I’m reading two different crime/mystery books this week:
These books are very contrasting, not only in volume but also in structure, character description, final delivery of each chapter, and writing style. I have never read anything from these two authors. Of course, I am familiar with the work of J.K. Rowling, but not her criminal fiction published under the name of Robert Galbraith.
The book of John Straley has a distinct writing style (especially if we take into account that this is a crime novel): a fluid, melodic, vivid, somewhat romantic narrative, which is absolutely unexpected. We don’t think books of this genre to ever represent a soft, lullaby-like style. After all, the hero, the murder, and the plot are the main ‘drive’ of crime fiction.
I chose this book by accident, without any expectations, and it caught my eye since:
- The story is set in 1935
- The author lives in Alaska (Sitka), and his hero, Slip, goes on a heart-stopping adventure from Seattle to Alaska
The novel (329 pages) is partly a mystery, partly adventure, and partly crime. Below you can read two excerpts from the book:
It would take weeks for him to understand what he was feeling as he walked toward the blonde woman. There would be storms and killings to come, there would be beatings and long hours of recrimination, but still he would try to hold on to his original impulse: the sound of the river with a beautiful woman standing under a tree. All he wanted to do was help her in a way that he hadn’t been able to help Jud, or his parents for that matter – or even himself. He wanted to make something right, on this fine morning when he was headed out for his fresh start. But, of course, by the time he recognized his mistake it would be too late. The future, like a breaking wave, would have washed over him.
He wondered why there had never been any stories about the curve of a woman’s arm, about how it might look like a slender limb of a fruit tree. There were no stories about the softness of her skin or the smell of her scalp. There were no stories about the sound of her voice or the way she sat in a chair. There was never anything about what a woman said, or felt, or thought. As he thought about it driving down the road he wasn’t surprised, for to mention something tender about a woman would cast a pall of loneliness on these men, who had long ago chosen their bunkhouse lives and the day-to-day heartache of ruining the woods.
I think Robert Galbraith’s Troubled Blood will greatly interest people living in Scotland and England. It is saturated with local jokes, scenarios, and dialect, comparable (in my experience) to the very thick volumes of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Perhaps that was the author’s idea – to create an epic crime story; otherwise, I can’t understand why the book is 1072 pages long. Of course, the author is describing each character in detail; I’d even say stepwise. I am currently reading Chapter 4, but let’s look at Chapter 3 (by the way, I enjoyed the two first chapters, very sharp, with an excellent dialogue).
In Chapter 3, the main character (Robin) is sitting in the car during surveillance. While she is waiting there, we are learning quite a lot about her life, divorce, and her likes and dislikes. Suddenly, a massive number of unknown names appear:
- Matthew, her former husband. I get it, though…
- Tufty and his life story, the man she is following.
- Then some Morris…
- Then flashbacks to Charlotte, the ex-wife of her colleague, plus Elsa and Herbert.
- After that to the light comes Edward, who is Tufty, I guess.
- Tufty’s wives with their kids
- And so on.
I understand, of course, that our hero, Robin, is sitting in the car, bored and tired, and flashbacks or memories make the story enjoyable, but it was too many in one place for my liking, and no one was even killed so far.
This is a crime/murder mystery book… Something terrible must happen, right? Somebody has to kill someone, and the faster the better, otherwise I wouldn’t call it a crime novel (this is a story about a cold case, but still…). I have to admit, the author has an uncanny knack for creating characters, but they’re all serving subplots that seem to have been going on for some time, with little forward motion.
My personal opinion – an all-inclusive, long, explicit description of each hero (their lives before and after) in one chapter can create a real fear to continue reading.
Rule #1 of crime/noir fiction: waste no words.
The writing, however, does have a nice flow, is very detailed, full of dialogues and intriguing characters. I don’t think I’ll survive 1000 pages, but I did see a couple of pictures in the book, which is fun.
Also, from the other side—who am I to complain? I published a book with 60+ characters on 200 pages. Ouch!
What can I say?
I love well-organized chaos.
With that… I’ll leave you to continue your fantastic vacation! 🤸🧘♀️🏊♀️
Next post – The Story of Harmless Bullet. Day 17