February 18, 2008

Love and loss of a character. (and a book review)

I’ve said before my love of reading and writing started with Nancy Drew. While it’s technically true, I hadn’t realized until recently that I already had a love of mystery books way before I met Nancy.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned my childhood fascination with Encyclopedia Brown. I remember going to the library and getting new books every week and it was always an Encyclopedia Brown book. At first, I couldn’t figure out who the culprit was. Eventually, I got to the point where I would go back and read parts to see if I remembered a clue correctly, and tried harder to solve the mystery. Soon, I was figuring it out pages before being told. I read however many of them I got my hands on back in the early 80’s. I think I must have stopped reading them when they were too easy but I honestly don’t remember.

I was twelve when Nancy hooked me back into mysteries. I read and actually kept every Nancy Drew book at the time. I had my own bookshelf; all the books were in number order. White, pretty little pillars of my accomplishments. I was reading real novels! These mysteries got a little too easy after reading about twenty or so of them.

One day, I learned of the book trader. Bring your paperback books in for credit and get other used books in return. Excellent! I brought my stack to there. (I think they might still have a few copies of them left over…) I found my next author. Mary Higgins Clark. (I also started reading Star Trek books, but that’s a different story.)

At sixteen, her books can be pretty scary. I started with Where are the Children? and devoured everything after that up until her latest was coming out at the time, Loves Music, Loves to Dance.

These weren’t the same types of mysteries, rather moved toward the suspense genre. Still, I was able to figure out some of the bad guys before they were revealed the more I read. I stopped reading her in the mid 90’s as I had discovered other authors like Stephen King, John Grisham, Iris Johansen, Catherine Coulter. Aside from King, I noticed a trend. I liked death, violence, suspense, and mystery in my novels.

After those authors grew stale for me, or I lost interest in their characters, I searched for something new. A friend of mine gave me Eyes of Prey, by John Sandford. Once more, I was hooked.

I went through all available books straight through, once more, until I was caught up with the series, then subsequently waited for all the new releases.

I just finished Invisible Prey. Woot. I just read it…all…day…long. Okay, I read a chapter yesterday, then picked it up this morning. Finished it in between commercials during American Dad…anyway, I digress.

Sandford’s novels are called Lucas Davenport Mysteries. Well, because Lucas has to solve them. After reading the first book, I was utterly confused. Sandford, after teasing for a while, tells you who the bad guys are. Maybe not ALL the bad guys, but the ones Lucas is chasing.

Sometimes, I still get aggravated when he doesn’t put it together faster, even though I love the way he does it. I know that’s selfish of me because I know more than he does, but still…I can’t help myself. It took me a while to stop trying to figure out the whodunit part and focus on the howwhydunit part.

So, usually when I do something like watch a movie, or TV show or read a book, I like to reminisce if you will. As I write this, I’ve come to realize that Sandford keeps my attention because I don’t have to try and solve the mystery, I just have to watch someone else do it. With all those other writers, it became too easy. The red herrings were so obvious they slapped me in the fast the instant I met them. Perhaps this is because I read most of their books one after the other and honed in on the writing. Maybe they just got lazy. Maybe I was just dating those books until I found something better.

I admit, I am fickle and narrow in my reading selection for the most part. I have expanded my genre range, and have "read" outside the box. However, I only have five authors on my must-buy-as-soon-as-the-fricken-book-com
es-out list. And, it’s only one specific character(s) driven series. I have an overflowing shelf of books, some by those five authors, another character series or stand alone, and a plethora of other authors I’ve never read before waiting for me. I just haven’t gotten through any of them yet.

I was honestly surprised that I picked up Sandford’s book and couldn’t put it down. I shouldn’t have been, but I was. I tried reading one of his new books outside the series, but never finished it. I didn’t care about that character. The writing was still awesome, it just didn’t take hold. So, I was worried going into to Invisible Prey. Whew.

Of course now, I’m reading with a keener eye. Before, it was all about entertainment and though I do try to just read for reading’s sake, sometimes I notices things. With other authors it was the same plot, different character. Other authors it was crappy dialogue or too much telling me the plot instead of unfolding it. Sandford hasn’t gotten sloppy. Sure, at this point, he’s doing a bit more telling than he has in the past, but I guess it makes sense. The majority of the people picking up the book already know Lucas, his life, his history. For the sake of those who might not, though, he fills you in with a bit of telling, not a problem for me. Keeps the pace fast and moving. And after reading the Kouga Ninja Scrolls, I don’t hate “telling” so much despite what the experts keep trying to tell us writers.

Seriously, doesn’t it get exhausting trying to come up of ways to “show the audience” what someone looks like with action? “Samantha, fidgeted with her bra, her abundant D-cup breasts jiggled and her blue eyes sparkled mischievously.” What’s wrong with “Samantha was a blue-eyed Barbie clone.” You get my drift…

So, I still love Lucas. Oh, the review…sorry.

Two old ladies are killed in a big dark mansion, not far from Lucas’ house. Though he’s busy with another case involving a politician and an under aged girl, he’s got his eye on the murder-robbery, his gut, telling him something is off.

As Lucas and the gang get more involved in the murder, and trying to work on the politician without pissing off a bunch of people in high places, more strange things start to pop up. A woman named Gabriella comes to him claiming her grandmother was murdered and robbed in the similar fashion as the other two ladies. He gets help in unlikely places, his wife Weather, a sharp teenager, and a over achieving intern.

The trail leads Lucas into the world of…antiquing, quilting, and money laundering. No, seriously. Anyway, Lucas and Smith get closer to uncovering the mystery, there’s an attack on the young girl, Jesse, associated with the Lucas’ political case. He connects more old-people-murder-robbery cases together starts finding the missing pieces he needs. Gabriella goes missing. He’s gets on the trail of his red herring. The Jesse’s house is firebombed. Lucas thinks the two cases are somehow connected now but it’s driving him crazy how…Then one of the suspects turns up dead and two women are accusing the other of foul play. A sting goes bad, but in the end, the good guys come out on top.

I found myself laughing a bit more than normal. This was one of the best Lucas books in the whole series. It had the right amounts of everything and was…just a great book. Some of the political and writing humor struck a cord. The supporting cast was on point, and we even got snippets of old friends and a character from his other series. (Never read Kidd, but I have a book on the shelf…) He introduced a few new characters that I hope will stick around for his next book, because I’m already looking forward to it.

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