocery bags. As the Russian women make loud guttural exclamations, frozen pierogies spill out of one of the bags and all over the mottled floor.” 

I wasn’t so sure about the narrative from Ruby’s good friend Oliver at first–what was he, an addict?–but he turned out to be a fascinating, unpredictable character.

“Some days it’s so bad I can’t move, other days it’s the kind of bad where I have to move. I wasn’t quite sure which this was gonna be but the sun was streaming in, blending with the bright yellow of the walls, hurting my eyes a little with its brilliance, and though I was nauseated and had pain traveling up and down my body, I threw back the covers, got up, and put on Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s first record, which I knew was the only thing that would get me moving.”

Which reminds me of a small complaint: I didn’t care for how his character was dealt with in the end. It felt more plot-convenient than realism convenient, and everything until then had felt quirky-but-possible, but that just seemed highly improbable.

I’m wandering all over, aren’t I? It’s much like this book, really; there’s a plot, certainly, but the reader has to be okay watching it wander, or waiting as pieces slowly come together, with occasional sidetracking. It’s kind of like going to ride your favorite roller coaster at an amusement park, in fact: you may have an ultimate goal, but half the point is the walk getting there.

 

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The Wandering Inn by Pirateaba

Read November 2018
Recommended for fans of MMOG, never-ending stories
★     ★    ★   

The Wandering Inn is a web serial and literary version of a role-playing game, which really ought to say all you need to know–except it is also literary crack. Like a game, it’s almost impossible to stop once you start. 

The story begins with a young woman, Erin Solstice, running for her life from a band of goblins. She finds safety of sorts at an abandoned inn and comes to make it her own. The first few chapters are rough by most readers’ evaluation, but as the world comes into focus, it rapidly gets more interesting. Like a role-playing game, people in this world ‘level’ in skills, with their ability to do something successfully impacted by skill level. Some people possess unique [skill]s. Erin levels quickly in [Innkeeping] as she works to make the inn habitable. She’s a kind and generous soul, despite the landscape and local denziens attempting to eat and/or poison her. Two beings stop by her inn one night, a lizard-like drake named Relc, and the insectoid Antinium, Klbkch. Both beings are ranking members of the local City Watch, and end up befriending and orienting Erin, tempting her to go to the city for supplies. 

There’s a rough overarching plot in this book, but not in a way that feels like each chapter advances solidly towards an ultimate goal. In this, it reminds me most of the RPG genre; there may be an end reward or an ultimate boss one is supposed to find and conquer, but it is very easy to be distracted with side quests, explorations, and plain old leveling. To be sure, many of the side stops are interesting, and if they aren’t, a new chapter will likely bring another direction.

The writing is a bit rough in the beginning but rapidly improves. By the end, I was getting all the detail I could have wished and more, with very full fight scenes, both physical and in chess. This is where an editor would have proved very useful, but instead, Pirateaba says, “it’s free, just read.” I skimmed quite a bit at times, not because it was necessarily bad, but because it was too detailed, or it was headed somewhere I didn’t especially want to go (not everyone wants to do the same quests, you know). Still, it was riveting by the end, and kept me on the exercise bike an extra 30 minutes. Hurrah!

The characterization is curious. I wouldn’t say the characters are flat, a complaint often leveled at the genre. In fact, Erin’s moderately irritating, with a surprising lack of curiosity about how the world around her.  She often reacts with a, “that’s not right,” rather than seeking to understand. It’s a peculiar kind of mindset that doesn’t belong in a traveler, and for the experienced reader, it can grow tiresome. Another main character, Ryoka Griffin appears in an Interlude and can be equally difficult, although in different ways. Although she thinks about this world, she has a similar tendency to react emotionally.

Will it work for you? Hard to say, but Pirateaba–presumably, a pseudonym–has graciously made it all available for free on the interwebs. Best place to read is here, so you can sample it for yourself. 

What I’ve discovered from reading serials, based on Ilona Andrews’ Innkeeper books, and this book, is that I probably prefer the finished version. I don’t really enjoy the installment structure (I lose the immersion ability and have memory issues from week to week), and I prefer the polish that the editing process brings. That said, both Andrews and Pirateba have writing ability, and there’s something that keeps me engaged despite occasionally feeling like there’s too much filler. In fact, I’ll say The Wandering Inn series has the edge over the Andrews latest Innkeeper, which is heavily romance-focused.

Pirateaba is up to Volume Five in the series, and puts out installments biweekly. They have a Patreon account, which pays well by all accounts, allowing Pirateaba to do this as a full-time job. Patreons get early access and bonus material, but otherwise it’s free, and Pirateaba makes a point of saying so on the Kindle purchasing page. I find this non-marketing intriguing; I can’t tell if it is generous or arrogant. I’d much, much rather have a e-book than try to read a story on my computer. I spend too much time with my computer as it is, between work, internet, goodreads and gaming, and it isn’t exactly ergonomical or portable. And if I’d pay to become a Patreon, why not pay for a book? The Kindle edition is listed at 1158 pages; definitely not computer-reading-friendly. Anyway, that’s my own reaction on the platform. Volume One is available for Kindle purchase–I did–but suspect my interest in following volumes will be limited due to format. I did, of course, start the next to see where it would end. It isn’t long before Pirateaba pulls some surprises out of the hat and starts to weave together a few earlier dangling threads. Unfortunately, that means that it’s not the sort of story that one jumps in in the middle–everyone’s got to start at the starting zone. 

Interview with Pirateaba, 2018

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The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

Read November 2018
Recommended for fans convoluted police departments
★     ★    ★   1/2

 

For a first book, this was amazing. However, in the grand scheme of unsolved crime, police procedural and historical mysteries, this left something to be desired. After thinking on it, I think it was because the author attempted too much. Impressive, mind you. But rather than doing a epicurean feast mostly-well, I tend to prefer simpler fare prepared very well.

It begins with a scene from 1993, when a brand new police officer–<i>guarda,</i> in Ireland–is assigned to a call for a ‘minor domestic.’ It turns out that it is the falling-down home of a fifteen year-old girl, Maude, her six year-old brother, Jack, and their quite dead mother. It jumps forward twenty years and one month to 2013, and the perspective of Aisling, a young surgeon in-training who has just discovered she is pregnant, a dream-killer for her pediatric surgical residency. The next chapter switches to the viewpoint of the officer, now a detective, as he roots through the cold-case files in the small station at Galway.

We know eventually the stories of Aisling and the officer, Cormac, are going to intersect, and they do, but not before Maude also reappears. Meanwhile, both Aisling and Cormac have their own trials to deal with, which rather prohibits either of them from paying solid attention to the investigation.

Unfortunately, that lack of attention is the result, I think, of some choices that served plot over character. Cormac was easy to believe as a person; however, he was completely unbelievable as a hard-hitting, elite task force, Type-A detective. So that was weird, since we were supposed to be in his head and we have this incongruity. We were told quite a bit that he was part of an elite Dublin force, he climbed the ranks, guarda in Galway are jealous, etc., but we weren’t shown any such thing, and his behavior in this small town force seemed distracted and lackadaisical, particularly as he delegated all sorts of grunt work to another guarda, Fisher. And don’t get me started on his surprise about child abuse and inability to work a social worker file.

It’s little things like that that interrupted my sense of story; I’d follow along, and then be told how something was, and then Logic Brain would come in and say, Wait, Wut? Stupid Logic Brain. A couple times I wasn’t sure I believed striving Resident Surgeon either, but then filed it under Grieving Partner.

Anyway, it’s stuff like that that definitely makes it Not Tana French. Really, marketers; talk about setting someone up to fail. Although, honestly, word is that the last Tana French also was Not Tana French, so there you go. I guess it’s like Tana because it is also about the historical roots of a mystery. McTiernan tries to do a ton in this book: (mild spoilers) (view spoiler) and it ends up feeling a little too surface for me. It’s one of those books that I really wanted to like, and thought I ought to like, but it really never set it’s hook. I was pretty sure I figured out at least part of the issue, peeked at the ending, and convinced myself I had to finish reading now that I knew how it would all play.

And I’d never do that with a French book, because there would be no percentage in it.

I also didn’t like that the story relied on (major spoiler) the killer being a sociopath. Just, ugh. Such a trope. It’s like it excuses all the other characters from being unobservant, and excuses the author from coming up with an actual, you know, reason for the killing. It’s like the murder mystery version of writing about the 1%.

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Exit Strategy by Martha Wells. Please, don’t.

Read November 2018
Recommended for fans of introverted robots
★     ★    ★    ★    ★  

“I had a complex emotional reaction. A whole new burst of neural connections blossomed. Oh right, I often have complex emotional reactions which I can’t easily interpret.”

Murberbot continues its adventures, and exploring the learning curve of what it means to be a Murderbott. Absolutely solid balance between planning, action, and dialogue this time, with a very satisfying resolution.

“It was very dramatic, like something out of a historical adventure serial. Also correct in every aspect except for all the facts, like something out of a historical adventure serial.”

My nitpick–and damn if Wells wasn’t the one to point it out–don’t do that, authors–is that there was a part that said ‘Bot can’t process organics. Like no organic material in, no waste material out. Does. Not. Compute. Unless her (Wells’) organics are plant-based, then we might have a system. But Just No.

Still, it had a perfect resolution–all the feels–so we’ll go with five non-robotic stars.

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