Saturday, February 03, 2007

Two new authors, one re-read

I always find myself hovering over Liza Cody's books in the library, thinking "have I read them all? Surely this one is new? No... Yes... No...." and last week I borrowed Dupe, in one such fit of insecurity. A chapter in or so I was sure I had read it, but I obviously didn't recall enough of the story to be bothered by this, so kept going. I like Cody, and her heroine Anna Lee. Independent, believable, competent on the whole, but not perfect. Cody's best heroine in a way has to be Eva Wylie though, of the books Bucket Nut and Monkey Wrench, of which I've only read the latter. Eva is a big, ugly female wrestler who takes no shit, and it a little thick in some ways but very street-wise in others. I liked her.

Anna Lee is good too though. She is introduced to us in Dupe, a private detective working for a company led by the obnoxious Brierly. She is condescended to since she is a young woman, but useful to him in some cases. Like those involving runaway minors. Now however she takes on an investigation into the apparently normal traffic accident death of a young woman, since the parents are convinced something is not right. It's a good book on the whole. The cover says it was televised, but I haven't seen it. I strongly suspect it was less good on telly though. Telly tends to take out those little quirks that make a novel in a cliché-ridden genre like crime fic stand out.

On impulse I also borrowed an unknown, Blood Relation by Andrew Taylor. And I got this mostly because the praising blurbs on the cover are from Punch, The Times, Guardian... The snob within. It got me hoping for something like Peter Dickinson. And it sort of is. Taylor's hero is William Dougal, a charming man of slightly flexible morals. This has cost him a relationship, and also his daughter. Since this isn't the first book I can see that there is a lot of history in their relationship and Dougal's past that I don't know yet, so I'm hoping to find some more books.

The best thing is that Dougal is an academic, who worked and works in publishing, but has joined the security/PI business later. Speak of the devil, namely a little discussion I had with HB. Am very pleased.

Here Dougal investigates a disappearance which becomes a murder, which becomes someone elses murder. I liked it. Clever enough, no jarring plot holes, good writing!

However, my real find was Over Tumbled Graves by Jess Walter. I had never heard of him, but I was quite impressed. It appears to be a routine serial killer novel, but it's quickly clear that Walter is more interested in the abberations within us all and our society. It's quite feminist, with for example a lot of thinking about whether all men are predators - sparked by a prostitute saying that all the clients give her the creeps, even the ones that are "normal". The FBI profiler questions if our heroine, police woman Caroline Mabry is fit to investigate these serial killings, because as a woman she can never understand the mechanisms of male fantasy. His suspicion is that
Maybe every man who looked at a Penthouse was essentially embarking on the same path that ended with some guy beating a woman to death and violating her with a lug wrench. [...] If she coldn't imagine the violent fantasy, what could she imagine? The victim. The fear. And what good were those?

It's always really nice to read a male writer who can write so believably about a woman. I was honestly not sure whether Walter was male or female until I googled - being openminded and all his introductory acknowledgment of his wife and kids didn't prejudice me. I'm that cool.

I borrowed the other one of his novels the library had, and I'm looking forward to it. It's a good description of police work, it's think-ey, it contains the first example I've ever see of someone writing about New Orleans and not going all gooey-eyed over the place in manner of Anne Rice. Plus I learnt how to pronounce Spokane.

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