Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bah humbug!

Last weekend, I took my Mom book shopping at Uncle Edgar's, an independent mystery bookstore in Minneapolis. At 81, and with a couple of broken bones recently, Mom is having a hard time standing up for any length of time. I tried to run and fetch books for her, but I also managed to scope out a folding chair behind the counter and commandeered it for her use. Since she drops a couple of hundred bucks each times she shops, I figure the store would forgive my presumption. Well, low and behold, the woman staffing the store went out of her way to help my Mom in her book choices and also in making her feeling comfortable as she sat in her chair for checkout. Highest praise to independent bookstores!

The Bah Humbug portion of this post has to do with a book I picked up from mystery writer Donna Andrews. I saw that the author was a multiple award winner and was known for her humor. So I found the first novel in her series, Murder with Peacocks and purchased it. I read it over the weekend and what a supreme disappointment. The reigning queen of humorous mysteries is Janet Evanovich with her Stephanie Plum series. Her books succeed with an indomitable heroine and a cast of loony characters to back her up.

Andrews' characters suffer by comparison. For one thing, loony characters who endanger their fellow man are a lot more humorous when they are working class, as are Plum's cast of crazies. Andrews are upper class, smug, self-assured and pretty damn disgusting in their rectitude.

The plot suffers from the "idiot" syndrome: our heroine has to be an idiot to ignore major clues dropped along the way. The evil characters are detectable from the get go and the reader simply has to slog through a couple of hundred pages in order to see these nasties get what they deserve.

It's odd to have award winners turn out so crappy. Gotta wonder what the heck is going on in the mystery writing genre these days.