Thursday, November 27, 2008

"Cemetery of the Nameless" by Rick Blechta

Why I read it: Last March I wandered over to the Chapters across from the YMCA, and I went up the stairs to where the good books are, and there, sitting at the signing table, was Rick Blechta. I played for him years ago at the RCM, and I'd bought one of his books then, and read it, and it was great to see him again. And of course I bought a book.

It's kind of scary to read a book by someone you know and like. What if I hate it? What if it sucks? So it took a little while to get around to it. Also, crime fiction isn't really my genre.

Bookmark: Promo for "A Case of You", Rick's latest book.

Tastes like chicken: Probably the other book by Rick that I've read, "The Lark Ascending", which features the same characters. Other than that, well, I dunno. I don't read much crime fiction (I generally find the hard-boiled voice not florid enough. Not enough metaphors or something. Too many short sentences, not enough commas).

What I liked: First, I really liked the press clippings at the start of each chapter. They were very entertaining, the way they evolved as public opinion evolved about Tory.

This is the sort of thing I would expect Rick to write. He used to tell us, when he conducted the RCM Wind Ensemble, stories about people finding a page of an old Bach piece or something, at flea markets in Europe, or musicians wrapping their sandwiches in the 2nd violin part... I really liked the way he wrote about classical music. The relationship between soloist and orchestra, and soloist and conductor, seemed really true to me.

There was a neat trick in the couple of GGK books I read a couple of months ago where the author preambles a section with really obvious foreshadowing of how badly it's going to go, or how it could have gone a lot worse. That seems to be more standard in mysteries.

What I hated: I found the time flow confusing sometimes. The story is told from two POVs: Rocky and Tory. Generally this was fine, except somtimes something would happen in Tory's POV and then it wouldn't have happened until scenes later in Rocky's. This didn't ruin the story for me, though it would be neat to do the "putting Memento in order" thing to see if the peculiar chronology was really necessary.

Also, I found the date rape drug revelation incredibly not surprising. How could a bunch of normal people, law enforcement professionals, and psychiatrists not think of that? And the Robert Sawyer moment on p. 220. I felt like he'd maybe donated enough money to the United Way to get his name and novel mentioned in this book.

What I can steal: First of all, it's a good thing to read outside my comfort zone. I am unlikely to ever write a murder mystery. Even if someone got murdered in a story I wrote, the story would probably be categorized as something else first. And it was an entertaining read. Maybe what I learned was to redefine the meaning of "write what you know". I hope Rick hasn't experienced the "crime" portion of the story, but he knows music, that's for sure. And he's found a way to work that into his books really well.

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