Thursday, July 22, 2004

20 Second Book Reviews™

A new and hopefully recurring feature here at the Crime Fiction Dossier: 20 Second Book Reviews™, specially desgined for the hyper-busy, easily-bored and short attention-spanned!

Walter Mosley - Little Scarlet (Little, Brown, $24.95): The 8th Easy Rawlins novel finds the amateur detective in the tense, confused days following the Watts riots of 1965. Easy is tasked by the LAPD to investigate the murder of a young black woman, supposedly at the hands of a white man. Although Mosley's writing is as good as ever, for the first time in the series it feels like he's trying to push a message, rather than just tell a good story.

Michael Simon - Dirty Sally (Viking, $23.95): An interesting noir debut with an excess of style that eventually grows tiresome. The characters aren't much fun to read about and the crimes (involving drugs and dead prostitutes) grow repetitive. Simon is trying to write in the James Ellroy mold, it seems, which is tough even for Ellroy himself to pull off at times. This writer shows promise, but Dirty Sally ultimately falls short.

Keith Ablow - Murder Suicide (St. Martin's Press, $21.95): This is the fifth in a series featuring forensic psychiatrist Frank Clevenger, although the first I've read. Clevenger is an excellent character and the plot, about a brilliant inventor who commits suicide hours before experimental brain surgery, is likewise well-crafted. Although the story isn't particularly suspenseful, it still works as an interesting procedural.

Simon Kernick - The Murder Exchange (St. Martin's Minotaur, $24.95): An ex-mercenary squares off against a London detective in this veddy British thriller about a bodyguarding job gone horribly awry. Some of Kernick's writing is quite clever and he often makes a nice turn of phrase, but the alternating first person narrative and some problems with the characters spoiled this for me.