Newsletter - Late to the Party by Michael

Saturday Feb 01 2014
by Michael

Happy New Year! As my life is no longer composed of the mostly self-destructive composition of a doctoral thesis, I have decided to embark on a new reading mission. Recently it has not been much of a problem for me to keep up with new authors, mostly because they have only a few titles to their name, I have continued to allow my knowledge of older authors to fall further and further behind. Many, if not all of the authors I will attempt to feature here will be familiar, and some, no doubt will be passé. However, I figured that going back over such writers may serve as a reminder of how much you enjoyed them, or give you the same second chance that I am taking for myself.

Robert Crais is best known for his Peter Pan emulating, Vietnam veteran LA detective Elvis Cole. As we have the first two books in the series, Monkey’s Raincoat and Stalking the Angel in store, I have begun to familiarise myself with Crais and his protagonist. The writing style of these first two books belies Crais’ start as a television script writer, mixing snappy prose with detailed settings, as well as exhibiting the same quality that leads a writer to have more than twenty published titles. I particularly appreciated that Cole, while competent and witty, was not infallible. The somewhat messy outcomes of these two books depict a world which is not perfect, where solving the problems does not mean success, and success does not equate to a happy ending. The nuance that Crais provides in this regard was note-worthy.

While waiting for the next Elvis Cole , Lullaby Town,  to arrive, my enjoyment of a pre-internet and cell-phone detective led me to go even further back and pick up the first of John Le Carre’s George Smiley novels, Call for the Dead. While more of a traditional murder mystery than the espionage thriller I was expecting, I was nevertheless enthralled by the prose and the pacing. While typically I am able to predict the arc of a book from the start, I found myself constantly surprised. Even more satisfying from my perspective, was the way in which Le Carre foreshadowed the solution of the mystery. While many modern protagonist solve their crimes with a sudden leap in logic not explained until the reveal, Smiley, Le Carre’s unlikely spy/sleuth does so only with evidence presented on the page.

Overall, I think I enjoyed Call for the Dead even more than either of the Crais novels, though comparing the two is unfair to both of these accomplished and readable authors, who both do an excellent job in fulfilling the criteria of their time, their characters, and my expectations.

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