Review: Coleman’s Walking the Perfect Square

Walking the Perfect Square (Moe Prager Series)
Reed Coleman

I picked this one up because the star of the series is a New York Jew. My kind of guy. I wasn’t expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised. Reed Coleman is a strong writer, much better than most writers of this sort of fiction, and Moe Prager is a captivating and human hero who it is easy to cheer on.

The story is a standard PI haunted by a case he can’t forget. But the way it is plotted is well done, the characters expertly drawn, issue of sexuality and mental illness are handled with a care you rarely see in detective fiction, and the descriptions of New York are done in the loving and authentic way only a native of the city can accomplish. Prager is drawn as the opposite of the standard hard boiled detective. He is a caring and thoughtful person. He loves his kid, and wants to do right by his family and his client. Notably, his religion plays a much smaller role than I was expecting from the way the series was sold to me by a friend. Sure sometimes the writing was a little over done, and yes some of the jokes are pretty corny, but this is a great read for anyone interested in detective fiction, New York in the Seventies, or just a pretty damn good book.
Recommended for the enthusiast.

Review: Stout’s Fer-De-Lance

Fer-de-Lance (Audio Editions)
Rex Stout

I am no Rex Stout expert. Matter of fact, this is the first of his books I have read. I have, however, read my fair share of mysteries, and this one is a hoot. The plot of is more than a bit fantastical, since it involves darts flying out of golf clubs, and exotic snakes threatening to kill our protagonists, but the character are outrageous, well-constructed, and fascinating. It seems like now a days few modern mystery fans (myself included) dip into these older books. That’s a shame. The writing and plot construction, and especially the characters, here are top notch.

This is the novel that introduced the world to Nero Wolfe, is an orchid enthusiast, gourmand, and shut in. He is the brilliant and arrogant. He is a Sherlock Holmes updated to 20th Century New York, all the wit and charm, plus a fair amount of New York neurotic. His right hand man Archie Goodwin is an odd construction – more hard boiled than Wolfe, he ventures into the tough neighborhoods, occasionally carries a gun, but prefers milk to whiskey on most occasions. Somewhere between Watson and a noir style P.I. He is fascinating, and I am look forward to seeing he and Wolfe develop as the books go on.

Definitely worth reading for anyone interested in a well-built mystery inhabited with some compelling characters.
Recommended for the enthusiast.

Review: Gregorio’s Critique of Criminal Reason

Critique of Criminal Reason: A Mystery (Hanno Stiffeniis Mysteries)

Michael Gregorio

A perfectly serviceable murder mystery where one of the detective is Immanuel Kant. The author, Michael Gregorio is a pseudonym for two Italian academics with deep knowledge of Prussia during the Napoleonic wars. Their knowledge of the history of the Konigsberg give the book a real sense of time and place but the portrayal of Kant as someone working on a book on the nature of the criminal mind is just, well, silly.

Still, the book is decently written and well plotted. If you like a historical murder mystery with overtones of Sherlock and Holmes, you could do worse. I wouldn’t go out of my way to read this one, but I wouldn’t be disappointed by having spent the time to read it either.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Review: Zimler’s The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon

The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon
Richard Zimler

Murder mystery set among the Jewish community of Lisbon at the time they were being forced into exile. Good for the pop history of the Jews of Lisbon, but sub-par as a murder mystery. The scene of a community being torn apart and murdered because of antisemitism is well done, but the plot trudges along, and the characters with whom I should be interested (manuscript illuminators, kabbalists, basically my kind of people) are not very well drawn. If you like In the Name of the Rose type books you’re going to be tempted by this one when you see it in the store. I say skip it.

Not recommended.

Review: Pear’s Instance of the Fingerpost

Orginally written in 2007 for a now defunct livejournal account.

An Instance of the Fingerpost
Iain Pears

A literary thriller in the vein of the In the Name of the Rose, but not as good, nor as full of hidden philosophical ideas. Set in the time of the reformation, it’s a mystery inside a mystery. Well written and entertaining, it’s worth your time if this is your sort of thing.

Recommended for the enthusiast.