Posted tagged ‘mystery’

Review: Potter’s Field

May 11, 2010

Potter’s Field is the coolest idea for a crime story I’ve come across in a while.  The title refers to the cemetery in New York used for unidentified bodies, and it fills up with around 125 corpses a week according to the intro.  Enter John Doe, a vigilante detective whose determined to give each grave its proper name, and more often than not resolve a few loose ends from their lives.

It’s the best thing I’ve seen from Mark Waid in ages, and it’s really nice to return to the mystery genre, which he hasn’t really touched on since his days at Crossgen (unless you count his Elongated Man bits from 52).  And being a big ideas sort of writer, Waid writes fairly unique crime stories that focus squarely on those ideas.  

Potter’s Field works well for that, but Waid does lay it on a bit thick at time.  Besides having a protagonist named John Doe, there are also cases here involving identical twins and identity thieves.  I’m hoping as he tells more stories with this character he’ll stop adhering to his theme so strongly.  But either way, this is a very promising start.

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Review: The Final Solution

March 9, 2010

Hey! it’s back to back mystery reviews this week.  Now up, Michael Chabon’s novella the Final Solution.

Now I love Chabon!  One of the few “literary” writers whose totally unafraid to wear his genre influences openly.  And never moreso than in this book, a later day Sherlock Holmes tale (although the character is only ever refered to as “the old man” here), with a few allusions to Dashiel Hammet and told in the style of one of Philip K. Dick’s multiple perspective novels.

As for the plot, it’s post blitz England and a parrot has been abducted.  There’s a murder too but no one really cares too much about that because the parrot has been espousing a series of German numbers that may hold the key to defeating the Germans.

Chabon’s prose is as beautiful as always, and the story here gives him enough freedom to have some fun, like telling a chapter from the viewpoint of the parrot.  The ending isn’t a huge surprise for anyone familiar with the Maltese Falcon, but then that’s kind of the point of this exercise so that’s alright.

If you’re a fan of mysteries, or of Chabon, this one is a must read.

Review: Mucho Mojo

March 8, 2010

I have an enormous love for Joe R. Lansdale, he probably has the strongest voice of any author working today.  Regularly telling larger than life East Texan yarns with the ease of a natural-born storyteller.  And Mucho Mojo fits just cements that opinion in me further.

Now this is the second book to feature the characters of Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, although it’s the first I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  There will be others.  Hap and Leonard are a pair of mismatched Texan good old boys who have a tendency to find themselves in the midst of a series of grisly murder mysteries.  Hap’s a white farm laborer and Leonard’s a gay black man, who in the course of this novel lands a fairly sizeable inheritance.

It’s this inheritance that sets up the plot of this novel.  Amongst the belongings of his Uncle, Leonard comes across a chest containing a stash of child pornography along with the remains of a young boy.  Determined to prove his Uncle’s innocence Leonard (with Hap firmly in tow) starts up an amateur investigation into a crime the local police have opted to ignore.

The mystery itself is a bit formulaic and contains very few surprises, but the ease with which Lansdale tells it is wonderful to experience.  This is a fairly standard mystery at its heart, but it never feels like it.  The story progresses so naturally that the usual tropes pass by nearly unnocticed, and Hap and Leonard make a truly great pair of amateur detectives.

Review: Farthing

March 13, 2009

Jo Walton’s Farthing is a book I’ve been meaning to read for quite a while, and I finally picked it up after seeing Walton at this year’s Boskone.  I’m truly sorry I waited this long, it’s an amazing book.

The best description of it probably comes from Walton’s introduction in the Boskone program guide, it’s a dark cozy.  At first glance the novel reads as a very typical British, upper class, mystery.  A member of the house of lords is killed on his family’s estate following a dinner party and the scene is staged to implicate one of the house guests.  

The twist is the setting.  The book is an alternate history (which I don’t normally enjoy this much) in which Brittain signs a peace treaty with Nazi Germany, which then succeeds in overrunning Europe up to the Russian border.  The murdered man is one of those who helped bring about the treaty, and the man implicated in the crime is the jewish husband of the black sheep in the family.

The mystery might be at the fore of the novel, but it’s not the driving force of the story.  Instead Walton has written a tour de force showing how easily an entire nation can abandon its freedoms and its morals.  The book is devastating and relevant, while still maintaining its appeal to a more casual mystery reader.  Well done.

Review: Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service

August 4, 2008

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is the first manga I’ve read in quite a while and man is it an odd little series.  The book focuses on a group of 5 out of work college grads (and one puppet) who decide to start a business that conducts favors for the recently deceased thanks to one of them who can talk to ghosts.  The end result is a bizarre sort of horror/mystery/comedy with a truly unique tone that I loved.

In a basic Kurosagi story the group finds a corpse that died under some sort of mysterious circumstances, investigates the death, and then carts the body off to whoever was responsible so that it can be reanimated and get revenge.  The team then realizes they forgot to work out how to get paid for their services and then goes back to eating Ramen Noodles.  These stories can feel a bit formulaic at times but Eiji Ohtsuka milks the concept for all its worth so that it never actually feels repetative.

It’s also amazing how well he manages to balance both the humor and the horror of these stories.  Make no mistakes this is a horror book and some truly awful things occur throughout the series.  We recently purchased this series for the library and I actually have a few reservations about adding it to the collection due to a scene in the first volume (but that is the only time that I feel it may cross that boundary).  So clearly this is not a book for everyone, but I happened to love it.

Special Announcement

July 1, 2008

For a little over two years I have been writing a mediocre book review blog in addition to this site.  Now that I’ve begun to write posts here on collection development for geeks it started to seem a bit ridiculous to keep the two blogs separated.  So as of July 1st I am retireing my second blog in favor of posting my reviews here.

So, a note on my reading habits is in order.  In keeping with my geek cred, The overwhelming portion of my book addiction is comprised of comics and s.f., with occasional detours into mysteries and horror, although other things do crop up from time to time as well.  Enjoy.