04 July 2010

Day 99: The Holy Thief

The Holy Thief by William Ryan.  ISBN: 9780312586454 (advanced reader copy).

I do not get the appeal of murder mysteries.  I really don't.  It's unfortunate since there's such a large readership and it would be a great benefit to me if I enjoyed them as far as my reader's advisory skills are concerned.  But they don't seem to be anything special to me.

The thing that seems to annoy me about them the most is that they focus completely on the mystery...that they can't talk about until the big reveal at the end.  So you have a story that tries to successfully write around the whole point of the story without giving too much away.  That would be like your doctor telling you there's something wrong with your stomach, but he's only giving you symptoms and effects without telling you the name of it.  I'm sure there are some fairly benign stomach conditions that have horrific sounding symptoms (which you may or may not develop), but if you know it's just irritable bowel it's something you're familiar with and is less concerning.  But seriously, if you had a doctor talk to you that way, you'd be pissed off, right?

Well, in this case the authority figure is the writer and not a doctor, and he's god damned jerking me around and not getting to the ailment.  I get it, the symptom is a dead and tortured body and the cure is slogging through bureaucratic bullshit and running from crime scene to crime scene, but honestly I don't care.  The fact is that most mysteries I've read focus so much on the thing they can't talk about that they strip down (or never build up) their characters.

Think about how many mystery novels you've read, particularly involving men as the main character, where there is a family, but they're not in the picture due to a recent divorce/separation/horrific car accident.  Strangely authors do this to humanize the Hero, but it really just makes him more of a cardboard cutout.  We don't get to see his interactions with his family, or really with anyone outside of his work and brief acquaintances.  This makes for boring reading in my opinion.  I want to read about a person, not an action figure being pushed around in a dark room.

So if we can't be told what's going on and we get crappy character development, what the hell are we left with?  Well, occasionally the details of the crime and how they're pieced together can be interesting. Uunfortunately, most of what we're treated to is disgusting descriptions of bodies and how they were tortured and killed.  I'm sure there is a crowd of people that revels in this...but I just don't get it.  Even the most bloody of crimes being described gets boring.  Your brain will refuse to picture (or even see) anything too distressing unless you force it to...so that leaves you with slogging through the bureaucracy that is always involved in these stories.

Gee, that sounds like work to me.

And yet, I keep reading them and signing up to read them in the hopes that I will one day read a mystery with good pacing that is not afraid to write about The Big Secret when it's necessary, and gives me something more than plasticine portraits to enjoy.

*This is not a problem specifically with The Holy Thief, although I have encountered quite a few of the problems in this novel.  I am more concerned with the genre, and I do recognize that there are probably exceptional novels in the genre...but I'll be damned if I can name one that I've read.

1 comment:

  1. You should read, instead of all these same-old mysteries, James Pinkerton's definitive work "How to Write Suspense," which can be found in Best Non-required Reading 2003. It is the most suspenseful thing you will ever read.

    Or is it?


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