Rarely have I been so glad that I checked a book out of the library rather than buying it.

I picked up this bait-and-switch "mystery" because of the intriguing premise detailed on the back cover:

Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, land the first big murder case of their police careers: a 12-year-old girl has been murdered in the woods adjacent to a Dublin suburb. Twenty years before, two children disappeared in the same woods, and Ryan was found clinging to a tree trunk, his sneakers filled with blood, unable to tell police anything about what happened to his friends. Ryan, although scarred by his experience, employs all his skills in the search for the killer and in hopes that the investigation will also reveal what happened to his childhood friends.

SPOILER: Ha ha! Thought you'd find out what happened when he was a kid, right? Ha ha!

The majority of the book is about Ryan investigating a current mystery whose solution seems quite obvious and cliched, and having a cliched and annoying affair with his partner. Periodically, he tries to dig into far, far more interesting mystery of his past, and also the question of why he still can't remember anything about it. He regains tantalizing snippets of memories while investigating and finally figuring out the incredibly obvious solution to the current mystery, which I guessed a hundred pages before he did.

The current mystery comes to a deeply unsatisfying resolution, of the fake-gritty, "you moron, you didn't bother to follow procedure so now the detailed confession by the murderer is inadmissable and they will walk free."

As for the question of his past, Ryan realizes that he will never have any idea whatsoever of what happened. The end!



And then I metaphorically hurled the book across the room with great and metaphorical force.

I have ranted about this before (see hirshberg tag), but I HATE it when something is set up as a mystery which will have a solution, and then the author fails to solve the mystery and instead writes, "Like real life, some things are unknowable and some mysteries are never solved, so this too will have no resolution."

IT'S A MYSTERY NOVEL. It's up to the AUTHOR whether or not to solve the mystery.

I don't mind open-ended conclusions and having to draw my own conclusions about some things, but I very much dislike it when something is set up as a puzzle, and then not solved because it's "realistic." All else aside, in real life things aren't so clearly set up as puzzles!

Why this won the Edgar is beyond me.

In the Woods
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


Yeah, the first one is really pretty terrible. The second one, narrated from Cassie's POV with ALMOST NO RYAN in it (big selling point for me: I hated him) is much, much better. I know you may have sworn off French for life at this point, justifiably so, but really, The Likeness is much, much better. Not as great as a lot of reviewers gushed it was, but Cassie's first person voice is really good. (I read the second novel first, and then only read the first novel for backstory about the second and third. Haven't started the third yet.)

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princessofgeeks: (BN3inBlack by heartagram)

From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks


Violating the conventions of genre in a Bad Way makes Baby Jesus cry.
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


I gotta admit, I had the thought maybe so many literary critics loved it precisely because nothing got wrapped up at the end. I read the book super-spoiled with zero expectations, and it was still completely aggravating.
opusculus: Black hole (Default)

From: [personal profile] opusculus


I actually saw a mystery that did something not totally dissimilar to that and it mostly worked for me, but I think it would need to be very, very clear that the author knows what exactly happened and is trying very hard to give you enough clues that you can know who did it and how if you work at it. Otherwise, I'd hurl the book across the room too.
wordweaverlynn: (reader)

From: [personal profile] wordweaverlynn


If you'll settle for shell-shocked WWI vet/detective, try Rennie Airth's books: River of Darkness, The Blood-Dimmed Tide, and The Dead of Winter. Haven't read the third, but the first two are well-written, well-plotted, and full of powerful imagery.
londonkds: (BLOOD AND TITTIES FOR LORD CHIBNALL!!! ()

From: [personal profile] londonkds


Have you read any of Catherine O'Connell's Mallory books? (Obligatory warning: protagonist is described many times as a psychopath but may not actually qualify.)
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


Also, this review and the many angry responses neatly demonstrate Shirley Jackson's principle:

If you start your story on a small boy going home to pick up his football so he can get into the game in the corner lot, and then let him fall into one adventure after another until the end of the story, your reader is going to come out of that story fighting mad unless he is told whether or not the boy got his football and whether he ever got back to the game.

From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com

ANGRY SPOILERS ALL UP IN THIS COMMENT


I COULD'VE WRITTEN THIS REVIEW. I just stared at it at one point, completely dumbfounded. About the only thing that worked on a character level was Rob and Cassie's stupid affair, and that was pretty much destroyed because it was such a terrible cliche. And then she ends up with the only other male character in the story because OF COURSE SHE DOES. So unsatisfying on almost every level, and it's started so promisingly.

Apparently there's a book with Cassie set after this book. The Amazon reviews said it was a bit better but once bitten, etc.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Re: ANGRY SPOILERS ALL UP IN THIS COMMENT


I'm so glad you read it, so I can have a partner in ANGRY RANTAGE!

I will never read another book by French. WTF!

Also, Rob was a jerk and the solution to the stupid current mystery was kind of misogynistic. GRRRR!

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From: [identity profile] telophase.livejournal.com


There's a third book, too. Which I vaguely think may star the third member of that team, but I don't remember. It's also supposed to be better. I've got the samples downloaded but haven't tried those yet.

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From: [identity profile] wordkink.livejournal.com

Re: ANGRY SPOILERS ALL UP IN THIS COMMENT


AHAHAHAH!!

I loath this book so much I will now attempt to type my agreement with you awkwardly on my phone!

Never before have I finished a book out of pure, hate-filled, spite. I disliked every character, even Cassi for not seeing what douchebag Rob was. No one is even remotely sympathetic! By the end I was almost gleeful Rob was foiled because of how much I wanted to beat his head against a wall for being such a stupid man-child!

Aaaaarrrggghh! It still gives me palpatations. Ugh.
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ext_14419: the mouse that wants Arthur's brain (Default)

From: [identity profile] derien.livejournal.com


Advertising this as a mystery was apparently a mistake. That sets up an expectation which this book was not going to fulfill.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


I don't think it was just the advertising, though. It read like a mystery novel, right up to the non-conclusion. If it had been marketed as a mainstream literary novel, I would have been equally annoyed, albeit less surprised.

From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com


Yeah, it definitely had a some 'literary novel' notes, but the sheer level of detail and obsession about the older mystery (the blood-filled sneakers is a particularly intriguing and grisly detail) makes it incredibly unsatisfying to have no resolution beyond 'eh, whatever, Rob's just a broken emo trainwreck.' I'm not sure if [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija agrees, but I certainly wasn't expecting Rob to regain all his memories or for everything to be resolved, but to have any resolution whatever wholly rejected was angry-making.

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From: [identity profile] spectralbovine.livejournal.com


I have never heard of this book and now have zero desire to read it! Thanks, Rachel!

From: [identity profile] coraa.livejournal.com


I had the same reaction to The Little Friend. It made me just scream with frustration, because the only reason I plowed through the whole book was that I was hoping to find out what had happened to the brother. And no payoff!

Rationally, I think it's possible--with that one, at least--that I was reading a litfic novel with mystery novel conventions in my head, but that didn't make reading it any more satisfying or enjoyable. I kept wishing someone had told me, around page 50, "Oh, by the way, you never find out what happened to the brother," so then I could stop.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


ARRRRRGH, The Little Friend! ARRRRRRRGHHHH!

It was even worse because The Secret History is one of my very favorite books. Now there's a good example of leaving some mysteries open-ended while still being satisfying.

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From: [identity profile] sienamystic.livejournal.com


I liked the author's writing style, so hung with it (despite feeling similarly frustrated and also wishing the author had struck the giant clunker of a paragraph towards the end that said HI I AM STILL NEW AT THIS). I picked up the second, Cassie-focused book, and did enjoy it more, but decided not to go forward because I was less interested in the other characters who got their own books. The author has a style that appeals to me a lot, but that wasn't enough to hold me past the first two books.

From: [identity profile] icecreamempress.livejournal.com


Thank you for saving me from this book, which was On My Stack. See, to me, saying "SOME THINGS WILL NEVER BE DISCOVERED" in a mystery is just a big "up yours" to the reader.

Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has a responsibility to make sense. Unlike truth. If I wanted unresolved mysteries, I would read non-fiction, thank you so much.

From: [identity profile] aprilhenry.livejournal.com


I liked the writing, so I kept reading. As I got toward the end, I kept looking at the number of pages and wondering how she was going to wrap up both mysteries.

Geez, as a writer I could come up with all kind of crazy good questions, like how did he end up with his socks soaked in someone else's blood but no blood on the outside of his shoes (if memory serves), but it is total freaking cheat not to answer them.

I read part of her second but couldn't buy the premise. I am ashamed to say I read the third, even after two disappointments. Again, I like her writing page to page. But the killer was pretty obvious, and I kept thinking she was going to pull a twist, but she did not.

From: [identity profile] forked.livejournal.com


Hey- now I want a community for mysteries that piss you off (or a Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog for mysteries).

This book- sounds like it would seriously piss me off!

And I'd add 2 of my own- Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund (A Dixie Hemingway Mystery #2) with my review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/203080929

That one I chalk up more to the cover/marketing, but it still pissed me off.

And the highly rec'd Eye of the Red Tsar: A Novel of Suspense (Pekkala #1)
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7015336-eye-of-the-red-tsar

Which I didn't get around to reviewing, but what pissed me off is the guy is supposed to be some kind of super detective with a massive attention to detail and a photographic memory and the entire plot boils down to him not being able to tell two people apart- both of whom he know and who are probably 10 years apart in age and oh, yea, one has a freaking birthmark on his face. And once you kinda realize he's a moron, you think back through the book and realize they never really had him display even basic competence in solving any mysteries as the Tsar's top guy. And then the very end- which was necessary for a sequel I guess- just confirms the high level of stupid.

Bleh. I'd go look up the Anne Perry novel that made me stop reading Ann Perry novels, but it's too painful to contemplate right now.

Heh- I love seeing bad reviews when they are deserved.

From: [identity profile] thecityofdis.livejournal.com


this is an off-topic comment, for which i apologize, but i haven't read this book - and based on this review, i won't.

BUT. BUT BUT BUT, RACHEL.

I JUST FINISHED READING A BOOK THAT WAS SO TERRIBAD, ONLY YOU COULD APPRECIATE IT. i kind of want to write a review, but more than that i kind of want to make you read it so you can suffer with me.

i am so emotionally torn.

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From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com - Date: 2012-01-01 05:45 pm (UTC) - Expand

tongue. cheek.

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Re: tongue. cheek.

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Re: tongue. cheek.

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