Paper Plane Reviews

A Book Review Blog

Category: Mystery Page 2 of 7

Death Masks by Jim Butcher

As some of you may have noticed, I have something of a tendency to group my Discworld and Dresden Files reads together. In this case, I am following Reaper Man with Death Masks, which felt kind of thematically appropriate somehow. And honestly, I was looking forward to the next Dresden Files so much after the series had its ante upped during Summer Knight that I couldn’t have resisted for long.

By the time Death Masks starts, the war with the Red Court of Vampires has been going on for a couple of years, with progress on either side more or less grinding to a halt. With this in mind, Dresden is approached by Count Ortega, who puts forward the following offer: agree to a fair one-on-one fight with him and potentially end the war for good, or he’ll send hired guns after Harry’s friends and former clients. On top of that, he is hired to find the Shroud of Turin after it has been stolen. While what seems like a comparatively mundane case soon proves to be anything but when demonic beings known as the Denarians show up, with Michael and his fellow Knights of the Cross determined to keep Harry out of harm’s way.
I don’t really know how Butcher intends to top Death Masks, because I loved this from start to finish. First, the reader is introduced to new characters that I can’t wait to see more of. There’s Butters, the night-shift mortician blaring out polka, who is surprisingly calm about the fact that the supernatural is real now. There is Ivy, a little girl who contains the entirety of written knowledge but still insists on sticking to an appropriate bedtime. And, my favourite, there is Sanya, the newest Knight of the Cross, one of God’s chosen few, who still maintains a position as an agnostic and has little time for the old fashioned trappings of the Order.
Second, it develops some of the existing side cast nicely. Michael doesn’t come across nearly as sanctimoniously as he does in Grave Peril, as he is balanced out by the other Knights of the Cross. Susan, while still far from my favourite character, doesn’t feel like dead weight anymore; turns out she just needed to be turned into the undead to contribute something to the series beyond a target for Harry’s emotional pining. And, be still my beating heart, I get to see more Johnny Marcone being more than capable of standing toe-to-toe with supernatural foes, as well as an unexpected emotional side.
Third, it introduces some great villains in the Denarians. They are seriously scary already, and I doubt that I’ve seen even a fraction of what they’re capable of. The idea of an entity that takes over people through their own temptation is really unnerving, as is the fact that they’re at such an obviously higher power scale than anyone Harry’s had to fight before, with the exception of the Fae. Count Ortega is also an interesting villain, but he does kind of pale in comparison to the Denarians.

I really have no complaints with Death Masks. The pre-existing characters have been well-developed, a terrifying new enemy is introduced and it sets up so many cool plot threads to expand on. My favourite Dresden Files so far, and I’m really excited to see where the series goes from here. 5/5

Next review: Fashion Beast by Alan Moore, Malcolm McLaren, Antony Johnston & Facundo Percio

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Fires by Rene Steinke

The reason for me picking The Fires to read is going to sound really stupid and dull. For my birthday one year, I received a load of ebooks on a USB stick, some of which were some series that I had been very keen to get. But I’d also never transferred anything like that onto my tablet, so I picked a book at random to test out the process. That book was The Fires and since I never got round to removing it from said tablet, I figured that I might as well give it a whirl.

The Fires follows a young woman called Ella in the aftermath of her grandfather’s suicide. She finds herself struggling with her grief, which is only compounded by her mother and grandmother’s refusal to acknowledge that the cause of death was anything but natural causes. To try and cope, she tries to find her estranged aunt to pass on the news of his passing, and when that isn’t enough to quiet her state of mind, she sets things on fire.
This is something of an odd novel. Its most obvious strength is the writing style, which is very lyrical and vivid. The problem arises because instead of accentuating intriguing characters and a dark, tormented family drama, it accentuates just how much the characters and plot lack in depth. With regards to character development, Steinke seems to have gone to the school of characterisation that dictates that the key to good characterisation involves mounting dysfunction on dysfunction like you’re playing a particularly poor taste bingo game. Ella is a particularly egregious example. She sets fires, then she’s an insomniac, then she has alcohol dependency issues from her attempts to medicate her insomnia, then she has body confidence issues stemming from burn scars from a childhood accident. And all of that is before you begin to touch the myriad of tedious micro-traumas that she has heaped on with her family members. What could be interesting character flaws individually becomes a featureless mass of depression. None of her flaws are aggravating, but neither can I really think of any positive qualities. She’s not a racist, so there’s that.
As for the plot, it seemed like it was going somewhere interesting, but then Steinke drops the biggest plot bombshell right in the middle. After that, nothing really tops that shock and the further revelations are a bit weak and predictable in comparison. If they’d been paced in a different order, then it would probably have worked out better, but as it is it’s strong until the mid-point then an exercise in stretching out time and patience.

There’s the basis of what could have been a really good novel in the mess that is The Fires, but it’s just put together all wrong. The main character Ella is more an amalgamation of dysfunctions that probably aimed at making someone intriguing and tortured, but only leaves a confused impression of a person where her sole good quality is that she isn’t a racist. The plot has a lot of revelations about Ella’s family that are good on paper, but presented in the wrong order so that the tension leeches out almost immediately after the first big plot twist at the plot’s mid-point. I wanted to care, but couldn’t in the end. 2.5/5

Next review: Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

Signing off,
Nisa.

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Once again, I return to the Dresden Files. While I was a bit disappointed in the previous installment, Grave Peril did set up a massive conflict between the wizards’ White Council and the Red Court of vampires that I was interested in seeing play out. Which is why I was a little confused to see it take something of a back seat.

In Summer Knight, the reader returns to find Harry Dresden a mere shadow of his former self. Obsessed with finding a cure for the vampirism that has infected his girlfriend, he has completely withdrawn from friends, is struggling to keep up with rent and has even fallen behind on basic hygiene. When he is at what is arguably his lowest ebb, he finds himself drawn into a murder mystery that could cause an Armageddon-level war between the Summer and Winter courts of the Sidhe (Faeries to you and me, but don’t let them hear you call them that). Worse than that, if he doesn’t solve the mystery and somehow lives, then the White Council will call for his execution for his part in starting the war with the Red Court.
Whatever issues Grave Peril had, it would appear that it was only a temporary blip in the quality of the Dresden Files. Summer Knight is everything that I love about the series in one spot. There’s all sorts of dangerous politics, both from the White Council’s willingness to throw one of their own under the bus, and from the seductive and pernicious deals of the Faeries. There’s an unwelcome face from the past in the form of Elaine, the ex-girlfriend who teamed up with his former teacher to try and bring him over to the dark side. Apparently she wasn’t acting under her own power, but as she is acting as an emissary to the opposing Faerie court that has hired Harry, how much of her word can he believe? There’s the introduction of changelings, half-mortal and half-Faerie and not really at home in either world. And, best of all, there is my absolute favourite cop, Karrin Murphy, being a complete badass even when she’s having to work through the magic equivalent of PTSD. What more could I ask for?
If there was something that did bother me, it was that for a conflict that wiped out one of the White Council’s most senior wizards, the war with the vampires only seemed to get the most cursory of nods right at the beginning and again a little before the final conflict. It would have been nice to see a bit more direct conflict with the Red Court, because what we do get seems to be a bit throwaway and nonsensical.

Summer Knight is probably my favourite so far of the Dresden Files, and a welcome return to form. I loved the politics of the Faerie courts as well as the sheer scale of their power. And honestly, it was just so damn good seeing Karrin Murphy back on her feet and being badass again. I look forward to the next installment, where hopefully we’ll get to see more of the conflict between the White Council and the Red Court. 4.5/5

Next review: Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

Signing off,
Nisa.

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

And now to return to the Dresden Files, partially because I’m going on holiday soon and my husband’s threatened to bring the official board game with him, so I wanted to be at least a little further in the series. Also because I like what I’ve read so far and want to see how the series progresses.

Grave Peril follows Dresden as he teams up with one of God’s chosen warriors to try and quell a sudden uprising from the spirit world. While ghosts are normally harmless with the occasional poltergeist making a nuisance of itself, Chicago’s dead are now anything but quiet and unusually powerful to boot. On top of that, Harry soon finds himself having to contend with tracking down a vulnerable young wizard and a party where he has to play nice with Bianca and the vampires of the Red Court.
I personally found Grave Peril to be kind of a stumble in the series thus far. While I still enjoyed the overall experience of reading it, after the first two installments this one was kind of disappointing.
So, let’s start with the positive. I really liked the ghost stuff. The confrontation at the beginning in particular was really harrowing and so well-written. If there had been way more of that, then I think I would have been able to forgive some of the mis-steps a bit more.
So, the first thing that bothered was the introduction of Michael. While I don’t have a problem with practising Christian characters in the books I read, I kind of found him to be a sanctimonious bore. At first I thought he’d be a fun addition, considering how much he seems to enjoy winding Harry up, but he didn’t really go much beyond that. And it’s unexpectedly annoying to have a character telling someone off for language that wouldn’t even get a PG rating.
Second, it either doesn’t feature or actively incapacitates my favourite characters, instead choosing to focus large parts of the narrative on Susan. This is more a personal gripe, but it really hinders a story when I don’t care if one of the main characters dies or not.
Third, there’s a big chunk of plot that occurs because of a case that Dresden helps close involving a sorcerer that summons a demon. All of which happened before any of the novel’s events and isn’t actually shown properly during the entirety of the narrative. Now, it might just be me, but if an event had tantamount importance to why Dresden is having problems now, then I’d be tempted to include it somewhere. Not just a nightmarish “what-if” version where everything goes wrong. Because as it is, it feels like cheating when Butcher reveals “oh yeah, it’s part of that case that I keep alluding to, but will never disclose in full”.
Finally, after the initial encounter with the Red Court at the party, the story starts to drag a bit. It stops being tense and suspenseful, and starts being various repetitions of “Oh no! The last of my reserves! Wait, wait… never mind, found some more. Carry on.” It stops being tense once Dresden uses up his last ounce of strength more than once, and starts feeling a bit cheap. I will admit, the wrapping up chapter makes up for it a little by introducing a bigger conflict that I hope to really sink my teeth into.

Overall, it’s decently written, and if I could have had more sections focusing on the ghosts, that would have been brilliant. As it was, Grave Peril focuses too much on characters that really aren’t that interesting out of the side cast he’s made thus far, has a big chunk of plot rely on events that the reader never gets to see and the climax drags where it should be tense. I still enjoyed reading it, I just feel that compared to previous installments this felt thoroughly average. 3.5/5

Next review: Eric by Terry Pratchett

Signing off,
Nisa.

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

So it’s been a while since I last read anything from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Having spent some time reading other material, I was really looking forward to finding out how the series would progress. That and I could see my husband positively twitching as I read anything but Dresden Files or Discworld. Be aware that there may be spoilers for Storm Front below.

Fool Moon sees Harry about 6 months after the end of the previous book, and he is still feeling the negative consequences of it. Murphy doesn’t trust him after he went after her suspect alone and withheld information about the case from her. As such, the work that he’s gotten from the police has slowly been dwindling over the months. But when Murphy comes to him with what looks like werewolf attacks, it soon becomes clear that there is a lot more at stake than just his next paycheck.
This is a pretty entertaining continuation of the series, and a far more entertaining subject. Much as werewolves have been overdone before, it’s much more of a tangible threat than magical drug dealers and amps up the tension more than a human enemy would. With regards to the werewolves, it does take a fun turn and introduces several different types to worry about, from wizards who transform their bodies with magic, to humans empowering themselves with demonic items, to those unfortunate people possessed by a demon. The benefit of having all the different types be relevant at some point means that there is variation in strengths and weaknesses that accordingly varies up the action.
Additionally, it was nice to see the consequences of Harry’s actions coming back to bite him. Because, much as I like him as a character, he does have an annoying tendency to try and play protector, especially with the women in his life. And that most often means withholding information that he thinks would be dangerous for them to know. Honestly, that would be so much more irritating if it weren’t obvious that the people he’s denying information to didn’t completely ignore his attempts to push them out of danger. I hope it doesn’t go much further in the series though, because although I do relish seeing how it all backfires, I can see it getting really old really fast.
Lastly, I liked seeing more of the human characters previously introduced. While I’m still a bit lukewarm towards Susan, I was more than happy to see more of Murphy and Johnny Marcone. I probably shouldn’t, but there’s a big part of me that adores the gentleman gangster. I look forward to seeing more of the police and Chicago’s criminal underworld a lot more in further installments.

An excellent continuation of the series. There are a few issues that aren’t big enough to cause concern here, but I would be disappointed to see them continue in the series as a whole. Overall, it’s a fun and at times terrifying romp with werewolves. There’s some good expansion on the human characters already introduced, and more hints of a larger conspiracy in the background. 4.5/5

Next review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Signing off,
Nisa.

An Arsene Lupin Omnibus by Maurice LeBlanc

I first heard about the character Arsene Lupin when I was reading the manga detective series Case Closed. Included in the back of each volume was a recommendation from the author of other detectives that readers might be interested in. And amongst some of the first to be recommended was Arsene Lupin, a charismatic master thief and sometime detective, created in response to the success of Sherlock Holmes. Suitably intrigued, I tried finding whatever had been translated from the original French, only to discover that there doesn’t seem to be much available regardless of what Wikipedia says has been translated. As such, I’ve been rather looking forward to reading something complete, beyond the few scattered stories that I’ve managed to find previously.

An Arsene Lupin Omnibus collects four of the volumes written by LeBlanc. Instead of going over plot and character aspects as I would normally would, I will instead focus on each volume individually.
First up is Arsene Lupin versus Holmlock Shears. This is the weakest of the four for me, for one reason that is perhaps more personal to me. As you can probably tell, this is a short novel detailing the intellectual battle between Lupin and a poorly disguised version of Sherlock Holmes, whose name couldn’t be used at the time of writing due to copyright infringement. The mystery is actually fairly solid, I didn’t really manage to guess anything before the big finales. My problem is that this is such a mean-spirited rendition of Holmes, and let’s not pretend that this Holmlock Shears is meant to be a character in his own right. While I have loved books with one abhorrent character, rarely was the narrative from their perspective and never was it using the character that I will probably always carry closest to my heart. To see him treating his Watson substitute with such callousness is galling. As I said though, the mystery is good enough and Lupin charming enough that I could tough it through.
The second volume in the omnibus is The Confessions of Arsene Lupin, a collection of short stories mostly focusing on Lupin as a master thief. This is one of the stronger collections in my opinion, because Lupin’s adventures are not long enough that they have time to grow old. An issue that the previous volume had as well was that as two longer cases, it does start to feel a bit like a waiting game as Lupin sets more and more obstacles in an investigation’s way until no more avenues of pursuit are available. With the short stories, it’s more succinct and punchy. They feel more fun when there isn’t the knowledge that your main character is running in circles. It’s much more interesting to see how carefully laid defences are circumvented when it isn’t the point of view character’s defences.
The third volume is another novel-length adventure, The Golden Triangle. In this volume, a dashing injured army captain and the beautiful nurse who tended to his injuries must defend against an unknown assailant whilst trying to figure out both where the nurse’s evil husband hid several tons of gold bullion and who has been aiming to bring the two of them together in matrimony since early childhood. This one works significantly better than the first of the long-form adventures, as it provides more meat with regards to its adventure. I won’t say mystery, because there’s one rather big spoiler, only revealed in the penultimate chapter, that I managed to guess by the halfway point. Hint, characters don’t do a 180 turn in allegiance during the course of a day, so it’s not hard to surmise from there. Aside from that, it’s great fun, with a lot of “lovers in peril” moments that I probably like a bit too much.
Last of all is The Eight Strokes of the Clock. This is kind of an interesting volume, as it’s in some ways both a novel and a collection of short stories. Posing as a gentleman by the name of Prince Serge Renine, Lupin approaches a woman by the name of Hortense Daniel, and manages to restore her financial independence. As payment, he offers that she become his companion in seven further adventures, thus providing the reader with a series of interlinked short stories. I had actually read a couple of the chapters before getting the omnibus, as a part of a “best of” collection, and I must say that their inclusion was spot on. While the introduction essentially asks the reader to think of Lupin as a French equivalent to Sherlock Holmes, nowhere in this omnibus does it fit as well as The Eight Strokes of the Clock, as here we have the consistency of an established partnership combined with the stand-alone nature of the short stories themselves. Honestly, it’s the best part of the omnibus, and had everything been of this standard I would have been supremely happy to give this a perfect score.

A thoroughly enjoyable collection, worth a look for The Eight Strokes of the Clock alone. As a Holmes fan I can’t quite bring myself to like Arsene Lupin versus Holmlock Shears, but I can appreciate a decent mystery when I see one; not necessarily enough to recommend it by itself though. The Golden Triangle is where long-form starts to suit Lupin, though it works more as an adventure than as a particularly airtight mystery. And The Confessions of Arsene Lupin are a decent starting point for some of the character’s less law-abiding adventures, with a lot of charm and action. 4.5/5

Next review: The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

Signing off,
Nisa.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Along with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, my fiance has been rather forcefully recommending that I get around to reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. Fond as I am of him and willing as I would have been to take a look because of that, I had already been intending to read the Dresden Files as I had tried and failed to read Storm Front at least three times before I got to it this time. Nothing was going to stop me this time.

The main protagonist of Storm Front, Harry Dresden, is something of an oddity in his home city of Chicago. He is an openly practicing wizard, even going so far as to advertise his services in the local phone directories. While most of the people who call his office do so to find out if he’s serious or not, he does indeed have some magical skill. So when he is called in by the police to consult on a grisly double murder, it means that something is profoundly unnatural about the whole situation. Having started investigating the crime, he finds that whoever is behind the crime doesn’t want him to get any further, and they won’t pull any punches in trying to impede his search.
I honestly have no idea why I couldn’t previously finish Storm Front. There wasn’t a single thing about this book that I disliked.
First, the main protagonist. Harry seems quite the likeable main lead, with an unusually grim backstory that we have only so far gotten hints of. He’s very much an old fashioned gentleman type of character, willing to let his adversaries play fair before going in seriously, which is nice if occasionally frustrating. There are a few side characters introduced that I could see being quite important later on in the series, Karrin Murphy, Gentleman Johnny Marcone and Susan Rodriguez in particular, but because of the way that the plot proceeds it does become something of a one-man show. As such, I suppose it’s a good thing that his character is so strongly written. Admittedly, I will say that his bad luck with women seems to be a bit arbitrary considering that from what the reader is shown, there isn’t really anything that strikes me as obviously repelling about his personality. As such the vaguely romantic stuff does seem a bit out of place and not as confident really. I hope that he stays single for the rest of the series, because romance does not at the moment appear to be Butcher’s forte.
As for the plot, it’s a pretty solid crime story with a fantasy twist. While I wish that I could have learnt a bit more about where the magic in this universe stems from, so that I could get a better picture of what is and isn’t possible for one wizard to achieve, I thought that what was included was pretty solid. Mostly it was stuff fairly familiar from European ideas of magic throughout history, things like the power of true names and casting spells using a person’s hair or blood, but then the whole thing seemed to come together well enough that there wasn’t much that needed reinventing. In particular I liked the potion-making scene, where the ingredients are more vehicles for symbols of what the potion should do than a specific recipe. I thought that was a nice touch. Additionally, I liked the hints of things that have yet to become important in the series. I’m told that some of these things get extra explanation and context, so I’ll be looking forward to that.

A great start to a series, all things considered. Storm Front does well by creating a likeable protagonist and loading his world with all kinds of interesting magic that I am keen to learn more about. The writing does get a little clunky with regards to Harry’s relationship to women and romance, so I’m hoping that further into the series Butcher either gets better at it or just abandons the romantic angle altogether. More than happy to recommend the series to fantasy readers or crime fans willing to suspend their disbelief a little further. 4.5/5

Next review: The House of the Dead by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Signing off,
Nisa.

Stalkers by Paul Finch

It’s been a while since I’ve read any police procedural novels, mostly because my tendency when buying is to drift towards cosy or historical mysteries first. My mum, on the other hand, is very much a fan of police procedurals, so I ended up stealing this book off of her once she’d finished reading it. Which raises the question, have I been missing much in the genre?

The last thing that Mark Heckenberg needs to hear from his superiors at work is that the case that he has spent years building is to be shut down. When said case could potentially find almost 40 missing women who had no reason to disappear, he is even more unwilling to just let this lie. So he ventures out on his own, soon attracting the attention of Lauren Wraxford, the ex-army sister of one of the missing women, who forces herself into his investigation. Unfortunately, his investigations also attract the attention of the dangerous group responsible for these disappearances.
Right, so I have some mixed feelings about this. On the surface, Stalkers is a very competent thriller. It has a tense premise, with some very intimidating villains and the tension is kept high throughout. I guess the thing that kind of bothers me about Stalkers is the way that the subject matter is handled. You find out pretty quickly that the women abducted by the main villains are targeted to be raped and murdered, after being picked out by a rich man close to them. Considering how sensitive a subject rape is, and how often it involves specifically female victims, it has a weirdly “she had it coming” vibe at times. While the rapists involved are rightfully depicted as the scum that they are, the victim that the narrative follows at first has a line of thought that is distinctly male. She’s going through her daily routine and thinking to herself how fortunate she is that she can rely on her looks to put her above women who are just as qualified as she is. Speaking from my experience, that does not sound believable. Women don’t really think in that way, and honestly, if a woman is attractive enough to garner sexual attentions from their boss or coworkers, that shit is often entirely unwelcome. For the victim to be portrayed even slightly okay with her male coworkers leering at her invites the reader to think that she unwittingly encouraged her attacker. That will never be an acceptable attitude for me. So while Stalkers does get a lot right, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, because it introduces an element of grey into rape, which should be as black and white as it gets.

While technically a good thriller, it portrays the victim as “encouraging” her attacker, and for me that just isn’t acceptable. Maybe you might be able to overlook that, but it just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth that ruins what would have been an otherwise tense thriller. 2.5/5

Next review: Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

Signing off,
Nisa.

Weekend by Christopher Pike

When I was a teenager, I used to stay around my grandparents’ house a lot over the school holidays, and they would always allow me to use their library card. Whilst exploring the library there, I first discovered Christopher Pike, whose books I would have a love-hate relationship with from that day. I have previously read Weekend, but it has been a while and I wanted to see how it held up.

In Weekend we follow a group of friends who are spending their last days before graduation on holiday in Mexico. But what should be a dream holiday is made tense by memories of an unexplained accident that left one of their party severely ill. These tensions are ramped up as things go wrong one by one, starting with the phone lines going dead.
I’d forgotten just how 80s this novel feels at times. These days you’d have to write in why no-one is using a mobile phone for one thing. But mainly, the characters feel very reminiscent of the kind of teenagers that you got in films from that generation, both in teen dramas and slasher films. None of them are really all that likeable, but they’re entertaining enough that you want them to stay alive. While that can be really cheesy here, it does feel kind of comfortable. Like nothing new has been made here, but the stuff that does come up is handled at least competently. After the irritation that was The Benson Murder Case, I think I needed a bit of comfort reading.
Admittedly, I’m not sure why Weekend is labelled as horror, considering that it only barely flirts with the genre in the most minimal way possible. And of Christopher Pike’s work, it is also one of the least scary. If you start reading it expecting scares, then you’d be disappointed. If you’re looking for a pretty decent thriller and mystery, then you’re probably on safer territory.

Overall, pretty cheesy and very 80s in feel, but quite good if you’re looking for something comforting and easy on the brain. One of Pike’s less tense books, but still one of the most tonally consistent of his works. 3.5/5

Next review: Batman: The Dark Knight: Golden Dawn by David Finch & Jason Fabok

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Benson Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine

Having done a bit of research into the Golden Era of detective fiction, I primarily knew S. S. Van Dine from his article “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories”. Since the rules seemed sensible enough, when I came across some of his writing I thought that I’d check out how well he could put his teachings into practice.

When playboy stockbroker Alvin Benson is killed, his social circle are in a furore trying to figure out who could have murdered him. Enter art enthusiast and amateur detective Philo Vance, who immediately notices some interesting features of the crime scene that the police seem to be overlooking. But will he be able to convince the police of the right culprit before an innocent citizen is arrested first?
This could have been a decent enough detective story, if it weren’t for the detective. There is nothing even remotely likeable or interesting about Philo Vance. Admittedly, the fact that the first chapter does nothing but sing his praises and talk about his art collection didn’t incline me positively towards him, and I found that further reading only confirmed my worst fears. Philo Vance is the snob that is quite happy to watch you work through a problem slowly and steadily, only to trash your work and declare that they knew from the start what the solution was. He bases his workings entirely on psychological profiling, despite appearing to be entirely alien to actual human emotions and drives. His singular emotion appears to be smugness, perhaps cynicism if I’m generous. I couldn’t hate him more if I tried.
Additionally, the author-named character, Van Dine, is entirely pointless. He makes a big deal about his experience as a lawyer, and then does nothing with it. In fact, I forgot that he was even a character until right at the end, because he contributes absolutely nothing to the storyline. His entire purpose is to follow Vance around like an obedient puppy with a notebook and an obsession with noting down every possible detail about an encounter.

What could have been at least an average murder mystery is completely ruined by having the detective be an odious snob with no redeeming qualities, joined by a chronicler who might as well not be there. Don’t bother with it. 1/5

Next review: Weekend by Christopher Pike

Signing off,
Nisa.

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