Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Most annoying genre tropes - Street Directory

I don't know if this is actually a genre trope, but it really gives me the shits.

I was reminded of it again when I read "No Cure For Love" by Peter Robinson. This was actually a book written in 1995 and re-released to look like a new book to fool unsuspecting customers (that's another post entirely).

It wasn't bad, but I was struck by the sheer number of pages dedicated to recounting EVERY SINGLE ROAD a character would drive down to get somewhere.

I suspect the main motivation behind this is so that the writer can claim their travel expenses on tax. "No Cure For Love" was set in LA, whereas Robinson's books are usually set in Yorkshire in England. So "No Cure For Love" is absolutely riddled with descriptions of roads taken and what all the scenery looks like taking said roads.

Do you know how many people I know who would tell me EVERY SINGLE ROAD they traveled down while telling me a story about something they did?


It is not necessary to their story.

I would also end up slapping them if they did that.

To some degree, I understand. You read a lot of reviews where people said they bought the book because it was set in their home town, and they then point out every single discrepancy they came across that made the book unrealistic. They never mention the plot, just that the geography was wrong. Because that's all that matters in a book, right? So authors at least like to show that they've done their research.

Me? Give me a good story. All of the detail Robinson gave about which street the character was driving down could have been redirected to delivering a more exhilarating thriller.

"Violent Exposure" by Katherine Howell

It must be my old age, but I'd completely forgotten that I'd read and disliked "Frantic", the first book in this series, a few years ago. So it took me a couple of chapters to twig while reading this entry that I'd come across these characters before.

However, like I've said before, it always pays to give an author a second chance, as I quite enjoyed "Violent Exposure". While the horrid Sophie Phillips from "Frantic" is mentioned every now and then, she's never physically present in the storyline. Instead, the focus is on Det. Ella Marconi and her partner Det. Dennis Marconi as they investigate the murder of Suzanne Crawford.

It looks like a domestic violence-related homicide, as her husband Connor cannot be located. However, there are more than a few complications for the detectives to sort out:

- There is no trace of Connor beyond a few years ago. What secret is he hiding?

- The man who found Suzanne's body is not being upfront with the detectives.

- A paramedic, Aidan, who attended to Suzanne the day before her murder, reveals that he had sexual relations with her. And he may not have been her first affair.

- Young Emil from Streetlights - a youth-assistance program that Suzanne's nursery supported - has also gone missing.

There is also a subplot involving Mick, another paramedic (who's training Aidan) who faces a moral dilemma after discovering a lot of cash at the residence of a dead drug dealer. This is the book's only real drawback. It is only tangentially connected to the plot, and could be removed entirely from the proceedings without really affecting anything, with a couple of quick edits. This subplot also contributes to the book's unnecessary, icky sex scenes.

Time wasted on this subplot could have been spent on fleshing out the motivations for the villain.

I found I quite liked Ella Marconi. I related to her worries about her parents' health, and appreciated that she had a close relationship with them. Rather than having yet another cliched detective-with-baggage, Howell gives us a strong, capable heroine whose complexity isn't defined by the tragedies she's endured.

Other than Mick's storyline, this is a tightly-plotted police procedural thriller. In my opinion, Howell largely avoids cliches and delivered a book I read in two sittings. I didn't pick the identity of the bad guy, and none of the characters made stupid decisions to make me want to throw the book across the room.

There you go. I'm going to check out some more from Katherine Howell, though I hope I never have to call an ambulance when I'm in New South Wales, considering all the trouble the paramedics in these books find themselves in.