Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Friday, September 23, 2011

Gilden Latten Bones

Gilded Latten Bones is the... I don't know, feels like the 50th book in the Garrett, PI series, but Wikipedia tells me there's only 13. From the feel of the ending, I suspect this is intended to be the last one.

The story starts out in traditional noir mystery fashion, and seems fairly promising. There is a bizarre attack on the place he's now sharing with Tinnie, and it looks like an older, wiser Garrett will be hauled back to his old haunts when someone comes close to killing his old friend Morley.

Much as I appreciate learning a new vocabulary word, the series has lost its luster for me. While Cook has done a great job evolving his setting over the course of the series, he hasn't done so much for his protagonist, and his attempts to do so in the course of this story strike me as clumsy. Garrett is still Garrett. The "settled down now" veneer is translucently thin, the problems his now-permanent relationship with Tinnie create seem as tired as Garrett himself, their resolution verges on unnatural (for one thing, it requires the Dead Man to like a woman).

The story is encumbered by the weight of all of the characters it has created over the years, all of which now seem like they have to show up in every book, along with a few new ones. The choppy style seems less like an effect and more like laziness. Two-page chapters? Am I reading a Dan Brown novel? I had to force myself to keep going beyond the first few chapters.

The worst thing? This should have been a great Garrett story. The final adventure, dark deeds at the highest levels of the realm, hideous sorceries lurking in Tun Faire's shadows, a man caught between two women, the case that will require everything he's learned from all of his previous adventures... and instead it falls flat. The pieces never gel, there is never any serious sense of threat. Garrett spends as much time mooning (awkwardly) over his relationships and sorting out minor problems among his friends as he does anything else, gets beat up, sleeps a lot, gets a cold (!), with the result that the actual plot feels like an afterthought. Surrounded by an army of secondary characters, slowed by pointless subplots, the top-heavy story creaks along to a finale in which Garrett has no part to play.

I really, really want to know what his editor thought about this one.

This review also posted to Goodreads.

Friday, September 9, 2011

State of the Novel

Revisions creep forward.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

As Always, Julia

Every summer, we visit the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Most summers, we manage a visit to Meredith, and the Innisfree Bookshop, and do our part toward keeping this fine little business in operation. Now that we have the three kids, we are spending more time and money in the toy section than we used to, but I try to keep my purchases weighted toward the written word. This year's find for me was a delightful volume of letters exchanged between Julia Child and a woman who became her good friend, Avis DeVoto.

I don't generally go in for biography or for recent history, but I found this book absorbing and delightful. The writers' personalities come across brilliantly. It's a fascinating story, not only of how a well-loved cookbook came to be but of the times that saw it come into being. The 50s were not so long ago, but sometimes we think that we know them better than we do. The politics sound awfully familiar (at least we don't have McCarthy to deal with right now!), but in a pre-second wave feminism, pre-food revolution world, the minutia of daily life are strikingly alien.

It's a quick read, and a fun one for anyone interested in Ms Child and her culinary offspring.