About Face

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Four of us met to discuss About Face by Donna Leon and while Pam hadn’t finished reading it, the rest of us agreed that it was kind of boring and we kept waiting for something to happen.

We just weren’t very excited about the story and felt the mystery was weak. We were fascinated by the woman, Franca Marinello, and her face. Poor Pam, who hadn’t finished the book, didn’t know why the woman’s face was like it was and wanted to know what that was all about. We told her. Which then led to a discussion of facial products, face lifts, “trout pouts” and what’s involved and why women do it. I’m still just looking for a good foundation!

We did agree that the setting was interesting, though we all stumbled over the language and the names. The bits of information about Venice were fascinating and the garbage information about Naples was disgusting. We didn’t really talk about the mafia aspects beyond comparing the mafia in America, which is a little glorified, thanks to movies and television, to the mafia in Italy, which seems to be all-pervasive, which is a little disheartening. I kept calling the bad guy a thug because even though he was slick and well-dressed, that’s all he really was, with his workman’s hands and harsh ways of offing people.

Because this is 18th novel in the series, I think there were some assumptions made by the author. She seemed to expect her readers to know the little tidbits and details, the language, the nuances of character that, as a first-time reader, I completely missed. I found it slow going, kind of boring and I didn’t find the characters to be terribly likable. The police station politics were dreary, none of the policemen were terribly interesting, except Claudia and what is up with Signorina Elettra? I found her to be really annoying.

Pam’s Picks were Borderlands by Brian McGilloway and Red Door by Charles Todd. See the sidebar for more information.

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Odd Thomas

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I have to admit, that I was a little leery of reading a Dean Koontz book.  He has a reputation for writing horror and I’m not a big fan of the genre (though I do like some of Stephen King’s work).  Hubby will be the first to tell you that zombies give me the willies.  My most unfavorite movie?  “The Last Man on Earth” where zombies/vampires chase Vincent Price around.  Gave me nightmares for WEEKS. 

But my misgivings notwithstanding, I thought Odd Thomas was awesome.  It was less horror (thank goodness!) and more suspense, with a taste of the paranormal added to the thrills.  And of course, there were the humorous aspects of Elvis riding around with our hero, an exploding cow and a cat named Terrible Chester.

Koontz does a masterful job of building the suspense, minute by minute, page by page.  Odd wanders his quiet little town, picking up clues and seeing the signs that something really bad is going to happen, but he’s not sure where or when.  The story had me on the edge of my seat the whole time.

Odd is a fascinating character and I think it’s great that Koontz has written more books about him.  Picture me reading more stories featuring our hero.  The town of Pico Mundo is a strange mix of contrasts, too.  It’s a dry desert town with a sad abandoned whorehouse at the edge of town but the town also boasts a fine, multi-level mall. And what is up with Elvis hanging around Pico Mundo?

There were eight of us at our gathering on October 17th, which made for a lively discussion.  We were all pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed Odd Thomas.  Scary, creepy, kind of weird but a good read.  And was Odd schizophrenic or did he really see dead people?  The general consensus was a thumbs up.

Pam’s Picks (and we had to hold her down to just two) were Involuntary Witness by Gianrico Carofiglio and The Last Enemy by Grace Brophy.  Pam’s in an Italy kind of mood.

We also presented the reading list for 2011, which has a nice mix of cozy, international, true crime and classic mystery titles.  See the sidebar on the right to see what we’ll be reading in the new year.