Tag: mysteries (Page 2 of 4)

Copyright: © 2014 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. Photo Credit: ROBERT VOETS Caption: KRISTEN BELL as Veronica Mars in "VERONICA MARS."

‘The Thousand Dollar Tan Line’ Review

A Veronica Mars Mystery Novel Review

Mild, vague spoilers.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Veronica Mars series creator and movie writer/director Rob Thomas, and a person I have never heard of, Jennifer Graham, is a stand-alone Veronica Mars mystery novel that is also a direct sequel to the recent Veronica Mars film.

[one_third][/one_third]Tie-in novels are not usually the most sophisticated of fare. But I’ve read some–the odd Star Trek novel over the years, a few non-Ian-Fleming Bond books, and, for some reason, the novelization of Halloween II, which was one of the first novels I ever bought, when I was in fifth grade. Usually, I read this kind of thing when I’m looking for something feather light. So philosophically, I had to first ask myself, is this a tie-in novel or a continuation of the series? I think that the difference would be that a tie-in novel is never going to change the status quo. In other words, if you’re reading an NCIS novel, Mark Harmon’s character isn’t going to defect to Russia. What I’m getting at is that The Thousand Dollar Tan Line is, on some very basic level, a tie-in book. But on another level, it’s more than that because this book progresses the overall Veronica Mars story and changes to the world are made. It’s got a little heft to it, in other words.

If you read my adoring review of the movie, you’ll know that one of my criticisms of the movie was that there might have been a little too much world building in the movie, like it was a pilot for a new series. For instance, one of the characters gets injured in the movie. This novel details their recovery from the injury and some of the psychological effects of a catastrophic injury. That adds to my enjoyment of the movie because I see that the creators of the show realized that the injury was an issue with which they would have to deal. So again, that makes it feel more legitimate, a part of the Veronica Mars canon, which I think was the biggest hurdle this book had to get over for me.

How’s the writing? Weird. It starts off labored, with awkward diction, a little heavy on the thesaurus, and glossing over some important descriptions. But as the book goes on, the writing gets more comfortable with itself. And before I knew it, I was flying right along in my reading. There are different kinds of good reads. This is a fast, fun read. Did I find myself being challenged by it? Not really. But it was relaxing! I guess I feel like the first fifty pages would have benefited from a quick re-write. This feels like a first-draft by a very good writer.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line bills itself as a collaboration. Some people write together and some people don’t. Stephen King and Peter Straub–I think–traded off chapters to write The Talisman. (Editor’s Note: I love that book.) I have a feeling that series creator Rob Thomas might have come up with some of the plot points for this book, but that Jennifer Graham actually wrote it. Obviously, I have no idea for sure. But this book is so light that it doesn’t feel like a collaboration in the writing. Perhaps Thomas wrote some of the jokes? Again, I’m just spitballing here.

The mystery is all over the place in that manner of private eye books. We meander from place to place, person to person, waiting to find out the solution to the puzzle. Along the way, story lines are dropped and it can get a little annoying. For instance, one character cuts Veronica with a knife, but never really gets their comeuppance. I realize that not everyone is going to get just desserts, but I don’t think Sam Spade, Kinsey Millhone, Spenser, or especially Veronica Mars, would have let anyone get away with that. But overall, it’s a solid enough mystery with some fun twists and turns.

I’m familiar with the world of Veronica Mars. It was very difficult to gauge if someone who didn’t already know the world would get much out of it. For instance, I think if you don’t know Veronica, she comes across as someone who uses people as she is constantly using people in the book. For instance, her buddy, Mac, does a lot of work for her and they are constantly talking about how she isn’t getting paid. But I’ve read a lot worse mysteries. If you like mysteries, but don’t know Veronica, give this a shot and let us know what you think.

And for you fans who go to the world of Veronica Mars for her love life, there isn’t anything here for you. Logan has a few moments with Veronica in the story, but other than that there isn’t really any of the heat that the world has a tendency to create. I don’t think anyone new is dating by the end of the story.

But the question comes down to the same question that we ask with Halloween, Star Trek, or NCIS, does this book scratch the Veronica Mars itch? I’m going to say, yep. I enjoyed it. It’s kind of a stupid book, but no stupider than Gone Girl, which is a fun book. (Another Editor’s Note: Mike has to be the only person on the planet to describe Gone Girl as a “fun” book.) The Thousand Dollar Tan Line“\ feels like Veronica Mars’s world, furthers the story in an interesting way. If you like Veronica and find yourself wanting more of her world get yourself a copy of this book.

And I didn’t know it, but Kristen Bell reads the damn audio book! Maybe that would be even better!

Just One Evil Act

‘Just One Evil Act’ Review

I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth George for nearly twenty years. I first discovered her books while I was working in downtown Pittsburgh in the late ’90s. On my lunch break, I was browsing the mystery section at Barnes & Noble, looking for my next mystery book, when an employee recommended A Great Deliverance. I tore through the rest of the books in that series that were available at the time.

Over the years, Thomas Lynley’s story has meandered far from its center. Although I felt Lynley’s story made more sense in this book than it has in the last few, it served very little purpose, other than distracting the reader from the confusing main storyline.

Just One Evil Act was horrible, just horrible. I only finished it out of morbid curiosity.

Just before I began reading Just One Evil Act, I read someone’s comment on Goodreads.com that said the person didn’t believe Elizabeth George really wrote this book. I agree. Regardless of the meandering story, the actual writing was not up to the prose I have become used to reading from Elizabeth George. My first tip-off was that I didn’t need to pull out my dictionary once; her writing typically teaches me at least five new vocabulary words. Normally, I also come away feeling like I have had a glimpse of a character’s inner life that somehow illuminates human emotions and behaviors in a way that makes me feel wiser. Not this time! Either the publisher hired a ghost writer for this volume, or Ms. George polished off several boxes of wine while she was writing.

The crimes that were committed in Just One Evil Act didn’t make sense (the title doesn’t even makes sense because there were two evil acts!); they were not plausible. Previous crimes in previous books in this series have been dramatic, and even macabre, but still plausible. Why couldn’t the crime have been “ripped from the headlines” like in the past, rather than depending on recurring characters to go against their own nature? A stronger editor was sorely needed to craft a much better book out of this murky story.

Plus, Barbara Havers, one of my favorite Elizabeth George characters, was a caricature of the former, well-written character. It was as if the author kept a copy of Knickers in a Twist nearby, thumbing through it randomly, then dropping phrases into Havers’ dialogue with a heavy hand.

Perhaps the problem with this book is that Elizabeth George has been focusing more on the young adult series she has been writing. I enjoyed The Edge of Nowhere and I am looking forward to the second book, The Edge of the Water. Hopefully Elizabeth George’s prodigious talent will be on display in those books, because it certainly was lacking in this one.

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The Woodcutter

‘The Woodcutter’ by Kate Danley, Review

Fairy tales are hot right now. If you don’t think so, check out your TV menu, which is full of Once Upon a TimeGrimm and movies like Snow White and the Huntsman.

The Woodcutter, by Kate Danley, tells the story of, well, the Woodcutter, who is the steward of the forest. It’s his job to keep the balance in their world, meting out justice, as needed. He continually encounters familiar characters from other fairy tales and legends.

The Woodcutter has a very interesting premise, and at times the story is pretty engrossing. At the end, the action picks up and keeps you invested in the outcome. But until that point, you mind find yourself skimming ahead because you don’t quite care about what’s happening.

I wanted more from the characters in The Woodcutter. The Woodcutter, himself, is fairly one-dimensional. There’s a lot we never find out about him. Just holding back details about a character doesn’t necessarily make him more mysterious, just flat.

Lots of recognizable characters pop in and out of the story, including a few who aren’t strictly from fairy tales. Oberon and Titania, fairies, are a big deal in this book. They’re not necessarily friendly fairies. So if you’re a fan of fairy tales and legends, you might get excited each time someone has a cameo.

The overall mystery is somewhat interesting, but easily forgettable. As quick reads go, it’s written well enough. I’ve certainly read books that are much, much worse. But The Woodcutter is good enough that I wanted more, and I never got it.

A review on The Arched Doorway blog says, “There’s no investment in the plot or characters, nothing that tugs at your heartstrings and makes you hope it’ll all be okay.” But the review on the blog Books Take You Places says, “[Kate Danley] is a master at words and I found myself reading and re-reading many lines throughout. I highly recommend The Woodcutter to those of you looking for an enthralling and lovely read.”

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