Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mysteries of the Mystery Series: Michael Connelly's 9 Dragons

For too many hours of this past road trip, I thought I should keep Pater company while it wasn't my turn to drive. For some of that time, I read to him from a lovely book of essays about the year Philip Graham spent in Lisbon, The Moon Come to Earth -- this is a tradition we've established over the years wherein I read to him from travel literature and/or memoirs (the latter generally Foodie-related) as he's driving or, at home, when he's cooking.

But I finally realized that only one thing was going to properly distract me from the increasing discomfort my limbs and joints were experiencing as road hour piled on road hour: reading to myself. And I also realized that he wouldn't mind that at all, that my solidarity was strictly self-imposed, and he was quite happy to be in his own head watching the landscape roll by.

So I pulled out the most recent Harry Bosch in paperback, Michael Connelly's 9 Dragons. And very soon I was reading aloud to Pater again, with disbelief. Sentences such as "Dark thoughts once again entered Harry Bosch's brain." Really, the thoughts entered his brain? Through his ear, perhaps? Could he feel them? Did they hurt? Exert a gentle pressure?

Really, when I'm reading a mystery, it's absolutely imperative that I not be distracted by stodgy writing, especially not by over-writing, and definitely not by goofiness that I want to interrogate, sarcastically!!

Too bad, because the plot is quite decent, if you don't mind certain elements in Bosch's personal life gathering a momentum rather unjustified by perhaps 75% of the earlier novels in the series. I understand that writers must satisfy their publishers and it must be difficult to keep a series fresh when one has exhausted a character's depths. And heaven knows I want more Bosch. But unless the next novel is better written, I'm going to cross him off my list, sadly. Even the varying locales here (Hong Kong as well as L.A.) weren't enough to keep my interest, although some of the history about the origins of the Asian Triads was fascinating.

I know we've chatted about this before, but have you been disappointed with favourite series? And do you ever suspect that the writing is contracted out once the general outline is constructed? Especially, have you ever out and out abandoned a detective series you once loved?

On a happier note, I've just splurged (but 30% off, so not too bad) on Elizabeth George's latest -- this will be my summer mystery novel swan song. I've got another "more literary"novel or two to read first, and then I will be one with my hammock and Inspector Lynley . . .


  1. I haven't read this series, but I tend to get enamored of something and then loose interest or become annoyed with some aspect or another of the writing or the story line.

    I haven't sprung for the new Elizabeth George yet, but I am looking forward to curling up with it eventually.

  2. Oh, I know exactly what you mean! I hate it when clunky writing intrudes on my love of a good yarn. That's why I love Rankin and Atkinson - no necessity for sarcastic interrogation. I can't think of a series I've stopped reading, unless you count the ones I barely started, like Scarpetta (thought the character was irritatingly unbelievable). I haven't read any Elizabeth George - recommended? Currently reading Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott.

  3. I meant to say, spouse and I also read to each other during long road trips - kids think we're nuts.

  4. Mardel: I think you'd enjoy many/most of the earlier Harry Bosch, and I remember them as much better written than this one -- I do seriously begin to wonder if some of the writing gets contracted out! Or do writers get pressured to stop editing several drafts before they're really ready?
    Tiffany: I'm curious to know which Scarpetta you tried -- I really enjoyed the early ones, but (and Mardel will back me up here) there are some realy problems with the last several -- again, I suspect a publisher demands a writer keeps churning out new novels in a successful series, long after the writer is bored with the characters.

    The reading to Pater began when a friend told me she read to her husband every evening when he painted (he's an orthopedic surgeon in the daytime but a very accomplished artist as well) -- I thought that would be an excellent way to spend time together even if we'd exhausted new conversational material!
    I also used to read to my kids on long road trips (as long as I wasn't the one driving!;-) They seemed to like that -- at least it cut down on the squabbling. . .

  5. I think I read one of the first Scarpetta novels and rather enjoyed it, then read a later one where I felt the character had become more two-dimensional - as you say, a real sense that the writer had run out of ideas for the character ...