Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Read Two Weeks Ago: "Sharp Objects" by Gillian Flynn

Read Two Weeks Ago: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, 2006, 9780307341549.

I grabbed this one, her first novel, after reading her second. I liked the second better but this is still above average.

Camille Preaker is a crime reporter for a third rate newspaper in Chicago. After two murders of young girls in rural MO Camille is sent there to, hopefully, get a scoop. She is sent because she grew up there.

Camille is quite alienated from her mother. Camille's younger sister died when Camille was 14 (Camille is now about 28 yrs old). Camille had not seen her mom since the mother came to visit when Camille was hospitalized for cutting. Camille's cutting has been going on since she was 16 or so and she carves words onto her body. She feels the words flame up at different times under different circumstances, shame, hate, potatoes, etc.

Camille stays with her wealthy mom, distant step-dad, and starts to learn about her half-sister - who she does not remotely recognize when first meeting on the street. Half-sister is a manipulative 14 year old. Half-sister ruthlessly runs her little clique and even controls the school. Half-sister is sexually active and likes drugs and booze.

Camille investigates. Camille's mother is Munchhausen by proxy and - obviously to the reader but reluctantly by Camille - poisoned her dead daughter and occasionally poisons Half-Sister. Things happen. Camille suspects, fears, and loves mom. Camille wants mom to love her but knows she does not. Camille and 14 year old Half-Sister do Ecstasy and Vicodin. Camille screws detective cop on the case. Camille keeps her clothes on during sex because the scars cover her from ankle to wrist to collarbone. Camille later screws 18 year old murder suspect but does take her clothes off. Camille breaks the case by searching and finding evidence of the two dead girls in Camille's mom's bedroom.

Camille takes Half-Sister back to Chicago. Half-Sister's new friend is murdered. Half-Sister is real killer. Camille still all messed up and relying on her father-figure editor.

Recurring Themes
1. Girl all alone.
2. Girl abusing self. In this one with cutting, in last one with booze and isolation.
3. Dead family member(s).
4. Murdered children.
5. Old crime being solved.
6. High school relationships revisited and those relationships helping to define people as adults.

1. Flynn does some good writing. I liked the second one better but Flynn has her crap together. She puts together some really well done characters and gives them things to worry about.
2. Flynn does a good job hooking you with Camille's personal mysteries of cutting, dead sister, abusive mother, etc.
3. Great look at the local women who still live their relationships like they did in high school. Camille comes back to town and resists falling into the same actions and behaviors. She succeeds with those former classmates but not with her mother.

Read A While Ago: "Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop" by Lee Goldberg

Read A While Ago: Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop by Lee Goldberg, 2009, 9780451228611 (paper).

Monk is still a nut job. Natalie still puts up with him.

Stottlemeyer cans Monk's contract when the city hits a budget crunch. At the same time Stottlemeyer is humiliated by a former SF cop at a convention when the cop points out, on stage, how Monk is the one solving all of the homicide departments cases.

When Monk gets canned Natalie's fears of "Who am I? What am I?" pop up. Nat talks to Stottlemeyer over coffee. Monk and Natalie travel with Stottlemeyer to visit a senile friend of his. While there Monk discovers the wonders of the Diaper Genie.

Monk gets hired by big-time, super-successful, super-expensive private firm. Monk promptly solves a load of their dead cases.

Senile guy, who used to be an informant, is murdered. Only Monk sees the clues of course. Cop who humiliated Stottlemeyer is murdered. Stottlemeyer framed for crime, Lt. Delusional arrests Stottlemeyer.

Monk works to solve the crime. Nat is worried that the new boss is working Monk too hard and suspicious of him. Things happen. Natalie has suspicions she cannot figure out. Monk investigates. Monk is crazy. Nat's teenage daughter is teenagey. Stottlemeyer is mustached. Lt. Delusional wants everyone to call him "Bullitt". Monk spreads his love of Diaper Genies. Crime is solved with guns, abandoned warehouse, karate fighting, bluffing, cell phones.

1. Either Goldberg never used Diaper Genies with his kids or he never had the problem I did with the Genie getting moldy gunk on the inside. Monk would not have this problem since he would likely clean the interior every time he emptied it.
2. Natalie pondering her life again? Does the woman ever not worry about her career all the time?
3. Natalie and celibacy. There is a comment that Nat's daughter knows she is not celibate. Too bad this is not the kind of book that goes into more detail on that issue.
4. One of Monk's favorite foods is Wheat Thins because they are perfectly square.
5. Monk washes his doorknobs in the dishwasher. Or, am I remembering that from the last Monk novel?
6. Travel commentary by Nat on Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, and the history of some hotel the name of which I will not bother to look up again. Boy #1 was just reading a Boxcar kids mystery set in SF where they visit Fisherman's Wharf. That place was neat to visit the first time I was there. The second time was not so interesting. The third time was a waste of time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Read A While Ago: "Dexter by Design" by Jeff Lindsay

Read A While Ago: Dexter by Design by Jeff Lindsay, 2009, no ISBN handy.

I've been watching the tv show over the past couple weeks. I never watched it before. It's good. In fact I am still watching season one this moment. I've always really enjoyed the novels and enjoyed this one. Since I read the novel a couple weeks ago I am getting the tv version confused with the novels.

I read somewhere that Lindsay recognized the audience's dislike of the third novel and the change to the Dark Passenger theory. The Dark Passenger is back to normal and the last novel seems to have been skipped over. Anyway.

Dexter is on a honeymoon to Paris with Rita. Amidst the closely followed schedule of museums and other tourist sites they catch an avant garde art show. The art show involves video of a woman amputating her own leg.

Dexter gets back to Miami and works another murder scene. Murder ties into local tourist bureau. Dexter and sister go to interview former employee. Sister is stabbed - or was the shot, I don't recall - and Dexter ends up killing the guy he thinks is responsible for serial killings and stabbing sister. Dexter got the wrong guy, sort of. There were two guys doing the killings - which were actually corpses that got cut up but never mind that part.

Dexter investigates. Dexter's inhumanity and confusion over human actions are humorous. Dexter works with his sister's carved up boyfriend to track killer to Havana. Dexter and boyfriend miss opportunity in Havana to catch the guy. I don't remember if Dexter gets the guy or not.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Finished: "Shadow Season" by Tom Piccirillli

Finished: Shadow Season by Tom Piccirilli, 2009, 9780553592474.

Eh. I think Piccirilli recently got an award for this one but it just wasn't for me. It was okay but not to my taste. But, like usual, Piccirilli does a neat job. The fact that I kept reading is likely a testament to his skill. He did especially well writing from the point of view of the recently blinded main character and his new perceptions of the world.

Finn was a cop in NYC with a wife he loved and a partner he loved but was unsure about. Finn gets blinded, his wife is killed, his partner is jailed, and Finn is now teaching English at a small girl's boarding school in Connecticut (or was is Mass. or somewhere else?).

Finn has had trouble at the school after a hot student came on to him and he almost banged her. Finn has a relationship with the school nurse, Roz, and the school's principal, WhatsHerFace, is a repressed drunk who is watching Finn closely.

Christmas break and a handful of students remain. A blizzard is coming. Finn takes a walk and finds a badly injured girl. Takes girl back to his cottage. She gives cryptic warnings of coming danger. I kept wondering if it was supposed to be a hallucination. Finn bangs Roz. Finn looks for disappeared girl.

Other characters introduced. Finn's history introduced. Storm hits. Rough characters appear demanding money and raping and killing. Finn fights back. Finn kills one. Finn gets lost in snow. Finn rescued and gathers others.

Finn finds out Roz and the school's cook were buying meth from the locals and selling through Finn's jailed cop partner. Locals are owed $9,000 and angry. Finn chokes out last of two killers. Injured girl holds knife to Finn's neck. Finn promises the money. Finn pays up a couple days later. Finn goes to meet old partner at Sing-Sing as partner is released. Finn plans to kill partner.

1. Common Piccirilli themes: east coast, dead wife, feelings of failure by lead character, lead character duped by others.
2. Missing themes: no muscle cars, orphans, or scumbag parents.
3. I need to see when the next Cold book with Chase and Jonah comes out. Eh, why bother. I'll just get overly anxious and upset if it does not release for several months. Piccirilli will post the release info on facebook anyway.
4. Meth is a popular drug in both real life and recent crime fiction.
5. I think I bought another Piccirilli for the library that I have not gotten to yet.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Read: "Houston Homicide" by Bill Crider and Clyde Wilson

Read: Houston Homicide by Bill Crider and Clyde Wilson, 2007, 9781594146039.

Good. The neat thing about this is that it is not a Sheriff Rhodes novel. Crider has plenty of novels but this is the first non-Rhodes book I have gotten too. Salina PL has several other Crider novels, including several westerns, but I don't think I'll get to them this trip.

Police procedural with Ted "Steve" Stephens set in 1969 Houston. Steve is a homicide dick who gets assigned to a triple murder. Steve's wife has recently left him after bizarrely thinking Steve was having an affair. Steve gets assistance in the murder case from well known and well publicized local private eye Clive Watson.

Steve investigates. Steve identifies suspects. Steve clashes with Other Detective working the case. Other Detective is a mostly incompetent jerk. Steve has support of boss. Steve worries over wife. Clive misses dead wife. Steve keeps investigating. Wife gets mental health help. Steve realizes he is a nut for work and devotes himself more to wife. Steve finds killer and through help of Clive gets confession and finds murder weapon.

1. I went to the shelf to get the second collaboration by Crider and Wilson, Mississippi Vivian, but the dang book was checked out already.
2. This could easily sell as a modern inspirational novel where faith takes a back seat to story but is integral to the characters. Waatson is a fairly devout guy and there are some discussions of religion and faith. Especially at the end when a witness who is becoming a nun has a rapid recovery from cancer.
3. Rhodes not Rhoades.
4. Anachronisms? Yellow crime scene tape and (something else I do not recall). When did that type of tape start getting used? What was used before? When did police realize the importance of protecting crime scenes.
5. Why don't cop shows ever have perimeter cops recording who goes in and out of crime scenes?
6. Screw-up between revolver and semi-auto really annoyed me in the first few pages.
7. Everyone but Steve smokes cigarettes.
EDIT 8. Something I forgot to mention is the gay characters. One is the murderer and the other is a undercover investigator for Watson. The gay-ness is not an issue with either Steve or Wilson. I remember sometime in the early nineties or so when a gay guy was murdered in Tyler. The case made the national news not because the victim was killed for being queer but that the Tyler police were very aggressive in investigating and catching the killer(s). My father mentioned he was surprised that the cops were so reactive.

Finished: "Stalin's Ghost" by Martin Cruz Smith

Finished: Stalin's Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith, 2007, 9780743276726.

Arkady Renko novel. This novel felt sloppy. Messy. I almost quit reading after about 40 pages or so but I like the Renko character and finished the book.

Renko gets assigned to investigate sightings of Stalin's ghost in the subway. Stalin is still politically important. A resurgence of uber-patriotism has brought Stalin back as a symbol of Russian strength and success.

Renko investigates. Renko runs across murder case investigated by two New Detectives who are Chechen War heroes. Renko thinks they screwed up the innvestigation. Renko starts looking into the New Detectives. One of them is a political candidate.

Renko finds that other members of the New Detectives small unit are getting killed off. Renko gets threatened by his boss, the prosecutor. Renko doctor girlfriend runs off with one of the New Detectives who she knew in Chechnya before meeting Renko in Chernobyl.

Renko worries for street kid he has been looking after. Things happen. Bodies from WWII are dug up. Renko goes to Tver, Russia. Renko doesn't carry a gun. Everyone wants to kill Renko. Things work out in the end.

1. Messy, things were not fitting together very well. I thought the description and flow could have been cleaned up quite a bit.
2. I think Brent Ghelfi's novels discuss modern Russia better than Smith's.
3. More info on Arkady's father, The General, and the suicide of Arkady's mother.
4. The General comes off better in this novel than the others. There are three instances when The General's teaching come in handy: mine clearing, "hit first", pistol reassembly.