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My Beautiful Murder Monday

What I've Given Up on For Now

A Forest of Eyes. Nothing was sticking together in my mind. Sorry, Victor Canning. I'll try again some other time.

What I've Finished Reading

It should probably come as no surprise that in Last Ditch, [this is a spoiler]Ricky Alleyn gets kidnapped, AGAIN. That's what you get for trying to be in a book, Ricky! Look how worried your dad is; you can almost see it in his face if you know what to look for. :( There's also an incredibly melodramatic Marsh reveal, and toward the end a very minor character announces that she is a member of the Lamprey family, for absolutely no reason except The Readers Love Lampreys. For fans of unexpected cultural reference points, there's an offhand reference to The Black and White Minstrel Show, a British blackface variety show that ran until 1978. By far the best thing about this book was Alleyn wrestling with the inevitable anxieties of detective paternity in his low-key way; otherwise, it's a pretty standard mid-level Marsh. The supporting characters are all reasonably alive as long as they have narrative functions to perform, and evaporate instantly on closing the book.

The Monkey's Mask by Dorothy Porter:

[Hippie Poets]
After the break
it's a hippie circus

three pretty boys, one mug girl
tossing their curls

shouting their poems
between costume changes

whales and rainforests
line after blubbering line

get me a harpoon
get me a bulldozer

better still
fetch my wicked woman

darling, don't make me sit
through this shit

on my own.

This is billed as "an erotic murder mystery," which in practical terms means that the narrator spends a frustrating percentage of book time having sex with a woman who is very, very, very obviously bad news, to the detriment of her investigation, a missing person case that turns into murder. This creates an interesting tension of satisfactions, because the sex scenes (poems) are pretty good as these things go, and the case is compelling, but they tear at one another -- which I guess is the point. The intensely intimate first-person narration (the verse structure gives you the impression of thoughts pounded out in pacing, or dragged forward by the rhythms of the car radio and the road) makes the narrator's attachment to Diana a hundred times more anxiety-inducing, and also more irritating, than it would be in third person, or even in first-person paragraphs.

Even though I've never been to Australia, I'm tempted to say this book is very Australian - it has the kind of sharp gritty sense of place that creates an illusion of familiarity - an imaginary Australian nodding in ersatz recognition at the back of my mind. Some of the poetry-scene stuff feels a little more artificial, and the book suffers a little from the classic verse-novel problem that some of the poems are inevitably duller than others. Mostly the verse is a perfect fit for the kind of book it is: hard-boiled, hard-bitten, fleshy and sad.

What I'm Reading Now

Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie. The title character is a very charming dog who has been unjustly blamed for an accident that was probably a murder attempt by a human. Poirot will sort it out eventually. This one is narrated by Hastings, and I'd forgotten just how much of an incorrigible Jam Watson Hastings is. When the woman who sent Poirot a mysterious letter turns out to be dead, he's all, "No sense in hanging around here, then, is there? Mystery solved!" Oh, Hastings. Just spread him on a scone and call him breakfast.

The next book in my Mystery Bundle is something special I am very pleased to be able to share with you all.
are you hard enough

"Hardman slugs the wrong man, swings with the wrong woman, and winds up on the wrong end of a hit artist's gun."

This book is promising enough so far. Private investigator JIM HARDMAN and his buddy HUMP DAVIS like to hang out in dive bars in Atlanta, but sometimes, as in the opening chapter, randos try to stab them. Thus the opening mystery, if not the one that will occupy us for the rest of the book, becomes, "Who wants to stab HARDMAN, and why?" Maybe some people just don't like names that are also character traits. Investigating this incident will presumably lead us down a tangled path to more mystery, if the promises of the front and back covers are to be believed (actually, the back cover outline makes it sound a lot like The Big Sleep). But is there a right end of a hit artist's gun?

HARDMAN #6: Murder's Not an Odd Job could go a lot of ways at this point, most of them a little on the unpleasant side, but I'm cautiously optimistic. Anyone who would name his characters JIM HARDMAN and HUMP DAVIS has to have a sense of humor. . . right?

What I Plan to Read Next

Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh. Ngaio Marsh, I'm going to miss your stupid title puns such a lot. I mean, I know they'll all still be here, but can anything recapture the magic of learning their ridiculously on-the-nose significance for the first time? I doubt it.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 12th, 2016 07:27 pm (UTC)
HUMP DAVIS. What a name. He's lucky he ended up as a detective's buddy and not in a low-rent porno with a name like that.
Sep. 12th, 2016 07:33 pm (UTC)
A HUMP by any other name. . . maybe it's short for Humphrey? Anyway, it's the only name we get. I think you have to have a certain amount of self-confidence to go around calling yourself HUMP DAVIS, so more power to him.
Sep. 12th, 2016 10:36 pm (UTC)
Sep. 13th, 2016 08:24 am (UTC)
Look how worried your dad is; you can almost see it in his face if you know what to look for.


I am scared by how 70s that book cover is. I spend a lot of my time in the 70s, but go out of my way to avoid the bit of it that looks like that. The names are spectacular, though and I can't help but feel that it might turn into pr0n partway through. Which would also be scary.

Sep. 13th, 2016 03:39 pm (UTC)
I don't know if I even have enough cultural context to make a lazy analogy about what this cover is like. There's a scowling head and a woman in a bikini and a guy getting punched! Excitement!

No pron so far, but several half-hearted stabs at lusty misogyny. The most interesting thing about them is their half-heartedness; HARDMAN assesses "the meat" of one or two women in a sort of confused way, but he's not really paying attention. HARDMAN has experienced some unexpected anxiety about aging and the softening (heh) of his large body. These things were unexpected because based on the cover image and the series title, I imagined him as a solid block of wood with a scowl drawn on. Instead, he spends several paragraphs worrying about his weight, and feeling grateful to this girl he picked up at a bar for looking kindly on his stomach rolls.

Edited at 2016-09-13 03:40 pm (UTC)
Sep. 13th, 2016 05:02 pm (UTC)
HARDMAN... not so hard? Heh...
Sep. 13th, 2016 09:28 am (UTC)
I think the language of Monkey's Mask is very Australian but otherwise I'm not sure - perhaps that aspect is just invisible to me.

DAMN that cover is amazing. I really want to know about Hardman #1-5 now.
Sep. 13th, 2016 03:30 pm (UTC)
The language makes me think "very Australian" though the number of Australians I have actually heard speak is probably under 10, so what am I even basing this impression on? a question for students of literature, maybe; I don't know exactly how it works.

Physical place details are few but in context they fell telling. There are some gritty beaches and a lot of driving. Probably most of the "sense of place" work is being done by the language.

ETA Hardman is a little unexpected - like he has a lot more anxiety about his body than I would have guessed from the cover, which is interesting - but the plot is confusing; I keep mentally dozing off.

Edited at 2016-09-13 03:42 pm (UTC)
Sep. 13th, 2016 02:34 pm (UTC)
Ladies and Gentleman we have the 1970s!:D I suspect a time traveller from the future who can't cope with 70s dodginess?

The Black and White Minstrels carried on as a stage show into the 80s!
Sep. 13th, 2016 03:45 pm (UTC)
Hah, poor time traveller! He's got a lot of stabbing to do, maybe he should take another approach, like not going to the 70s. Or maybe he was thrown back against his will; that seems more likely.

I did not know! I knew they briefly tried to do the show without the blackface, but the ratings dropped so they put it back on. :\
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


blase ev

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