December 2009


Author Rating: C+

Deadfall (read 12/20/09) Meh

Reading this book was like examining an ancient record of a lost time — the early to mid 1980s. As I got ready to write this review, I did a search for any earlier post mentioning the author and discovered he was already on my banished list as a result of his short story in a very bad anthology of very bad mystery writers. This particular book wasn’t so awful that I stopped reading before the end, but it being relatively short was a significant factor in the decision to continue.

Apparently Pronzini wrote a series of “Nameless Detective” mysteries, this being number sixteen. Nameless is on a stakeout, waiting for some deadbeats to get home so he can repossess their car, when he hears two gunshots coming from a nearby home. He sees a figure running away and, upon entering the house, discovers the victim who he later learns is a gay man named Leonard whose wealthy brother had died falling from a cliff months earlier. Leonard’s “house mate,” who believes the two deaths are related, hires him to find the killer.

Pronzini treats homosexuals as if they are another species. He has no understanding of human sexuality. “Confirmed homosexuals couldn’t be seduced by a woman, of course.”

He is equally clueless about women, ascribing to Nameless’ girlfriend the kind of stupid responses to things that one expects from a man who sees women as a separate species as well.

What also becomes clear in reading this is how much Pronzini disapproves of pot smoking and is one of those misinformed people who insist that it is a “gateway” to heroin.

I’m giving Pronzini a C+ because, if you can ignore the cluelessness and can tolerate caricatures instead of characters, the story itself is plausible.

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Author Rating: D

Celtika (read 12/15/09) forget about it

This is the first of Holdstock’s Merlin Codex series. The story covers the period before Arthur. Seven hundred years after Jason‘s death, Merlin discovers that Medea had not murdered Jason’s sons but had moved them forward in time. But Jason is not dead, he is still aboard his ship the Argonaut in the bottom of a frozen lake. Merlin rescues him and they set out to find Jason’s sons. It is through this adventure that Merlin first meets Urtha, an ancestor of Arthur, setting the stage for Holdstock’s version of the Arthurian Legend.

I was a bit impatient with the first third of the book but I think that is more my fault than the author’s. I have always found Merlin to be the more interesting character, and Holdstock does a pretty good job of bringing him to life.

The Iron Grail (read 1/18/10) forget about it

Merlin is in Alba (England) and finds Urtha’s stronghold, Taurovinda, has been taken over by ghosts of the dead and not-yet-born while Urtha and Merlin were off avenging the murder of Urtha’s family and to help Jason find his oldest son. Everyone eventually gets back to Taurovinda, the ghosts are cleared out and an expedition is mounted into Ghostland to find Jason’s second son.

The editing could have been much better. There are swaths that are confusing and/or contradictory, and too much that is repetitive. It would have been better had the first two books been combined and the filler left out.

The Broken Kings (read 2/9/10) forget about it

Reality finally came home to roost by page 65 of this, the third book in Holdstock’s “Merlin Coded.” Reading these novels is a complete waste of your time. Endless bullshit that signifies nothing, full of seemingly endless contradiction so that I could take no more and have thrown it over as a bad job.

Holdstock’s Merlin is unengaging, the action so slow and plodding that I couldn’t manage more than three or four pages before passing out.

If you like Arthur/Merlin stories, I highly recommend Peter David‘s very humorous series. Now there’s a “living mythmaker.” Holdstock? Meh.

Author Rating: D

Do not confuse this execrable writer with the recommended writer Christopher Moore.

The Risk of Infidelity Index (read 12/8/09) AVOID

I guess the publisher was desperate to find someone willing to say something good about this book to print on the jacket so they looked to another author, T. Jefferson Parker, who damages whatever reputation he might have by declaring that this awful piece of trash is “taut, spooky, intelligent and beautifully written.”

This is a horrible, badly written book that no one should waste their time with. I actually only managed to suffer through to about page 80 when I decided that I had really done nothing so bad in my life that I deserved to suffer through to the end.

I got the book from the library thinking it was by Christopher Moore, a writer who is actually good. It is unfortunate that they have the same name, only distinguished by the hack’s use of the middle initial G (to my mind, “Godawful”). This book could not have been more of a disappointment.

Author Rating: A

Murder At A Police Station (read 12/2/09) recommended

What a wonderful British murder mystery from 1943!

The protagonist is a wanna-be poet/police sergeant named Pork in the little village of Severing who, suffering from toothache and anxious about coming down with the mumps, receives a mysterious phone call from someone who seems to be in trouble. When Sergeant Pork arrives at the house to which he was directed, he finds that he has been the victim of some kind of prank, but when he returns to the police station, there is a man, shot through the heart, laying dead on the floor in the charge room. Pork had locked the doors when he went out and they were still locked when he got back. Who is this man and how did he get here?

Absolutely delightful.