QUIBBLES & BITS
This is Pandora. She is my one and only dog.
And...the following is a lead-in to this week's one and only CRANKY QUIBBLE:
Yesterday I finished reading PLAY DEAD by David Rosenfelt. Very briefly, it's about an attorney who appeals a Golden Retriever's death sentence and then discovers that the gentle dog is a key witness to a murder that took place five years before.
What I liked about the book:
1] Characterization. That's a given. If the characterization is weak or if I don't like the protagonist, for me the book is done like a dinner. That wasn't the case in Play Dead. The book oozes characterization.
2] Dialogue. Play Dead had lots of banter. I like banter. So sue me.
3] Present tense. I've adjusted to it, especially since I used it myself in one of my novellas ;-) If done well, and Rosenfelt does it well, it's practically indistinguishable from past tense. What's more, present tense conveys a sense of urgency that past tense can't always achieve.
4] Enough loose ends to keep me guessing, but not confuse me. I simply couldn't fathom how Rosenfelt was going to tie all the loose ends up at the end...and he didn't disappoint.
5] A court case. As a Perry Mason-L.A. Law-The Practice-Boston Legal maven, courtroom jargon turns me on. I eat it up, and in fact used it in an as-yet unsold "glitzy mystery" called SOAP BUBBLES.
6] Two Golden Retrievers. I'm a sucker for any dog, but goldens are way high on my list.
What I didn't like about the book:
A major problem at the end/climax. And, strangely enough, it's the exact same flaw I've encountered in 3 out of 4 recent reads by extremely well-known authors. What the hell is going on? Sudden deadlines? Little or no editing? Too much self-promotion that requires traveling and mega personal appearances? Or, like Sara Lee, is it a case of "everybody doesn't care about last chapter glitches"?
Rosenfelt's climatic flaw is, in fact, the same flaw I've found in 3 out of 4 recent free-lance edits. It's as if the authors who submitted their manuscripts thought: I'm sure the editor [or reader] will never notice this one glitch, so I'll write it, close my eyes, and pray.
"Otherwise," I can hear the author mumbling to him/herself, "how the bloody hell can I solve the crime? How else can I keep my heroine locked in the attic/basement/boat house? How else can the hero/cop/Golden Retriever come to her rescue? How else can my heroine/hero/sleuth/cat get away from the bad guy?"
Maybe it's just me, but I think a book's ending is just as important as a book's opening hook. In my own books I sweat bullets over my opening paragraph. In fact, I sweat bullets over the first paragraph of every single chapter...and the closing sentence for every chapter, too.
When I reach my book's climax, I refuse to use the "I'm going to kill you anyway so I might as well tell you how and why I murdered that cat/soccer mom/football player/gourmet chef."
In truth, I hate the "I'm going to kill you anyway" scenario, especially when the perp can KILL YOU NOW!
My readers expect a twist at the end of a Dietz mystery. Since I tend to use up every drop of sweat on opening hooks and closing lines [for 30+ chapters], I have to use my creative imagination and my hopefully uncluttered brain for the twisty ending. And I must make damn sure my readers say, "OMG, I should have seen that coming!"
Then I'm happy.
By the way, David Rosenfelt has 37 dogs. I asked Gordon if we could get 36 more dogs; that way, I hinted, I could maybe be as brilliant and successful as David Rosenfelt. Guess what Gordon said?
Over and Out,