I was browsing the mystery section at my local library the other day and found a lot not to like. I might be considered fussy, though not by me. I don't like my mysteries too cute, but I've sworn off the ever-escalating "can you top this" violence at the other extreme. Why are serial killers of young women so popular? I find it disturbing on so many levels.
Books I avoid include features such as:
- horrifically mutilated corpses of young women, and I don't care how good the writing is. I'm just done with this.
And on the other extreme:
- blurbs which include descriptions of Westies, Wheaten Terriers, or any small annoying dogs
- blurbs in which people "stumble across a corpse." Uh-huh. Repeatedly, book after book. Uh-huh. Really.
- blurbs for fantasy books which include anyone "wise in the lore of" anything
- any combination of cooking and murder
- books where the protagonist puzzles through one scenario after another, with the most gossamer of rationales, reeling off theory after theory based on nothing at all
- any combination of the romance genre with the mystery genre.
Which brings me to some deliciously awful writing I've been meaning to post. This is from Andrea Kane's "Dark Room," a book with a fairly good mystery which in my humble opinion is completely ruined by overlaying it with romance. You don't need to know much about the story to -- well, enjoy it is not quite write -- er, right . . . but here: Morgan is the one who, yes, "stumbled upon" her parents' bodies. Her father's best friend and his wife Elyse raise her along with their own daughter, Jill, with whom Morgan now runs an upscale dating agency. Lane is the hunky love interest. And now, with a flourish: ~~~~
“Dressed in an emerald-green velour Lacoste running suit, with her frosted blond hair cut fashionably short and wispy, Elyse invited Lane in, took his coat, and asked what he’d like to drink.”
“A lump forming in her throat, Morgan studied her mother’s handwriting—the flowing letters, the achingly familiar use of circles to dot her i’s.” (!!! Hair standing on end!!!) =:0
“Lane wasn’t quite sure what he was expecting, but it wasn’t the fine-boned brunette who walked in. Shoulder-length hair. Pale green eyes. Fine features and delicate build that conveyed fragility. But with a take-charge self-assurance that completely contradicted the vulnerable image. No, actually it enhanced it. Sensitivity and strength, composure and fire, with a depth and expressiveness in her eyes that spoke of compassion and pain.
‘Hauntingly beautiful’ was the term that sprang to mind.”
(Feel free to permit yourself a small shudder at any time.)
“He glanced from her to Jill and back. ‘Two beautiful, intelligent women--one, charming and intuitive, the other vivacious and enthusiastic. It’s a pretty unbeatable combination. I can see why clients flock to your agency.”
This last reminds me of those clippings the "New Yorker" used to run, captioned, "Shouts we doubt ever got shouted." Things like "The crowd shouted, 'take your wife and your childen and your old green Chevy and get out of town." Not really pithy shouting material.
I can think of no proper summarizing remark. I'm at a loss for words.