I got some great reading done while I was on vacation this past week. No knockouts but a nice range of good-to-good-enough books. Didn’t have time or resources to catalogue each individually so I’ll do small reviews of every book here.
All I Did Was Shoot My Man
I continue to be pleasantly mystified by Walter Mosley’s Leonid McGill series. These books are so odd, so transgressive considering what else is out there. He clearly has a gift for this kind of writing. The plot feels wispy in my mind; I finished it a week ago and barely remember it. But I recall certain scenes vividly and that’s mostly because I’m fascinated with the character of Leonid himself. He’s trying to repent from his past ways but not for any religious or guilt-based reasons. I think he’s surprised he’s still alive and is just going to do his thing to people who are more on the wrong side of the law this time until his fate is sealed. Hoping to finish the next one before the new one comes out next week.
A teacher fried of mine recommended this to me. I’ve already read two of Neal Shusterman’s Unwinding Dystology and enjoyed them. There are a lot of similarities in this one as well. I think what I appreciate his writing is he plays with high concepts around mortality but doesn’t condescend his intended audience. The characters can be a little stock at times but the stakes always feel high and he finds a way to push through thoughts around complex topics. I’ll get to the other two at some point but I think I want to go back and finish the unwinding ones since, while I liked this one, I feel it might have worked better as a standalone.
The Last Place You Look
My kingdom for a mystery book that has an interesting lead character, a good mystery, a great sense of place without any stereotypes, a healthy exploration of sexuality that’s not used as a cudgel of guilt or a vehicle for titillation, an examination of racism without a patronizing attitude, an open door to read more of the series without being too obvious. Points taken away for the slam-bang improbable ending but otherwise, my kingdom for more books like this. New writers better read Kristen Lepionka and step their games up.
The Big Blowdown
Like George Pelecanos, I’ve transitioned from my roaring twenties phase of parties and Cool Guy mystery novels to my thirties phase of maturity and focus. This is a good historical tale: part bildungsroman, part small-scale gangster fable, part ode to post-war DC. I had an idea of what was coming given my knowledge of the children/grandchildren in the Stefanos and Karras clans but the ending still impacted me and it reminded me how Pelecanos is not a sentimental writer. Whatever dirtbag stuff he did in his 20s, he has no desire to romanticize it. One of my favorites of his.
Pick Up at Union Station
For a Murph book, this one is just weird. Gary Reilly attempts to take our favorite slacker detective outside of his comfort zone with mixed results. I sense a change in tone in these last two Murph tales and I’m not sure how much I like it. It’s still good, still funny, still enjoyable. I love Murph. I just love him in his more familiar settings when weird things aren’t happening to him, leading to a really weird ending.