LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
Six-word review: Every violent act has many victims. Extended review: That six-word review is really not a review so much as a statement of a major theme of the book. Not only is this third Simon Serrailler novel packed with violent acts, and especially violent criminal acts, but it is also an inventory of collateral damage. Even people at several removes from the perpetrators and their direct victims are seen to be harmed as a result of the antisocial acts of a few. This is a powerful message. In delivering that message through a gripping narrative, the book certainly succeeds. It held my attention through a very fast read of 374 pages. Nevertheless, I came away dissatisfied yet again--even more so, perhaps, than at the end of the second book of the series. This book reveals what should have been disclosed in the conclusion of The Pure in Heart, but wasn't: namely, who committed the abductions and murders of the missing children. However, we are left to wonder what the perpetrator actually did, and even more important, why. It took a whole third novel to close the case that occupied the attention of the (nominal) main character, Simon Serailler, throughout the second, and we are still left with major unanswered questions. Perhaps the problem here lies in expectations. Beneath the title are the words "A Simon Serailler Mystery." To employ the label "mystery" is to invoke the conventions of a genre, and foremost among the traditional conventions of this genre is that the mystery be explained and the questions answered by the end. It would be fair to call these stories "crime novels," for they are certainly about crime, its effects, and the process of solving crimes, but they are not really mysteries in the usual way. The principal character, Simon Serailler, doesn't even do any detecting or crime solving. Curiously, he seems to simply stand at the hub of a wheel while other characters, good, bad, and in between, spin around him. An odd aspect of all three books in this series so far is that we are routinely shown the sensations, thoughts, and actions of numerous point-of-view characters but that there is an opacity in all of them. Secrets are alluded to but not exposed. We are told that the character remembers something, but not what it is that the character remembers. A troubling recollection, a persistent doubt, a disturbing association--these things frequently stay hidden. An inner narrative can't be called a character study if the key to a character's behavior remains oblique. Puzzles remain puzzles. And that insight into what makes characters what they are, revealing why they do what they do, is to me one of the main pleasures in reading fiction. By withholding those revelations, the author is, in my opinion, denying me the payoff I expect in return for giving my attention to her story. I picked up this book in haste when I made a quick stop by the library en route to an appointment where I knew I'd have some waiting time. I spotted it on the shelf and thought it would be better than a complete unknown. And it probably was. The narrative delivery, style, pacing, and all those other qualities are satisfactory. It is only that yet again it raises questions and then, frustratingly, obscures the answers. Yes, life is like that. But a mystery novel isn't supposed to be.
Review: The Arabian NightmareUser Review - Goodreads
I've read a lot of books which have tried a similarly 'postmodern' approach – a historical backdrop, dreams versus reality, narrators inside & out – but none half as good as this. It's all in the ...