Title: A Beast in Venice
Author: Michael E. Hendersen
Publisher/Publication Date: Gemelli Press; pub. date Dec. 15, 2013
Well, it had to happen eventually. I suppose it was too much to think that all my reviews could be filled with rainbows and puppies and fangirling. I picked this book up on Netgalley because the plot sounded interesting and I do love all things Italian so the Venetian setting was also a plus. The concept of shroud eaters is intriguing and I’m always up for a good mystery romp with a traditional good versus evil bent. Most of the plot does not disappoint. It’s interesting to see Brigham’s knowledge of shroud eaters develop and there is a lot of potential tension between Brigham and his wife as he struggles to make sense of what is happening and to get her to see what is happening.
So, plot, lots of promise. Execution, however, was more than a little painful. The book is in desperate need of an editor. Much of the dialogue is cringeworthy, the main character Brigham is a self-absorbed misogynist, and while the plot is interesting, there are huge gaps in what is occurring. A lot of the best possibilities for growth and development are simply glossed over. Brigham’s fear of growing old and dying seems to make him completely oblivious to the fact that he’s pretty much a crappy person who treats his wife like shit and then seems completely unconcerned when she goes missing. He makes noises about being concerned but doesn’t make any real effort to locate her or even to convince the police that she’s really missing. Brigham’s ridiculous nature and poor attitude made it hard for me to get really involved in the book. I’m sure that there are many people who could overlook those and focus strictly on the plot to enjoy the book. I’m just not one of them. To be honest, I’m quite surprised I even managed to finish the book. I think with some polish and the advice of an editor, the book could have more potential. Until then, though, I would have a difficult time encouraging anyone to try this book.
Title: The Invisible Code
Author: Christopher Fowler
Publisher/Publication Date: Bantam Dell; pub. date December 17, 2013
The Invisible Code is book 10 in the Bryant and May series. Normally, I make it a point never to jump into the middle of a series. I realize that the first book in a series often isn’t the best book in the series so for some readers, starting down the line can be a good thing. I’m big on continuity though so when I started reading this and realized it was part of a series, my initial thought was to stop. The first chapter was just so enjoyable though that I kept going.
There are occasional moments throughout the book where not having read the previous ones does rear its ugly head. Primarily when mentioning previous cases and a possible conspiracy in action. Overall, though, Fowler does an excellent job on keeping the reader involved and aware even without this background knowledge. The copy I had, included a couple of notes about previous books and Fowler manages to elaborate on certain elements to provide any needed information.
Arthur Bryant, head of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, and his partner John May get drawn into a special case involving the wife of the head of Home Office security. A woman who is either haunted or going insane. A seemingly unrelated and inexplicable murder slowly reveals itself to be more and more entwined in their current special assignment. Bryant plays a much larger role throughout the book than May. He’s a bit bumbling but, unsurprisingly, this tends to obscure a sharp wit and brilliant mind. This bumbling type personality also makes it a little easier to follow along with the twists and turns in the case as Bryant talks his way through much of his thought process.
I’d describe the book as a cozy urban fantasy mystery. A sort of cross between Agatha Christie and the world of magic. I can’t guarantee that Fowler’s other books also lean towards the cozy type of genre, but that is the impression that I get. Those new to the series could easily start in on this book or begin with the first novel. I intend to go back and give the first 9 books a read to get a better sense of the overarching mystery that seems to run through the series. The book itself is a quick and easy read, enjoyable in its mystery and characters, not requiring a great deal of effort to get into and enjoy.