Monday, July 18, 2016

Detectives East, Detectives West

Careless in Red (Inspector Lynley #15) (2008) by Elizabeth George: Well, if nothing else, I'd suggest that the first of Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley mysteries you ever read shouldn't be this one. It was mine. Nonetheless, there's stuff to admire in this over-sized, over-stuffed mystery set in coastal England among the surfers and locals and tourists. George is a solid and detailed writer of characters, even when those characters slowly move from interesting to boring to intolerable, as they so often do here.

Another reason not to make this one's first Lynley would be the after-effects of a tragedy that afflicted Lynley at the end of the previous novel. It might be better to start with Lynley the upper-class Lord who joined New Scotland Yard and not sad Lynley walking the coast and avoiding everyone he knows.

Jesus, though, this is a long novel (and all of George's mysteries seem to be of similar lengths). Do people really want mysteries that are this long and this melodramatically stuffed with a long list of characters whose lives are explored in exhaustive detail? I guess they do. I think mysteries generally work better at shorter lengths, perhaps 60,000 to 90,000 words for  novel (Careless in Red looks to be about 200,000+ and feels like a million by the end).

Well, and the ending is stunningly unsatisfactory. It partially exists to show that Lynley was right all along and that the investigation of one suspect was pointless, but the attendant lack of closure leaves a sour taste. You will learn a lot about surfing, though, and you will marvel at the ridiculous, comic-relief detective-sidekick Barbara Havers. George is an American who's made a successful writing career out of these giant British mysteries. Anglophilia never gets old. Not recommended as a first Lynley adventure.

Chasing Darkness (Elvis Cole #12) (2008) by Robert Crais: A typically zippy Elvis Cole detective novel set in and around Los Angeles, this time during Fire Season. That cynical knight Cole and his occasional crime-fighting partner Joe Pike seek to unravel the mystery of a dead serial killer who shouldn't be able to have been a serial killer. Cole's relationship with the police is typically rocky, the mystery fair and nicely plotted, and the climax slightly less bloody and body-count-intensive for Crais. 

Ignoring the tricks played with large print and line spacing in this paperback, one notes that Chasing Darkness clocks in at just about the typical length for a 1950's or 60's hard-boiled detective novel -- it's short and to the point. There's a lot of police procedural this time around, as Cole follows the LAPD's investigation with one of his own. Solid entertainment. Recommended.

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