Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Time for Curmugeonness

By Chester D. Campbell

I suppose it’s my time to be curmugeonly. I’m about two-thirds of the way through a mystery that has been highly praised by some big-name authors. The main character is quite well drawn and is an interesting mix of tenacious cop heavily flawed by fate and a highly abrasive manner.

He has some serious medical problems that are described at great length. Ditto his personal problems with some ladies. Maybe I’m too jaded, but for me all the personal introspection and excess rivalry slow the story and impede the progress of the mystery.

There’s also the tendency to over-describe the settings. I can do without knowing about every knick-knack that fills a room, whether it be in a home, a bar, or an office. I like to throw in occasional scenes in restaurants and other locales that add color to the story, but I get the feeling this book overdoes it a bit. It’s not alone, I hasten to add.

As I indicated, I readily admit to being a bit of a curmudgeon here, but I’m a fan of the faster-paced mystery. My style is to keep the extraneous stuff to a minimum and keep the action moving.

Perhaps it would be better to call this book a character study more than a mystery. My problem is that though I feel sympathy for the cop, he is too harsh to enjoy a likableness score much above a 2.5. His determination to get to the bottom of the crime is admirable, and I’m sure he’ll make it by the end of the story, but his penchant for laying waste to the landscape leaves scant room for endearment.

I like my protagonists to be flawed. That’s what makes them interesting and believable. But this guy carries a chip on his shoulder the size of a two-by-four. And one other thing. The “f” word is thrown around like a ping-pong ball bouncing about the table. That’s one of my pet peeves. Sure, some cops cuss like sailors. Some sailors cuss like cops. But if you’re not going to tell me every other word they use on a regular basis, why dwell on this one? Use it once or twice and I know it’s in their lexicon. More than that it’s gratuitous trash.

Okay, enough ranting. This, of course, is one reader’s opinion. Others, maybe most others, may differ. They will see the book from an entirely different perspective and probably give it five stars. I hope it does well.

1 comment:

Jean Henry Mead said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Chester. Maybe it's our journalism backgrounds that cry out, "Stick to the facts." Mysteries are supposed to be written in a straight line, without detours and unnecessary details cluttering up the plot. The F-words, if used like confetti, really turn me off. Writers should be able to come up with a variety of swear words that don't offend at least half their readers.