Broken Strings by Nancy Means Wright
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Intrepid everyday heroine Fay Hubbard pursues the elusive Skull-Man, out to murder the puppeteer group for performing offbeat endings to popular children’s stories. Every time she gets close to finding the killer out, another twist or murder throws a wrench into the mystery. Hubbard also has three foster children and a beloved goat, but of course she doesn’t mind putting them all at risk while she pursues a ruthless killer with her desire for truth and justice.
In other words, this is your bog standard murder mystery novel. The gimmick here is that puppets are involved! A puppet-sty;e killer *should* make for a (horrifyingly) cool mystery, but the magic of puppeteering is constantly muddled by a diverse, yet unnecessarily large ensemble cast competing for screen time. Wright clearly demonstrates the ability to write complex characters, a key formula in murder mysteries. Unfortunately, there are simply too many character strings attached to the intrepid detective.
I really wanted to like this book, and I saw a lot of great potential with the puppet mystery. But complex characters are not always interesting, and I struggled through to the end hoping for a satisfying twist that never occurred.
View all my reviews
Storm Front by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Believe it or not I have never read The Dresden files. Rest assured I am now working on correcting this oddity. In any event, my only complaint about this book was that it was over too quickly. Seriously, this is probably the fastest 300 page book I’ve ever read.
Ok, I should add a few more words. Stormfront combines my two favorite things in one novel: well thought out magic and the noir style. That’s not something you usually see at the same time. Dresden is a cynical, powerful man out to clear his name. Yet despite the power Dresden possesses, he never once ventures into sue-mode territory. Dresden is plenty capable of both kicking ass and getting his ass kicked. Usually the former happens right after the latter. Magic aside, it’s almost too…human. Hopefully in future novels Dresden will remember to keep a better grip on his staff and various other magical implements.
A common complaint I have about the first novel in any series is the lack of a fleshed-out world. To this end, I argue that you should frequently start your protagonist around the middle of his career. It gives the writer two directions in time to work with instead of just one. The best writers bring the reader into a well-developed world right off the first page, and the reader is so carefully introduced that he/she is never confused. It is clear that Butcher spent a great deal of time fleshing out his world, his characters and the overall plot arc long before this book hit shelves. Signature noir introduction of Dresden’s business aside, it would be easy to mistake this book for the third or fourth entry into the series. The characters and setting are that well detailed, while never confusing the reader.
So The Dresden Files and Discworld will now be competing for reading time in the near future. I have a lot of catching up to do with both.
View all my reviews