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Books: Three Pairs, One Solo - Qualified Perceptions
Books: Three Pairs, One Solo
One For the Money and Two for the Dough (Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich)
Baltimore Blues and Charm City (Tess Monaghan series by Laura Lippman)
These two series seem to be of a kind, somehow. Scrappy female amateur detective-ish (bail bond hunter and lawyer's investigator, respectively), part mystery, party comedy. The Stephanie Plum series is going a bit more for goofy comedy - and does a pretty good job - while the Tess Monaghan series is more about quirky. Stephanie is a little inept, but persistent and lucky; Tess is a good liar, less inept, but still not brilliant. I think I like the latter series a little better; "quirky" appeals to me more than "goofy". Every New Year's Day, Tess buys a new journal notebook, puts her resolutions on the first blank page, considers how she can accomplish them, and then files the book next to all the others. That really amused me. Baltimore is a strong presence in the books, but it's not a city I know. Stephanie Plum seems similarly fond of its locale, but they keep calling it "the burg" (I think it's Trenton), so I couldn't quite decide if it was a real city or a fake one. Maybe people from Trenton do all call it that. The Stephanie Plum characters are a bit more over-the-top; the Tess Monaghan ones have some stereotypes, but some interestingly nuanced characters too. Anyway, the first set are a light fun romp, but I'm not sure I'll read enough of them to get to Mooner (who I was looking for, after learning he was Fictional in Conflux...); I'll probably try and pick up another few of the Baltimore series. Three stars for the Stephanie Plums, three and a half for the Tess Monaghans.

Scar Night (by Alan Campbell)
I started out thinking I would love this book, but by the end I only liked it reasonably well. The setting is amazingly evocative, though it took me close to a hundred pages to quite get it straight in my head. It's a city, built on and suspended by huge chains above the abyss, dangling perilously and reinforced with rope and smaller chains and such. I wasn't sure for a long while whether it was on a cliff, or somehow hanging below a roof above nothingness, or what; it finally clarified as a city in a desert, built above a huge circular nigh-bottomless pit. Anyway, despite that initial vagueness, the city atmosphere, the temple, the young angel, the ancient Broken angel, the Poison Kitchens... I really like the world, and it's something I'd love to play in. The story starts up with interesting mysteries, and creepy characters; by the end, there have been a lot of nice reveals but also a lot of confusing bits and dropped plots and major characters that don't do much of anything or go much of anywhere. It's like, well, a city suspended on chains above an abyss; it hangs together, but it's a bit implausible and there are a lot of holes. The first half of the book is a three and a half stars with hopes of four, but it drops to below three by the end. (It's the first book of a trilogy, but that's not mentioned on the cover, only inside. Tsk.)

Greywalker (by Kat Richardson)
I was expecting this to be one of the sexy-paranormal type genre, but it turned out there was no sex! Surprising. So I guess it's an urban fantasy. Private investigator suffers near-death experience, becomes able to see and interact with weird shit, hilarityplot ensues. In general, enjoyable, though I minded the oddest things. In no particular order, but with SPOILERS, some commentary:
  • The plot is definitely fast moving. She's having her near-death experience on page three, and seeing weirdness by page five. Pretty much everything that happens gets interrupted by something else happening, including "and then I went home/to work" which gets interrupted by random assassination attempts.
  • Nevertheless, the main character seems to maintain an internal checklist of Plots To Remember (much like tirinian in Conflux). She's having dinner with the people who are teaching her about the Grey, and it's interrupted before pie, by a phone call about the car of the guy she's looking for. She heads there, there's a vampire in the trunk, there's a fight with thugs, there's a fight with the vampire, she makes friends with the vampire, they go to her office to talk, and then she takes the vampire back to dinner, so she can have her pie. She really does need the checklist, because there are a lot of plots to keep track of; the love plot in particular suffers from not having enough cycles, and one major plot (admittedly, one that Harper doesn't want to deal with) just seems to be dropped on the floor.
  • With a similar RPG-ish feel to it, you can see her buying the techie as a contact. She gets the techie to alarm her office. Then she calls him back later to check on why something worked oddly. Then she calls him again to have him alarm the vampire's car trunk. Then she calls him again to to have him help her get past security when she breaks into the museum. This last one is definitely Not Like The Others, but by the time it happens, the guy has been firmly acquired as a helpful NPC contact, and she's made her roll, so he has to help.
  • Given the existence of a vampire named Alice Liddell in the story, I really wanted more of a hint of what I had to imagine as a terrible, dramatic backstory. I was quite disappointed by the lack thereof.
  • The plot of "stir up trouble by talking to other vampires" felt insufficiently described; as written, it just sounded like "talk to other vampires." Again, it felt like Harper's player made some sort of a social roll and described the effect she wanted, but neither she nor the GM knew how to describe it.
Anyway, about three stars, but I'm curious to see whether the second book in the series pulls things together more coherently. Which brings us to...

Poltergeist (by Kat Richardson)
It's a much more focused story (based, interestingly, around an actual old paranormal experiment (the Philip Project, in which participants "created a ghost"). There's more detectiving, but it's also quite a bit slower than the first book. Again, it's mostly a reasonable story, but there are a bunch of random things that were just a little jarring, so it didn't end up being as fun as I might have hoped. Another about-tree-stars book.


2 comments or Leave a comment
mijven From: mijven Date: December 20th, 2007 07:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
You really need to stop posting about books that I have no time to read. :)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: December 20th, 2007 07:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I could try to find some really short books to review!
2 comments or Leave a comment