We’ve had unusual weather this past week, very chilly for a few days, then very warm and humid for a while, with plenty of wind and rain, as well as sun and cloud. It’s been strange, as every day was different. Today it’s a bit cooler and overcast, which is pleasant weather for walking, reading and drinking warm beverages, all things I’m going to do today. But first I need to write this post.
I’m nearly finished reading The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, but I will tell you about this book next week after my Volunteer book club gets together to discuss it. I finished listening to an audiobook earlier in the week, though, which I want to tell you about. Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan, which I just realized is the first in a series of crime thrillers featuring protagonist David Loogan, begins with David and his boss, Tom, burying a body in the woods near a park in Ann Arbor, Michigan. David is an editor working at Tom’s literary crime magazine, Grey Streets, and he and Tom get along pretty well, going out for drinks together and sharing confidences. When Tom calls on him to help bury the body, David doesn’t ask too many questions, but he’s a keen observer of crime scene details and is curious about Tom’s story that the dead man was a disgruntled ex-con/burglar who was also a contributing writer to the magazine. To his credit, he doesn’t pry into other people’s business very often, and is generally happy to leave people to themselves, expecting the same courtesy from others. David is a bit of a mystery: no one knows about his past, and he’s reluctant to discuss the details of his life with anyone, even Tom. This question runs through the novel: “How much do we really know about anyone?” When Tom is found dead on the sidewalk under his office window, everyone initially thinks he jumped, but the detective on the case, Elizabeth Waishkey, doesn’t buy it and goes digging further. Just as she identifies a likely suspect, another writer from Grey Streets, he, too, turns up dead, this time in his car out on a deserted road near a field. Once again, the obvious conclusion is suicide, and once again, Elizabeth (or maybe it was David?) thinks this is too easy a solution, that there must be more. And when another body turns up, David hightails it out of town (or does he?), but encourages Elizabeth to keep on looking at all the possible suspects in order to finally uncover the truth about these murders and the motives behind them. When I started listening to this audiobook, I thought it seemed a bit, hmmm, “cheesy” is the best word I can come up with. I’m not a big fan of pulp fiction, and this seemed to fall into that category: cheap, low-quality fiction that is too staged and predictable for me. But I was sucked in because I sensed that perhaps there was a story-within-a-story happening here, a bit of meta-fiction, where the author is acknowledging that this work of fiction is a work of fiction, even making a point of drawing attention to this fact when he has different characters remark at various times throughout the novel, “If this was a story in Grey Streets…” or "This isn't a story in Grey Streets". In my opinion, this aspect of the novel raises it to a level above pulp fiction, but not by much. Although I just finished it a couple of days ago, I found the plot so convoluted, so complex and complicated, with so many twists and false leads, that it was hard to make sense of the ending and I’m still not sure exactly who killed who and why. And, unfortunately, the very last scene in the book was once again too cheesy for my taste. Was it an interesting listening experience? Sure! And I always enjoy a bit of meta-fiction for a change, but I don’t think I would recommend this to anyone unless you really enjoy this genre. At least it lived up to the motto at Grey Streets: “Plans go wrong, bad things happen, people die.”
I’ll close by mentioning a few things I’m thankful for on this Thanksgiving weekend: the ability to download books for free from my public library website; the fact that my mp3 player doesn’t have a date stamp, so the books I download continue to be available until I delete them; and the many great writing talents out there who keep producing entertaining, interesting, or otherwise worthy books for us readers to enjoy.
That’s all for today. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Bye for now…
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