Thursday, October 25, 2012

Not-Exactly Book Reviews: In Search of a New Cozy Mystery Series

I'm feeling like some light entertainment. Specifically, I want another good cozy mystery or so to read. At the moment, I'm out of suggestions and recent reviews, so I went with a less-scientific method, choosing by cover and title. It's been known to work.

Try one: The Grave Gourmet by Alexaner Campion.

The first, most important thing Campion has to say about Capucine is that she's gorgeous and knows it. She first appears in chapter one in "straightening, drawing in her tummy, rounding out her buttocks, lifting her breasts against her designer silk blouse." By the second chapter, she is asking her superior for a job transfer, still wearing designer clothes, but having decided that "omitting a bra was essential to the tough guy look." For some reason, Campion feels the need to mention her braless state twice within three pages. Am I supposed to like this woman? I'm honestly not sure.

And then there is the prose. French words are liberally scattered throughout the text, just to remind everyone that this is supposed to be France. They're italicized, to remind us that they're foreign (Yes, I know this is traditional, but it's also distracting, especially when it's happening several times a page).

Then there are the metaphors. Oh the metaphors.

In the first chapter, Capucine's "feeling of well-being popped like a soap bubble, drenching her in cold oily dampness." A few pages later, there is Capucine "releasing an insuppressible smile to flutter across the room like a butterfly."

I hope someone opened a window for the poor thing.

Having made it to all of page eleven, I flipped to the end, only to find someone saying, "My sense is she's cauterizing her spirit."

This may well replace "I left my fear in the dimensional tunnel" as a personal favorite non-phrase(1), but I'm still not finishing the book.

Moving on: Scones & Bones by Laura Childs.

The first thing Childs wants everyone to know about Theodosia is that she is with a group of friends. This is promising. The next most important thing, though, is that she is gorgeous. "Her abundance of auburn hair could have inspired Raphael; her fair English skin seemed tempered by the cool, rainy weather of the Salisbury Plain. Theodosia's blue eyes sparkled with barely contained energy" She also has high cheekbones, and a full mouth. Is anyone else thinking of young Anne Shirley's "raven tressed" heroines? Only me?

I read for a while longer. The prose in Scones & Bones was, as you may have gathered from that description, colorful. It tended to intrude itself at odd moments, and I never was sure what to think of characters who talk about tea in tea-catalog terms. Also, I'm pretty sure EMTs don't put their stethoscopes on a man's chest, decide he's dead, and leave. I skipped a few pages, and a few more, and then a few more. And then I ran across this:

"the answer bubbled up inside Theodosia's brain like saber tooth tiger bones being spit from the depths of the La Brea tar pits."

What does one do with a metaphor like that? Hang caution tape around it? Circle admiringly? Stutter to a disbelieving halt before reading it out loud to any and all passers by?

Next book: Agatha Christie's Spider's Web novelized by Charles Osborne.

Spider's Web was something of a safe bet. I like Agatha Christie, and I've read a couple of Osborne's novelizations of her plays before, so I knew what to expect. It was a mildly enjoyable read with Christie's trademark tricks and twists, fun, but just a little flat. It's not that Christie's characters ever have deep interior lives, but they do have them, and Osborne's novelizations invariably leave that out, simply describing the motions of the people very much as though they were on stage. Spider's Web was a stopgap, not a solution.

A Stitch Before Dying, a Black Sheep Knitting Mystery by Anne Canadeo

This one features a group of friends who enjoy knitting together. Canadeo tells us of hobbies, careers, and friendships. There's nary a raven-tressed or Titian-haired heroine in sight. The prose is neatly staying in the background, working to tell the story. The knitting group describes their projects in reasonable, craft-group language.

I like these people, and the time spent reading passed agreeably, quietly, and quickly. It's what I want out of a cozy.

I'm feeling optimistic about this one and plan on picking up a few more in the Black Sheep Knitting mystery series next visit.

Mind, I'll probably pick up a few other mysteries, too, just in case.

Anyone got any suggestions?

(1) From Andromeda, about the time I realized it had stopped being the show I loved. Still, I've gotten a lot of amusement out of that phrase. That's something.


  1. No suggestions are bubbling up in my brain like saber-toothed tiger bones in the La Brea tar pits.

  2. Aww, not even one?

    Give it time. I understand it takes a while for things to rise from those tar pits.

  3. No, I've cauterized my spirit against the possibility of any more wounding metaphors.

    1. Leave your fear behind in the dimensional tunnel and all shall be well!

      In other news, I've started Death By Water by Kerry Greenwood and am thoroughly enjoying it. I keep wanting to say "See! *This* is how you use metaphors! *This* is how you write a beautiful, intelligent, active heroine and make her loveable!"

      I'll let you know what I think when I'm done.