Saturday, November 06, 2004

Idle reading

Despite my disparaging remarks earlier, I couldn't help myself from reading two more books by KJ Erickson: The Last Witness and Alone At Night. The last is definitely the best of the four; you can see her skills improving, and the writing is really good in lots of ways. But this is a writer who's willfully ignoring various facts about what makes a good detective novel! Her fatal weakness is for overelaborate plotting. The first of these features an OJ-Nicole-type story (and while the social-justice-detective-novel may not be your favorite, I do find it bizarre that this novel completely ignores any questions either about domestic violence or about racism in America--there's something perverse about sidelining race in a book like this--quite implausible, I think), but the plot twist at the end is literally incredible. The second is better but again somehow invokes an absurd "jungles-of-Vietnam-sniper-hooks-up-with-US-senator" type thing, plus connections made between killings in various places are completely farfetched. The reason this is frustrating is that the books are much better than average in many respects. But the same thing that makes Erickson create a reasonably plausible detective but then give him the name "Marshall Bahr," aka "Mars Bar," nickname "Candyman" (is this even faintly plausible? I don't t hink so) kicks in to unfortunate effect with these plots.

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