Friday, April 25, 2008

Mysteries Old and New

My books this week ranged from the much beloved private eye, Lew Archer, from 1949 to Paola Dicanti in the present.

In The Moving Target by Ross Macdonald, Lew Archer is hired by a wealthy young woman to find her much older husband, Ralph Sampson. Immediately after flying into Los Angeles on his private jet, Sampson disappears. His wife doesn't seem overly concerned with his well-being so much as the possibility that he may be drunk and giving away his money.

An array of shady characters populate this novel. Macdonald doesn't seem to do a lot in the way of developing them beyond them all being money-centered and selfish. Archer is definitely a likable character, but I also found him hard to figure out. Maybe delving further into the series will help me pinpoint his character a little better.

What Macdonald lacked in character he more than made up for in plot and style. There were quite a few twists and turns throughout the course of events and the end was definitely not predictable. Every character seemed a viable suspect and I found myself constantly oscillating between who I thought could be the culprit.

My favorite part about this novel was Macdonald's writing style. It is pure gold. He knows how to use language in an awe-inspiring way without weighing the book down with unnecessary detail. This is a scene when Archer was waiting in a bus station,

"The electric clock above the ticket booth took little bits of time.
A bus arrived and departed, shuffling the occupants of the room. The
clock chewed very slowly, masticating each minute sixty times."

What amazing imagery. It's even hard not to slow down your reading pace when you read that section. The man can work magic with words. It was hard to put this writing down. I look forward to reading more of Macdonald's work. I'll try to take it slow, however, because Macdonald is no longer with us; what a loss to the literary world.

The fifth Myron Bolitar novel went by far too quickly. One False Move may be my favorite of the series so far. Norm Zuckerman asks Myron to "protect" the star of his new women's basketball league, Brenda Slaughter. Brenda has been receiving threatening phone calls and her father has recently disappeared. Why Myron starts delving into his disappearance he finds more than he bargained for. In addition, this book finds Myron battling with the ultimatum that Esperanza presented him with at the end of Back Spin.

One of the reasons I like this series so much is Coben's character development. Like Fade Away, this novel did a lot to develop Myron's character. We see more of his strong family ties, his loyalty, and the internal conflict Myron battles with. Myron is so real, I often feel like I could bump into him on the street. He isn't a superhero who always has amazing strength. He isn't a MacGyver who can figure his way out of anything with a shoelace and a safety pin.

And Win I believe to be one of the most dynamic characters in literature. When Myron says to Win, "if I die..." And Win cuts him off with, "I'll spread your ashes over New England." Myron wants to know why New England and Win responds, "Because I like New England...and New York would be lonely without you." You don't see that coming at all. His attachment to Myron is so contrary to most of his characteristics. He's just an awesome character.

While the tone of this novel is a bit darker than the previous ones, it is still jam-packed with humor. I was listening to this particular book on my mp3 player, and I listen while out walking in the neighborhood. It was probably rather humorous to others to see me walking along laughing at regular intervals. So, Coben provided a good laugh for more than just me! The reader for this series does an outstanding job!

This was definitely another five-star effort for Coben. On to number six!!

The final book for this week is Juan Gomez-Jurado's first novel, God's Spy. In this novel, Paola Dicanti, an FBI-trained profiler in Rome, is called in when a prominent Catholic Cardinal is brutally murdered and dismembered. When Paola discovers that this is actually the second cardinal killed in this fashion, she's on the trail of a serial killer...a serial killer killing cardinals in Rome in the midst of John Paul IIs funeral and the impending conclave to elect a new Pope.

I listened to this book on CD in my car, and I have to say that the reader did not do the book justice. This was a great book and the reader was not great. But that aside, the plot was original and captivating. I may have to go back and read the book, however, because at the end I felt like I missed something. I don't know if I wasn't paying close enough attention while I was listening, or if the end was just vague and you weren't supposed to completely understand it. I will admit that I though the "romantic" episode between Paola and Anthony Fowler was cliche. The beginning of the novel really left me guessing and constantly trying to fit the pieces together. Once Paola completed her profile of Victor, however, the remainder of the novel seemed a bit on the predictable side.

Gomez-Jurado's character development was good as well. Since I was listening on audio book, it took me a little while to establish who each character was, but once I did, it wasn't hard to follow at all. Paola is sometimes stereotypical (i.e., the single female who sleeps with her married boss), but not completely. She has the makings of a strong female protagonist if Gomez-Jurado continues this as a series. But Anthony Fowler was the character who exhibited the most dynamic characteristics. I found that it was his character I wanted to know more about and delve into.

There were points where Gomez-Jurado seemed to overdo the crass language. It really diminishes a character when that's the best they can do as far as dialogue or monologue. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and was definitely captivated by it. I look forward to more novels from Juan Gomez-Jurado.


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