Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Public Service Announcement

Take my advice, never become a librarian. Oh sure, it sounds like a cool job - and if I'm honest, it is. But there's a very scary dark side to my life. One that I'm not proud of.

Because I'm a librarian, and literally have millions of books at my disposal, it's impossible for me to quit authors/series. There, I said it. Don't get me wrong, I stop buying my own personal copy - but it's damn hard for me to cut the cord completely. Shiny copies of offending series roll into work, I get distracted by the smell of new ink, and I think to myself, "Maybe this time will be different."

Which means when an ARC of Book Of The Dead by Patricia Cornwell rolled into my office, I got excited. Against my better judgment and the "Danger, Danger Super Librarian!" bells going off in my head. However, that was back in September and I'm just now getting around to reading this book that was released to the masses in October 2007. Why? Because I was scared. Because this series just ain't what it used to be, and I'm holding a grudge. Finally, the Older Sis read it and nagged me into finally reading it so we could discuss. So I did, and I have. My reaction?

Well....I didn't hate it.

How's that for faint praise?

This is the 15th book in the Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Medical Examiner series. The problems I had with this book are pretty much the same problems I've had with the last several. There's too much head-hopping, not enough Kay, and the author's betrayal of the Pete Marino character continues to grate on my nerves. Also, this series stopped standing alone a long time ago. I can't see any reader, not familiar with the series, starting with this book, and understanding anything that's going on. The writing style doesn't help matters, as it continues to spiral into disjointed and abrupt territories.

All that being said? I liked some things. For one, I liked Lucy in this book, and if you tell anyone I said that I'll deny it with my last breath (she's normally a character that annoys the crap out of me). I also like that Cornwell has finally pushed Marino off the cliff. Yeah, I'm still pissed that she's betrayed his character (in my mind anyway), but if you're going to do that, you might as well go whole hog. Frankly, assuming she doesn't drop the ball, it should make for compelling series fodder.

As for the plot? Um, yeah. I could have done without the politics. Listen, I know the Iraq war is a huge clusterfuck mess. I know many people think George W. is an overzealous cowboy playing cops and robbers with the largest military in the world. But just because I know this doesn't mean I want to read about in my fiction. I just don't. It's not that I want to hide my head in the sand, it's just that I like fiction as entertainment. Getting pissed off and angry is not, nor will it ever be, my idea of entertainment. So for that reason? I tend to avoid books that feature "real life" politics. I get enough of that crap at work (librarians should receive combat pay for wading through the monstrous pile of political books now being published) and on the evening news. So keep it out of my fiction thankyouverymuch.

I also feel that Cornwell has strayed too far afield from her trademark. Over the years she's focused more on her characters - much to their detriment (see above Pete Marino rant). Because of that, she's gotten farther away from her suspense threads. There's still a kernel of a compelling suspense thread, but between the disjointed writing and the character angst, it tends to get lost and underdeveloped. Says I, and I know all.

This is a hard book for me to assign a grade to, especially since this review is rather stream of consciousness. Lets go with Final Grade = C. I'm still pissed about Marino, but I was compelled by his story in this book. I also felt that while the writing left a lot to be desired, the author ended the whole affair on a strong note. Sucker that I am, I'll be reading the next book in the series. Damn me, and damn my job.


Ana T. said...

Ouch I guess this means it's not in this book that she gets back on track and get a good Kay Scarpetta story uh? I keep buying them hoping she will get back to what made those first ones good reads but I'm starting to wonder if that will ever happen...

Janicu said...

Heh, the dark underbelly of the library system! I totally want to say "there there" like when my best friend gives me a particularly amusing yet at the same time serious rant. Interesting to see the star distribution for this book in Amazon - Almost half 5 stars, but then almost 40% only 1 star! *strokes chin*.

Nikki said...

This is another author that I quit reading several books ago. So many ago that I don't know what you are talking about with Marino. I also quit Sue Grafton around "M is for..."
Both of them used to be auto-reads for me,
but the only mystery series I have continued reading are by Janet Evanovich and Stuart Woods. That doesn't mean I have quit reading mysteries altogether, just that Cornwell and Grafton no longer make it into my cart or on my library card.

Jessica said...

That's how I feel about Laurell K Hamilton. The books were good at one point--but they are TERRIBLE now (someone teach the lady the diff. between "lose" and "loose"!). But I keep reading them, hoping that they get better...

Bev(QB) said...

This is one of the series that I quit reading a long time ago. But not because I hated it. Nope, I just plain lost track of which books I had already read. To make matters worse, the blurbs for her books are so generic that they all sound similar and aren't much help figuring out what I have and have not read.

Wendy said...

Ana: Well it didn't suck - but yeah, it pretty much follows the pattern of the last several books.

Janicu: I thought this was an improvement over some of her other, more recent, entries in the series. But all those 5-stars and 1-stars baffle me. It just wasn't a book that generated that kind of passion (good or bad!) for me.

Nikki: Be very glad you don't know what I'm talking about with Marino. Cornwell morphed him into a lovesick puppy with no balls in the later books. I still listen to Grafton on audio (she's got a great narrator!), but still haven't listened to the latest one....T Is For Trespass. It got really good reviews in the professional journals, but I haven't been following reader reaction.

Jessica: Which is why I never started on LKH. I've heard the early books are really good, but I don't want to get sucked into another series that goes downhill!

Bev: Yeah, that's my other issue - Cornwell is notorious for recycling her plots! Kay has become The Victim. Girlfriend has more people "out to get her" and a longer enemies list than Richard Nixon. Geez.

JamiSings said...

I gave up on Cornwell a long time ago. I notice that she seems to have a deep, unrelenting bigotry towards fat people. Her serial killers and child rapists are more sympathatic then her fat characters. Especially fat women. She makes us all look like we're unwashed psychos. I happen to be very paticular about my hygiene and I may have a bad temper, but I'm no psycho. Seriously, I think she needs to be locked in a room with a bunch of fat women to see that we're human beings and she needs to do a better job portraying us.
Plus have you noticed that everyone ages but Kay? She's still in her 40s with "amazing breasts." Honestly, unless Kay has discovered the fountain of youth or an amazing plastic surgeon she should be sagging and bagging by now.

Karen Scott said...

She's still in her 40s with "amazing breasts."

This is soo true.

I still bought this one, but haven't gotten round to reading it yet. I'll probably leave it a while longer.

I dread to think what she's done to Marino.