The last mystery of 2010 and my first mystery of 2011 share two things: they’re historical and both make me think they bought their accolades. Still, this one makes the other look like a 5 star gem.
This is set in San Fran in 1940 which should be a fabulous background and well, since I like to say something positive in every review, there you go. The historical setting is well done. The rest of it was one of the worst things I’ve read in a long time. I don’t even know where to begin (and I see several other goodreaders have already said many of them)
Firstly the style of this was just awful. I think it was designed to give Miranda Corbie, our heroine, a Sam Spade hard boiled feel. All it is, is a staccato burst of sentence fragments that would make a writing professor weep. Once in a while this would be affective but to have this going on for pages is nothing short of annoying. ExampleShe didn’t need Phil. Or Rick. Or her washed-up drowned-out father. Didn’t need anyone. Would never need anyone again. Imagine this for hundreds of pages.
I might have gotten past this if Miranda was interesting. She’s miserable I haven’t loathed a character this much in ages. She’s supposed to be a tough woman on her own. Her former madam said it right. She’s an ungrateful little bitch. She treats everyone like shit. I am stunned that either Rick, the reporter or Gonzales the homicide detective would even want to help her. She does nothing but treat them like idiots who are only there to be used.
Miranda is supposed to be broken. She was a nurse during the Spanish civil war where she lost Johnny. Apparently her one true love. She responds by becoming an escort then finally a detective (there was a book before this one I guess). Okay, broken people can be interesting but they are tough to write, tough to make the reader care about and there is no caring about Miranda. She is just so miserable and nasty. We have to listen to her whine about Johnny and how all other men are douches so long that I’m sure we could cut 50 pages out of this just by removing all the excess Johnny angst and another 20 if we cut out every time Miranda says the F word or lights up a cigarette.
Even the mystery itself is bad. Eddie Takahashi is gunned down in front of her during a Rice Bowl (a charity to raise money for China, keeping in mind this is the time period where Japan is invading it and doing pretty horrible things). Eddie’s sister Emily is missing. No one asks Miranda to take the case. She’s warned off but presumably she’s taking this one because she witnesses it. Later she’s hired by Mrs. Winters to prove her husband was killed and didn’t die of a heart attack.
Eventually both cases tie together (I don’t think Mrs. Winters knew they would unless I skimmed over it) which is a ridiculous coincidence in a town the size of San Fran. Miranda, using and abusing everyone along the way finds out it’s all tied into the various mobs (Chinese and Italian), human trafficking and drugs. The ending was so unrealistic I was laughing and the actual killer, yeah you had no clues to figure out the motive here, not really.
This is an unlikeable mess. I couldn’t root for Miranda. I was rooting for the mobsters. I nearly tossed the book twice when she pulls a gun on a cop (twice) with little reason and no repercussions. I didn’t care about her. I finished this because I paid for it. I usually share my historical mysteries with friends and family who love them. They won’t be seeing this.
Black Butler #3 by Yana Toboso
I’m beginning to truly love this. It’s sarcastically, darkly funny and I love that. Sebastian is just delightful in his quiet evil. It opens with Ciel and Sebastian trying to deal with the revelation that his Aunt An is really Jack the Ripper along with the help of Grell, an insane shinigami. Grell’s choice of attack weapons is a chainsaw that also allows the shinigami to turn the ‘life flashing before your eyes’ as you die into a cinematic reel everyone can watch. Ciel gets to see exactly what warped his aunt. In the meantime Grell is fighting Sebastian and flirting with him. Grell desperately wants to have a baby, Sebastian’s and won’t be put off by the fact that being male, he’s going to have a few issues in conceiving.
This is 90% of the manga, the battle, An’s life and death. Then we get another day in Ciel and Sebastian’s life when Aunt Francis and Lizzie (Ciel’s young cousin and fiancée) come to visit. Francis reminds me of Olivia Armstrong from Fullmetal Alchemist. She got her husband by beating him in a fencing duel, is a helluva hunter and otherwise terrifying woman. The rest of Ciel’s idiot staff offer up their usual comic relief. Yes I know I shouldn’t like a devil who will eventually devour a young man’s soul but damn it, I do.