Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Because I have a brain like a sieve

and also read too many novels I all too often find myself opening up a book whose author's name is completely strange to me and rapidly discovering that I'm already familiar with the series--in the worst-case scenario with the actual book itself. However in this case it was the happy version--I started reading It's Raining Men by Naomi Rand and remembered the main character Emma Price immediately--the first two books in the series are great, and this one's absolutely excellent. A must-read for anyone who likes urban private-investigator-type crime stuff, or good New York noir--really appealing characters, and also excellent writing of a low-key and understated but immensely skillful variety. (It is not a coincidence that the author bio reveals that Rand has an MFA in fiction. She has an excellent prose style, but also a really good sense of what makes a page-turning crime novel. Would be a good thing if more MFA graduates turned to writing this kind of book, the crime novel has always been a hospitable place for good stylists.)

I have only one complaint about the book. I am not going to spell out what's wrong with the following exchange--either you don't know anything about Scotch and you will find my explanation completely pedantic or else you will see the ridiculousness for yourself and your jaw will drop at the fact that multiple editors missed it. Here's the conversation in question (Emma's on the job at a post-Oscar celebration party where her film-editing-ex-husband's evil boss has made an appearance--he's behaving badly to the waitress at the River Cafe):

"Sweetheart, do me a favor, would you? Ask what you've got by way of a double malt?"
Off she went again.
....
The waitress was back. "We have Glenlivet, Dewar's, and La . . ." She looked bemused. "Sorry, the last one's hard to pronounce."
"Laphroaig," he said. "Sweetheart, you forgot to find out how long they've been aged."
"Sorry."
"How about you just choose one of them," Emma said.
He gave her a curious look.
"Really, it's no trouble," the waitress was saying.
"The lady says I have to choose, then I will." Shutting his eyes, he added, "Eeny, meeny, miney, moe." His eyes sprang open. "Laphroaig," he told her. "You come back and see if you can pronounce it for me."


Anyway, otherwise it's excellent.

Reread the lovely if slight A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle, which is like a sort of answer to French existentialism. Just now I've finished Land of Echoes, the second novel in the Cree Black series by Daniel Hecht--I really, really liked it--it's substantial but also rather enthralling. I think he had a big upturn in quality between the second and third novels he published; the first two are far too much the ponderous novel-of-ideas thriller for my taste, then he hit the groove with the Cree Black series (and I am delighted to see that the premise implies it will go on for fifty books, one for each state!), and the prequelhe then published to one of his earlier books was really also infinitely better than the first two.

5 comments:

  1. Jenny, do you keep any kind of reading journal or database? I now keep an electronic database of books I've read and want to read. I read a lot of series and found that I was doing the same thing - checking a book out of the library only to find, 20 pages in, that I've already read it.

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  2. No database as it stands, but it's an excellent idea. Esp. for books I want to read (or good series books where I mean to look out for future installments). Otherwise it's mostly a bit of a blur. My mom is constantly accidentally checking out library books that she's already read!

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  3. Double malt? To be fair, I've heard people use that "term" before. So maybe we're meant to see that this character - already a pedantic, bullying asshole - is also an ignoramus.

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  4. Yeah, the character part of it is perfectly well done, it's just the dialogue that doesn't seem persuasive. It made me hold out to wait to see if it was a *clue* that he was an ignoramus, as you do with crime novels, and of course it wasn't, just a minor distraction. Still, a very good book in most respects.

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