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The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Mysteries
So, I keep trying out grown-up books. I am not noticeably more impressed at their quality.

I enjoy mysteries, which doesn't surprise me. I was in a Nancy Drew book club as a kid, lived for Magnum and binge Law and Order whenever I can. I genuinely enjoy the Strike mysteries, but a lot of what I read in the genre is just popcorn... forgotten two seconds after I finish it. Nothing wrong with it, per se, just nothing really bubbling up as something I just HAVE to follow.

First, I think I like mystery television more than mystery books, just because you don't have to work around the detective's thought process. Even in Strike, I have to just roll my eyes while JK goes through the annoying scenes of, "Strike didn't want to tell Robin what he was almost sure about" and "Robin listened to what Strike told her to do, which was gross, but she wanted to impress him"... followed by skips to another scene and no further mention, except obliquely ("Robin was disappointed that she hadn't finished the task she'd been assigned yet"). My most recent binge has been the Rachel Knight books by Marcia Clark, which use the other tactic. "Wow! This just occurred to me! Let's run off and follow it!" There has to be a better way to do this. It's not too bad in the Hillerman books, where usually one or another of the detectives says, "We're looking for X." But then, those also have a tendency to randomly solve the problem with some bit of mysticism. I like magic and mysticism... but not as the solution to an otherwise realistic scenario. And even with them (Harry Potter mysteries come to mind), the magic needs to make sense in context.

And what's with the constant physical descriptions? I mean, I can see it if it's relevant, but really, "The paramedic was cute... a dead ringer for Brad Pitt, right down to the blue eyes"? And trust me, the paramedic was not a person of interest. He just happened to be on stage for a minute. It's sort of a bit of characterization for the lead (she notices this as she's being taken away with a gunshot wound, thereby stressing her tendency to get distracted by the sexy, but still. It happens with EVERY. SINGLE. CHARACTER.)

There's also the tendency to not trust the audience... which ultimately makes the detectives look dumb. Ms. Clark knows her way around a courtroom and has certainly dealt with psychopaths, but her psychopath character in The Competition is supposed to come as a big shocker to everyone--"OMG! That kid they're protecting is one of the killers!" Except that in every single scene we see him in prior to this revelation, he might as well be wearing a great big sign saying, "Hello, I'm secretly one of the killers and a psychopathic liar. Nice to meet you." The fact that they got snookered might be one thing. The fact that they kept going on about how good he was and no one could have known? SERIOUSLY? And the "insights" from the expert psychologists are things that you can pick up in first semester AbPsych. I know, because I took first semester AbPsych and a little developmental psych, and could have given her the same information. It was like she just had to take the audience by the hand and lead them directly to the right conclusion (which I guess I should expect from a prosecutor... but not a mystery writer!).

The other problem (and I'm thinking of the Rachel Knight books right now, but it seems true in a lot of adult fiction... much more so than in the juveniles I read) is that everyone in a romantic relationship seems to have it based on, "Wow, he's the coolest! He's so handsome, and rich! And smart!" Meanwhile the relationships that are better drawn--and even somewhat sexually charged--never approach it. (Eg, in these books, Rachel early on saves the leader of a gang from a spurious charge and they have a few adventures together and have real, serious conversations and seem to connect... but her actual boyfriend, never even questioned, is a police lieutenant whose main characteristics seem to be that he's handsome and rich and... well, that his grammar and accent are impeccable. I honestly finished the book ten minutes ago and have already forgotten his name. Meanwhile, I'd have read a whole series about Rachel and a reformed Luis opening a detective agency together, even if they remained just friends, because the chemistry there is actually compelling and had much more promise. She can write compelling relationships. She just, for some reason, didn't pursue any of them for the distance.) Honest to God, I thought Twilight was supposed to be an example of bad tweenage fantasizing, not the way most adult relationships are written. And the complexity in the Hunger Games relationships is staggering in comparison to the adult books I've been reading.

One more note just on the audiobooks (and this is true of all audiobooks): Can they please do simple things like checking the pronunciation of names before hitting "record"? There are two names that are super common here in the SW that I've heard them stumble over--in a Hillerman book, they pronounced "Vigil" as "vidgel" (it's Spanish and pronounced "VEE-hill"), and in the first RK book, she gets a call from a coroner named "Lujan"... which the reader pronounces as "Loo-zhohn" (it's LU-han--I've read it with both a long a like in "father" and a short a like in "cat," but never EVER with an English "j"). That one bugged me more because the author obviously had it right--the secretary passing on the message said, "That doctor... you know, Lou-Anne?" which should have twigged the reader to know that NO ONE would miss hearing an audible "j" sound in the middle... but sure enough, our brilliant, LA native detective, immediately calls the morgue to ask for Loo-zhohn. And someone let a reader get all the way through Ender's Game without knowing how to pronounce "Hegemon." Seriously, "Heggy-man." Audio producers, can you PLEASE make this small, tiny effort?
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