Long time readers of these book reviews will know that Penny and I have long enjoyed an intensely deep romance, starting with delight at finding someone interesting and new, progressing through growing interest, moving to infatuation, and climaxing in her best work so far, THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY. Since then, our relationship has moved on, grown, less passionate, only making it stronger, more like understanding and cuddling now, spooning, accepting when she forgets to shave her legs or steals the blankets in the middle of the night. By Book #20, we’ll be checking each other’s backs for suspicious moles.
It’s because of this, that I know too much about her, that I feel comfortable giving Penny some advice, because of how much she’s exposed to me. Exposition. Explaining. There’s too much of it here. Show. Stop telling.That’ll re-kindle the romance, then.
Unlike many top-quality police/mystery writers whose amazing early work gets tired and self-derivative at some point, Rankin’s Rebus series never does. John Rebus may be superannuated, but Rankin’s writing never is.
Go back to his first (non-Rebus) novel and the growth and progression ever since is amazing to see.
Rebus’ Scottish mafia crime boss Big Ger Cafferty isn’t quite as good as the crazed New York Irish mafia butcher in Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder series, but it’s not for want of trying.
There is nothing egregiously “bad” about this book; it’s just that there’s nothing “good. Everything here is pedestrian, the author choosing the first readily available cultural and social tropes that come to mind.
If this were an audio book, it’d come with the blurb, “Now available in stereo(type).
Coben is an amazing writer, one of our best contemporary scribes.
His stand-alone books are always good, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the Myron Bolitar series, which he got away from for a while.
Many mystery/thriller series often get increasingly convoluted and unbelievable as the author tries to keep up the pace and suspense and there is a tad more of that than I liked here, but man oh man did I miss Myron and Win and Esperanza and Big Cyndi and El Al and all the rest of them.
The core of his excellent mystery serial is the unlikely relationship and sexual tension between Cormoran and Robin, who by now are shared partners in the detective agency. Unfortunately, it should be the plot that carries that along and illustrates it instead of having it jammed down our throats and choking the life out of the story. The worst of the four. Rowling says it is the favorite book she has written. I hope she’s gotten it out of her system and gets back to writing good, balanced stories.
The only problem with this book is that it isn’t Penny’s last book, which was simply tremendous.
It reminds me of the time I was enthralled by one of my other favourite authors, Tom Robbins, and his JITTERBUG PERFUME, which is still one of the best books I’ve ever read. I eagerly awaited his next book (which turned out to be SKINNY LEGS AND ALL) and felt disappointed, simply because while it was a good book, it wasn’t as great as his masterpiece.
What I don’t like about Penny’s latest is that is so much less organic than her previous books, which seem to have grown out of the characters. This latest takes a plot Penny is obviously invested in (she reported on it before she became a full-time writer), but this book starts with the plot, which she seems to have worked out before writing it, and the characters are plugged into those plots points instead of the other way around, not doing what they’d do naturally.
In my mind, it doesn’t work as well. The book is good, but it’s not “Gamache-good.”