Did you ever meet someone and wonder if he/she was a potential killer? This morning found me in a Salon, minding my own business, trying to improve myself, and contemplating the homicidal impulses of another patron. She was a mystery fan, this odd stranger, so naturally I flogged my novels to her, despite the fact that the state of her hair (& her conversation) seemed a bit off. The clues added up the more we spoke: no car, no job, compulsive smoker.When she described a bad hair day at a Newbury St. Salon, and said she wanted to attack the stylist & kill her, I glanced at her oversize purse with some alarm. Most of us have experienced an occasional blip in the path to beauty, but homicidal thoughts do seem like an over-reaction. When she finally left, everyone in the place sighed and rolled their eyes. Probably not dangerous but certainly medicated or should be. Not to worry. For a writer EVERYTHING is material. This person’s aberrant behavior will show up in my next novel.
Fans of the execrable “Rizzoli & Isles” television show go no farther. Tess Gerritsen’s deftly crafted plots and characters bear no resemblance to the cartoonish portrayals and cringe-worthy dialogue on the small screen. She masters the intelligent police procedural and keeps readers turning every page with her. Gerritsen masters the big 3 of mysteries: engaging characters, lively pace and a cracking plot that only the most astute crime buff will solve. (I did).
SILENT GIRL seamlessly blends the raucous streets of Boston with the often unknowable mystique of China town. Maura Isles is a secondary character here, yielding center stage to a resurgent Jane Rizzoli and an intriguing protagonist and Sifu named Iris Fang. In tackling the coldest of cases, Jane probes a heinous mass murder that may be related to the disappearance of young girls. The author does a fine job with strong, flawed female leads whose qualities mesmerize us. The males in the mix are also captivating including her loyal partner Frost, the amorous Korshak, and an intriguing new detective named Johnny Tam.
I enjoyed this novel and recommend it to anyone (regardless of genre preference) who values a quality read.
This morning I spent 90 minutes chatting with a delightful ‘woman of a certain age’ at our dog training class. This sprightly lady discussed philology, Alexander Hamilton and the impact of Abigail Adams on the American Revolution. When we lamented the defeat of the recent ballot initiative on assisted suicide, she shrugged and said. “it’s easy enough to get what you need when the time comes.”
Imagine my surprise when she told me she was ninety years old, and not as sharp as she used to be!
Does anyone remember the angst of College mixers? Girls stepped timidly off the bus and walked the gauntlet of gaping, drooling adolescent males with snarky attitudes and lascivious thoughts. The nuns warned us that these dances were ‘occasions of mortal sin’ to which the bolder girls responded: “I hope so, Sister.” We were cautioned to avoid international intrigue–those Roman hands and Russian fingers that led straight to HELL. Most of us tried to pass the evening with minimal humiliation and a brave face. Success was equated to the number of partners one danced with even if they were closer to neanderthals than prince charming. The lucky ones met a decent guy with working brain cells who came calling the next week.
Everyone pitied the poor wallflowers who huddled on the sidelines wearing their cloak of invisibility.
These memories cascaded down on me last week when I faced yet another author book-signing. Despite the lively poster and carefully arrayed books, my worst fears materialized: It was college mixer time again, only this time, I was one of the wallflowers, gazing pitifully at each customer who brushed past me, hoping that my dazzling wit would captivate them and sell books; glancing furtively at my watch.
Now I empathize with those girls too shy to successfully navigate the college mixer. They’ve taken their revenge on me by sweeping down the aisles without even offering me a smile. Now I know what they suffered: I am a literary wallflower!
”Mistress”–semantics or sexism?
I’ve heard all the elaborate explanations and I’m unconvinced. For once, even the Bard’s inspired words (‘a rose by any other name’), leave me cold. The latest tempest in a particularly steamy teapot, has the word “Mistress” bandied about with such abandon that even Madame Pompadour would blush!
Paula Broadwell is most certainly not a ‘kept’ woman as the word mistress implies. Despite claims that it is merely a semantical distinction, I sense sexism and an unhealthy dose of contempt in the use of this term to designate a BAD woman, without a corresponding term for her male counterpart.(dupe or idiot spring to mind). She apparently was the General’s lover, paramour or sex partner. The same is allegedly true for him. As media lackeys (both male and female) trumpet the same tired jargon, the message seeps into the American consciousness. MISTRESS–hussy,strumpet, vixen, the kind of woman society should scorn and revile. Coupled with the strong presumption that the man in question was either duped (fog of war–please?), or beguiled by her charms, the stage is set for a modern replay of the Garden of Eden. This time around, the temptress holds a biography not an apple.
Can an idol have feet of flesh? Even fine writers occasionally dip a toe into the sea of mediocrity, right? Not so when the name is Nelson DeMille, known for deft dialogue, superior plotting, and characters that just won’t quit!
DeMille’s latest “The Panther” is another master work that thrusts the reader into the familiar world of John Corey, my very favorite series character. True, Corey is snarky, but that quirk is offset by his bravery and devotion to his country and long-suffering FBI wife. Any writer who longs to immortalize his/her creations, must take a lesson from any of DeMille’s many novels. His characters literally leap off the page, confounding us with emotions (often politically incorrect), that we may recognize in ourselves. No one does dialogue better–No One! So grab “the Panther” and while you’re at it, refresh your memory with John Corey’s other exploits (The Lion; The Lion’s Game). You’ll cheer, worry, and obsess about the plot lines and the fate of those involved. Writers will learn something; readers will be glad they found him.
Jack Reacher is my kind of guy: tough,smart, loyal and courageous. Unfortunately, in his latest appearance (A WANTED MAN), Reacher has yet another attribute: boring. Ouch! Has author Lee Child tired of the big guy, or is this lethargy a temporary blip on the literary landscape?
I’ve read every book in the Reacher saga, and despite some downturns (61 Hours), the series has maintained its vitality and even plowed new ground (The Affair). Part of the problem with the current novel is technique. Child kidnaps the reader taking him/her on a long, monotonous, sleep inducing road trip with 2 killers who couldn’t be more predictable.By the time the action ticks upward, many readers will have taken a permanent detour.
Times are tough for Jack Reacher with a lackluster effort like A WANTED MAN, and the unwelcome news that the elfin Tom Cruise will play him in a forthcoming movie. Let’s give the big fellow a break and stay loyal. He’s the kind of man anyone would want on the team!
Does murky weather turn your mind to murder? As one who constantly dabbles in the macabre, this thought occurred to me: what better time to commit the ultimate anti-social act? Odds are, in the midst of crushing damage and devastation,local authorities will attribute loss of life to the natural disaster unless of course a murderer dispatches his victim with a bullet, knife or garrote. The proverbial blunt instrument, a tried and true method, will likely go unnoticed in a tumult that accompanies a natural disaster. If this horrifies you, consider the source. There are no accidental deaths to a mystery writer, only novels yet to be written.
What makes a protagonist misbehave? She/he is your creation after all. Writers have the ultimate life or death power over the characters they create but invoking the nuclear option and casting them into the darkness is hard. After all, you’ve spent time with them: you know their foibles, feelings and fears. King Lear bemoaned that sharp serpent’s tooth that a thankless child presents and so it is with those who populate our novels.
I want my heroines to be smart, sassy and brave (like me), but sometimes they are shy, self-doubting doom-sayers (also like me). Mystery readers hope to escape everyday drudgery, showcase their detective skills, and enjoy the occasional hot guy. Being mired in misery is no one’s idea of fun, especially mine. I’m selling a lively mix of romantic fantasy where justice prevails and evil-doers are punished, not a poor woman’s version of Crime and Punishment. So it’s time to eliminate unruly characters and create the plucky, upbeat heroines that entertain audiences and sell books.
No hesitation this time: It’s the Tiger not the lady.