Archive for 'Hall, Parnell'
Actor is about Stanley Hastings realizing his dream. Stanley has been out of the theater for a long time, but is called upon by an old theater buddy to take over a role in a play at the last moment. It is the leading role in Arms and the Man, one that his friend knows Stanley played many years ago, and now they need him to assume the role and save the show. But when Stanley arrives at the theater, it is immediately apparent that the production has additional problems â€“ the relations between the actors, crew, and management arenâ€™t as they should be. In addition to re-learning lines he had forgotten years before, Stanley must navigate the turbulent personnel waters, keep his eyes open for health hazards like falling stage lights, and solve the murder committed at the dress rehearsal.
Actor has a good setting and decent enough characters. But as I read this book, I realized that there were two things about it that I didnâ€™t care for. The first is the writing style. Hall tells the story from Stanleyâ€™s perspective and uses a lot of internal narrative. Which might not be so bad if Stanley wasnâ€™t such a whiney character. He grouses about his dressing room, his accommodations, his makeup, the fact that he didnâ€™t get a heroâ€™s welcome, etc. While this decreases over the course of the book, it is off-putting in the beginning. I always prefer to read books with characters I like and enjoy, donâ€™t you?
The second, and more serious, aspect of the book that I didnâ€™t like is that there were apparently no clues to the identity of the killer until 30 pages from the end of the book. I will allow that I may have missed something, but I have skimmed back through the book and canâ€™t really find any clues.
And yes, I know there are books that arenâ€™t really set up for the reader to guess the identity of the killer â€“ those thriller/suspense books in which you already know who the bad guy is and are waiting to see who triumphs and the caper/adventure books in which you are really just along for the ride. But Actor isnâ€™t set that way. It is supposed to be a â€œclassicâ€ mystery with a solvable end. It even has a map, for Peteâ€™s sake!
Instead of laying out clues for the reader, Hall has Stanley discover a vital piece of evidence 30 pages from the end of the book â€“ and then not reveal it to us. The identity of the killer and the very lame motive are revealed 7 pages from the end without an iota of supporting evidence. What the hell kind of book is that? It certainly isnâ€™t much of a mystery.
Which brings me to the question â€“ why would you write a book without the proper parts? Why write a mystery without clues? You are just going to make readers angry. All this book needed to make it into a better mystery was a little re-writing. A few dropped hints and a single piece of evidence would have done it. What you have instead is a book that seems startlingly, even horrifyingly, incomplete.
Favorite character? Chief Bob, the amateur actor. Did I guess it? Nope. Will I read another? I might try another in this series. And I do like Hallâ€™s Puzzle Lady series.
Mystery Book Reviews by Liz at http://reviewedbyliz.com Â©2007
This is another book I have read before and was pleased to get again by accident. Published in 2000, this is the first book in his puzzle lady series and Hall brought something new and fresh to the mystery scene with it. While this book has some of the standards â€“ a small town cop who needs help with a murder investigation, an overzealous reporter/love interest, and the amateur detective heroines â€“ his plot unfolds a little differently than most of the books we have seen recently.
One of the reasons for this is that he has introduced two heroine detectives in this book, Sherry Carter and her aunt Cora Felton. These two live together but split up during the book to investigate/muddy the waters of the crimes. Having two equally important streams of information coming at the reader makes the book more complex and interesting.
The other interesting thing about this plot is that the two women and trying to find out other peopleâ€™s secrets while desperately trying to conceal their own. Cora Felton has a nationally syndicated crossword puzzle column, which her niece actually writes. They used Coraâ€™s sweet grandmotherly image to sell it, but now have a problem keeping secret the facts that she doesnâ€™t know much about crossword puzzles and that she is quite the party girl of the senior set.
There were a few annoying things about this book, two of which I think are probably editing mistakes and wonâ€™t go into here. The other is a style issue. This book has more dialog than most mysteries I have read. This isnâ€™t bad, necessarily, but there are several long conversations in which the speaker isnâ€™t identified and you have to backtrack to figure out who is talking. I am going to assume that Hall got the short end of the editing stick on his first book and these issues wonâ€™t exist in his other books.
Did I guess it? Yes, sort of. Will I read another one? Absolutely.
Mystery Book Reviews by Liz at http://reviewedbyliz.com Â©2006