Poodle Springs – Raymond Chandler/Robert B. Parker

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poodlesprings-300pxThe meeting started off, as we usually do, with a look at the author’s life.  Raymond Chandler was a drunk, a genius, a hound dog, and a very funny guy all rolled into a hardboiled noir bundle.

Raymond Chandler wrote the first four chapters of our book and then Robert B. Parker finished it.  Parker also wrote a sequel to The Big Sleep.  But while Chandler was influenced by Dashiell Hammett, Parker was so obviously influenced by Chandler.  While we agreed that we couldn’t really tell where Chandler ended and Parker picked up, Joan found herself wondering why Spenser was in California and where Susan was.  Marlowe and Spenser seemed interchangeable to her.

There’s a feel of smart-alecky-ness and of trying too hard to be witty and funny that may have once been novel and entertaining, but now only feels dated and forced.

We found the characters are entertaining, if a bit over the top, two-dimensional, and not terribly believable.  But if a reader is looking for some good escapism fare, this will do.

The big question — What’s in a gimlet?

Favorite characters – Eddy, Linda, Marlowe (He stays so true to himself).  Angel (Nicest person in the book, even though she was clueless).  Muriel.  She was fun bunch of crazy.  Some people liked all the characters, others didn’t like any of them.

Least favorite – Linda (She’s kind of a bitch).  Larry, Lippy, Blackstone, Marlowe, the police officer with the sap.

3.5

 

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Keeper of the Keys – Perri O’Shaughnessy

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keeperThis was one of those books that the group either loved or hated, so we had plenty to talk about.

We pretty much agreed that the characters were unlikable and the plot unlikely.  We objected to being manipulated.

Watching the dysfunction unfold was pretty entertaining, though, particularly for Byanka who felt that it captured the essence of the Southern California world.

Others waited for something good to happen and were disappointed.

We liked how the tension ratcheted up.  How the plot had surprising twists.  Selective head-hopping was good and timed well to add to the tension.  The interweaving of plot lines was well done, adding to the ebb and flow of action.  The impact of past events on the current events was well-presented and explained people’s characters.  And there were some really messed up characters, but they were doing the best they could with the tools they had.

Favorite character – Kat, though she was a messed up bitch, she was the most positive.  Ray.  I know, both sides.  But I liked his dedication to his art and to his vision, though in many ways it bit him in the ass.  The old Indian gentlemen.  Tom didn’t like any characters and Byanka like them all.

Least favorite character – Martin.  Slimy creep with no redeeming qualities.  Initially, Ray.  But by the end, he came off much more sympathetic.  Tom.  He seemed to bring out the worst in people.  Leigh’s dad — he was so cruel to Tom.  Esme.  Leigh — bad from the beginning

3 stars (1)

Gathering Prey – John Sandford

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prey25splashWe found this book to be wonderfully creepy.  While some didn’t finish it (or even start it), others really enjoyed it.  The bad guy was Manson-like and we were kind of horrified by the tenacity of his evil.  The depiction of multiple law enforcement agencies working together was declared to be accurate and our Wisconsin contingent liked reading about places they know.

While Joan enjoyed the book, she felt it was a little Keystone Kops-y, what with the running here and the running there.  But that, too, was said to be an accurate portrayal of the area.

But it was a compelling story.  Creepy bad guys are compelling and it was fascinating that in the end, Pilate’s identity was never fully discovered.  And really, he was just a figurehead Creepy Guy.  The women in the gang were mostly second class citizens and just tools to be used to maintain power, but interestingly enough, the brains behind the operation seemed to be Kristen, she of the pointy teeth.  Henry and Skye had a naive likeableness that made the reader sympathize with them, all the while wanting to smack them upside the head for being such dopes.

We found the depiction of the traveler culture interesting.  And while Letty’s actions made us crazy, we all understood the impulsiveness of the young.

Favorite characters –Laurent, Frisell, Lucas, Letty (feisty, though misguided), Pilate, Kristen, the law enforcement agencies, the fat clown.

Lease favorite – Pilate (ick), Kristen, Letty (a little too precocious for Joan’s taste), Lucas’s boss Sands, the gang.

3.5

REMINDER — due to the library’s holiday schedule, January’s meeting will be the FOURTH Sunday, January 22, 2017.

Endangered – C.J. Box

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endangeredAn interesting look at so many things – environmentalism, bureaucracy, obsessive love of a mother, how siblings relate to each other.  A fun comparison of two very different families.

Joan also found it interesting that the book selections have moved away from corrupt policemen and to crazy mothers.  Nice change.

Some of us did have some issues with the writing.  For instance, while the rodeo parts were portrayed well, bull-dogging elk seemed unlikely seeing as how it was a season when the elk have no antlers.  The characters didn’t seem to be terribly well-rounded, but as this is part of a series, maybe it was assumed that a few brushstrokes would do.  The political stuff was declared to be a problem, and someone thought Joe could have been smarter.

That being said, we still overwhelming liked this book as evidenced by our rating below.

Big question — What happened to the birds of prey?

Favorite characters – Joe Picket – a nice balance of family man/game warden.  Joan loved his barely-contained fury.  Liv was declared to be spunky and “ferocious”.  The judge – reminded Joan of local Judge Mills Lane.  Brenda Cates.  She’s so wonderfully awful.  Her brushing Liv’s hair just made Joan’s stand up.  Nate and Joe’s wife Marybeth.

Least favorite characters – Dudley.  With a name like “Dudley,” you know not to like him.  Dallas.  Wentworth.  Ick, even though he was icky for love.  Brenda and her whole family.

 

4.5 stars1

Brush Back – Sara Paretsky

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brushback300The group had a rather odd reaction to this book – while we mostly enjoyed it, we sure had a lot to complain about.  We found V.I. to be a mostly strong, smart, and likeable character, but she sure got into some bad situations.  We’re not sure how she supports herself because she doesn’t really have any paying clients and she doesn’t seem all that good at what she does.  She’s a bit incongruous with her odd interests and living situation, and she’s a bit of a bulldog.  And not in a good way.

We liked the flavor of Chicago and there was a general agreement that the gritty city was portrayed true to life.

The mystery was interesting enough, though a little confusing.  But we learned that the confusing city politics and neighborhood loyalties were also true to life.

Joan didn’t understand the chapter titles and we generally agreed that there was a lot of unnecessary description which only bogged down the story.

The characters were what kept us engaged and boy, were there a lot of characters!

Favorite – Mr. Contreras; V.I.; Jake was just decoration.  Mr. Villard, the Cubs guy; Bernie, even if she was just a fuse.

Least – Bernie was declared to be useless.  Stella, Anne, Rory, Frank, Father Cardinale.  The cop was awful and unnecessarily snarky.  And then he left V.I. in a terrible neighborhood.  Stella Guzzo was wonderfully awfully awful.  As was Betty Guzzo.  They’re like peas in a pod.  Viola, the girl with the missing brother.  What a whiny little thing.  We wanted to smack her, knowing she wouldn’t smack back.

 

3.5

Cold Betrayal – J.A. Jance

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cold-betrayal-9781476745046_hrWe opened the meeting with a discussion of the author’s prolific-ness and how we, as readers, choose to read a book.  Flap or no flap?  Read the beginning of the book or not?  Turns out, just about everyone reads the flap.  But we were ALL confused by the cover. 

Joan doesn’t read flaps.  She goes in with a blank slate.  And with a name like J.A. Jance, she thought this would be a hard-core police procedural thing.  It turned out to be ridiculously frothy and light.

Joan read the prologue most of the way through and then had to quit because she was convinced that the likeable character of Betsy Peterson was going to get killed in some awful way.  This is why she doesn’t read flaps or beginnings.

It turns out this was an engrossing story.  Well, actually, two engrossing stories.  Our biggest complaint is we kept wondering how the two stories would connect and, in the end, were a little disappointed that they never did.  We learned that this is what the author does.  We also complained about the title “Cold Betrayal”.  Seems like that refers to the Betsy story, where we felt the Enid story was a bigger part of the book, which took place in Arizona, which wasn’t so cold.

I liked both stories and was swept along, but in the end, we found that the Betsy story was wrapped up too neatly and tidily.  But that was okay because we liked her.

As for the Enid story, yes, it kind of blew up in their faces and didn’t end the way expected, but it at least wasn’t very tidy.  But we liked the concept of the story and how it tied with recent current events.  We talked a little about how the successor of the organizer of the group perverted what the original organizer had intended and basically took religion out of it and put power, money, and subjugation in its place.  In the name of religion, of course.

We found it annoying that Ali just threw money at things and they were fixed.  That doesn’t happen in real life, does it?  And the declarations and rehashings of plot points by all and sundry got very old.  We particularly found the governor to be really annoying.  And all of it not terribly true to life.

But for sheer readability, this was entertaining and once Joan finally opened it and committed, quite engrossing.  She thinks she read last half in one sitting.

Favorite characters – Ali, Enid, Sister Anselm, Betsy, Leland (everyone want a Leland!)

Least favorites – Ali, Amos Sellers, Lowell, Sandra, the daughter-in-law, Sheriff Alvarado.

3.5

The Hot Kid – Elmore Leonard

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Hot KidWe were all surprised by how prolific Elmore Leonard was.  Lots and lots of stories, first short stories, then pulp Westerns before moving on to mystery, crime, and then screenplays.  An amazing number of his stories were made into movies, movies we’ve all seen and liked.

We found the book to be a fascinating look at a period of time and part of the country we didn’t really know too much about.  Had no idea that Bonnie and Clyde, Dillinger, and Pretty Boy Floyd were all running around shooting things up at the same time.  Joan thought they were at different times and different parts of the country.

And it was also interesting to see what part the press played in all that.  The story didn’t play out in private.  It was in the papers and the quest for fame plays a big part in the story.  The way the individual bank robbers thought was interesting and influenced by the press – “This guy robbed this many banks, so I’m going to rob more.”  “That guy got that much money out of the bank, so I’m going to get more out of the same bank.”  “I’m related in a half-assed way to a bad guy, look at me, look at me.”  “I shot that guy, so now I’m famous and will get more famous.”

Tony Antonelli was declared to be a rank opportunist and almost as bad as Jack.  And one of our group put forward the idea that Tony was Elmore Leonard himself, which gave us all a little something to think about.

Joan found Tony’s belief that he couldn’t/shouldn’t interfere with the natural order of things in the gangster world an interesting twist.  Not wanting to tell the people at the roadhouse that the bad guys were coming so as to not change the natural course of events just struck the group as odd.  Looking at both sides of the event as if they were animals in the zoo, being an observer and then reporting it.

Favorite characters – Carl, Louly, and Virgil.  Dude knew how to live life.

Least favorite characters – Luigi/Lou, Jack.  There’s probably a psychological name for why he was the way he was.  Beyond ass.

As for all the whores, good gravy…

4 stars

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