I haven’t been able to keep up with the Cannonball Read Bingo, but I have been reading stuff for my library’s bingo, which helps because it encourages me to try things I’d either put off or left on my shelf to rot…
The Dark Tunnel **
Went back to the beginning with Ross Macdonald for this one. I love Ross’ Archer series and his standalones aren’t bad but this one is. Unfocused plotting, expository dialogue, characters conveniently bouncing in and out. Macdonald was trying to do pulp with an intellect’s bend. He would perfect it in the Archer series but here, you can barely see the talents that would make him great. All writers have to start somewhere, I reckon.
The Other Black Girl ****
I’m a white dude so take this entire review fwiw.
Several Black friends have remarked to me that when they are in predominantly white spaces, they nod to each other. It’s a tacit acknowledgment of solidarity in the midst of difficult circumstances.
This book felt like examining the politics of that nod through the Black female lens. It’s a thriller and, I guess to a degree a mystery/horror but it’s really the focused kind of social commentary take in fiction that’s poignant and needed.
There’s kind of two tracks running at the same time: the character Nella and other ancillary characters working in the background. Harris takes her time getting to their convergence and that’s maybe my only quibble; the book suffers a little when it’s not focused on Nella. But it’s overarching points: the minimization of Black women in mostly white spaces, the compromises Black women have to make in order to survive in the work force, the non stop focus on Black women’s hair…those come through loud and clear. I was rooting for Nella and also feeling terrible for her.
Some are going to blanche at the ending. I really liked it. I think it emphasized all Zakiya Dalila Harris was trying to say. She wasn’t afraid to confront her creation head on and that’s all one can ask of a writer, even if they don’t like where the book lands.
This is a good work by an exciting new voice. I can’t recommend it enough.
Billy Summers ***
Torn on this one. Probably grading it on the King Curve cuz he’s such an excellent writer.
On the one hand, King thrills in scenes. His ability to pull the reader into the world he’s created is unparalleled. I was hooked even when I wasn’t curious.
On the other hand, it’s a conventional story told from beginning to end. It’s not bad, it’s just not unique. It reminds me of the first Mr. Mercedes in that it’s competent but not compelling.
It also doesn’t help that the lead female character is thin and problematically written, even by King’s standards.
Ideally, The Outsider would be the play-it-straight thriller and this one would’ve slipped into supernatural territory. It would’ve made the story more written. The concept of Stephen King writing a crime thriller sounds better than it usually is.
The Broken Girls ****
I don’t know why Simone St. James’ books work for me and yet, they do. This is another mystery/horror mash like The Sun Down Motel that’s thematically similar in many regards…and again she pulls it off. The characters are hit-or-miss but St. James has a way of drawing you into the plot without being too cheap. She’s a good writer who knows how to tease out a story. I was gripped by this one to the end.
A Darkness More Than Night ***
Yeah yeah yeah, diabolical serial killers chased down by men with permanent emotional damage that they refuse to deal with in a healthy manner. I’ve gotten used to it with Bosch, wasn’t as much of a fan of McCaleb. My capacity for wounded, toxic male antihero/protagonists is about one-per-book. Michael Connelly is such a great writer, he can still thrill even when the premise doesn’t change.