Monday, November 18, 2013

Down an ugly rabbit hole!

ALICE IN JEOPARDY By: Ed McBain ISBN: 0743262506, New York : Simon & Schuster, c2005., Ed McBain has been an icon in the world of mystery fiction for, almost, as long as I have been alive, and I won’t even try to begin to list either his accomplishments or contributions to this genre. I became acquainted with his writing through his 87th Precinct novels, which I have always dearly loved, and while I’m not as well acquainted with his other series or stand alone novels, I do know 2 things. If I find a book written by this author, I will read, and there is a 99.99999% chance that I will love it. This is a standalone novel, and, while it doesn’t have the intensity of the 87th Precinct books, at least not until the breathtaking climax, it has that special McBain touch. The story is told with just a touch of tongue in cheek humor that pokes gentle fun at everybody, law enforcement, the FBI, the villains, and even the victims. I can’t think of another author who can turn a dangerous situation into a comedy of errors without destroying its lethal seriousness, then with what *should* have been an expected plot twist (and never is) untangle what has become the mother of all Gordian knots into a single strand so strong that it supports everything, until he ties it all up with a neat bow. The characters in the book are, as always, quirky enough to be very recognizable and believable. Each of them is complicated enough to be 3 dimensional, and there are no stereotypes, not even among the minor characters. This author also has a grasp of dialog and human speech patterns that are sometimes amazing. He can portray a conversation between multiple participants in such a way that even though it is being read by one person, it reads like the free for all such conversations have. He can do the same when people are talking at cross purposes, not listening, interrupting one another to finish a sentence, and the result is a piece of writing that is layered and multi-dimensional. The best part, of course, is that all of us have been in such conversations, so what at first glimpse might *seem* chaotic and unnatural resolves itself into entirely recognizable speech patterns. This author writes with a “light hand” in that his writing is never pretentious, self conscious or obviously “literary”. It would be a mistake, though, to dismiss it as merely adequate to tell a story. Oh, it does *that* impeccably, but the writing is strong enough and subtle enough, to support what is being written about, on all levels, without overwhelming the subjects under scrutiny. This, to me, is one of the marks of the finest authors, and, to my mind, Ed McBain could hold his own in any writing style or venue. In fact, I have sometimes had the thought that even his grocery lists would make good reading!

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