Another mystery author off my "must read" list

Just read Ruth Rendell’s 13 Steps Down – and have absolutely no idea why I finished it. It was grim grim grim, as her last couple of books have been, and not that interesting. I kept going because Entertainment Weekly called it one of the ten best novels of 2005 – yikes, a grim year for fiction it seems to have been.

So, yeah, Ruth Rendell joins the list of authors who I used to read regularly who I now don’t bother with – along with Elizabeth George (who was much better when her books were edited – at least the freakin’ Rendell was only 250 pages) – and, well, geez, who still gets an automatic look from me? PD James may be the only one – Sara Paretsky is still okay, mostly since she goes a few years between books – I haven’t read any of the Kinsey Milhones since L or M. I used to like Marcia Muller, but haven’t read any of hers lately either.

Who have you given up on? Who do you still read?

I’ve given up on individual books, but my favorites have remained pretty stable and satisfying since the 80’s.

I don’t think I’ve read any Rendell. I tried one under her other name, Barbara Vine (?), but didn’t care for it.

I was surprised by EW’s list. I’m also surprised, maybe even shocked, that the execrable The Historian has made some year’s best lists (Amazon’s Top 50, the Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City, a couple of others). I expected Harriett Klausner to like it, but not anyone else. :slight_smile:

I have given up on, and developed a loathing for, Patricia Cornwell (Patricia Cornhole around here) and Jonathan Kellerman - seems like there was another one, but the name isn’t coming to me.

Michael Connelly has consistently been good. Robert B. Parker is always good.

Long time favorites: Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Dan Simmons, Joe Lansdale, Pat Barker, Ron Hansen, Larry Brown (until he died, of course), Larry McMurtry, John Varley, Peter Straub

New favorites who are writing series books, with no sign of a decline in quality: Steven Erikson, Owen Parry, Boris Akunin, Robin Hobb.

Rendell’s early stuff is really good – she wrote a series of procedurals about Inspector Wexford that I like. I also like some Barbara Vine – check out The House of Stairs or Anna’s Book. They’re not really genre mysteries, but they’re interesting.

Is The Historian really bad? One of the folks I vacation with every year was reading it and liked it, but I don’t take her advice that seriously. I saw it in the library the other day but am planning to get back to my usual nonfiction habits pretty soon.

Heh. I mentioned Patricia Cornwell in the first draft of the OP, but took her out – she went onto the boycott list years ago. (There was one book about five or six into the Kay Scarpetta series that ended rather oddly in mid-story – with the “next book” coming out soon after. I don’t know whose asshole decision it was to split that book in two, but it earned her my undying emnity.

I’m still reading Jonathan Kellerman, but gave up on Faye about five years ago.

Auntie Pam – I really don’t do horror, though I’ll pick up every third or fourth Dean Koontz, so I’ve never read a single Stephen King – and have no intention of ever doing so.

I thought so. The structure is particularly confusing, the journals and letters and jumps in time. This can seem dazzling and innovative until you sit back and look at it and realize that the structure is just a gimmick. It serves no purpose. All the letters and journals have the same voice, so that any one of the characters could have written any of them. Same for the characters’ dialogue – none of them have a distinct personality, unless wishy-washy is a personality.

People on a supposedly urgent mission to find someone whose life is in danger stop and sightsee and have long dinners. A couple of truly incredible coincidences and contrivances make up for plot holes. At one point, the author uses temporary amnesia, induced by alcohol, to explain a major plot point. And the payoff is just silly.

I’ve never been so disappointed in a book that had gotten so much hype, and I’m not a particularly critical or analytical reader. If a professional reviewer tells me a book is good, I’ll usually find something in it to like. Just don’t insult my (limited) intelligence. The Historian did that.

I gave my copy away. First edition, hardcover, paid full price for the damned thing. :frowning:

I used to enjoy Anne Perry’s Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mysteries, but have gotten tired of the whole Inner Circle thing. I just want a nice, old-fashioned murder mystery, not some overarching gov’t conspiracy that never ends.

I’m mostly sticking to the same old Sayers, Christie, and Marsh mysteries these days, even though I’ve already read them all and know whodunnit.

Hentor the Barbarian wrote:

I can see the appeal in general, at least early on. There was something of the old school hardboiled dick in Spenser. But I must say that I’m sick of that goddamned dog, and I don’t give a shit about his vanilla sex life with his non-wife. I’ll read another Spenser novel when they kill that dog. Or, alternately, Spenser could have sex with it. That would be acceptable. Just no more of him and his non-wife doting over the beast.

Furthermore, I’d like to see Spenser get paid for a job. Oh, I know he’s such a fucking saint that he’s constantly doing noble charity work when he’s not boring the shit out of people with his personal life. That puts him way up on Phillip Marlowe, who was an Scotch-soaked judgemental prick, but put his ass on the line to protect the dirty from the absolutely fucking filthy because a sense of decency kept bubbling up out of the debauched slough of his bitterness. But then he collected his twenty-five bucks per day, plus expenses. What an asshole! Spenser cheerfully fights for the downtrodden and refuses to take any payment at all! Being better than anybody else at everything is reward enough for him. And Hawk apparently never ever wonders what the hell is in it for him. He’s also a fucking angel straight from heaven.

I only read Rendell’s Inspector Wexford mysteries. They’re consistently good, perhaps because she takes a couple of years between books. Parker’s Spenser is inconsistent–the early books are almost uniformly excellent; his more recent stuff is hit-or-miss. I stopped reading Patricia Cornwell after book 3–I despise her characters. Jonathan and Faye Kellerman have gotten too disturbing/boring (an odd combination, that) to keep reading. I love Martha Grimes, hate Elizabeth George. Stopped reading Paretsky, Sue Grafton, and Marcia Muller. I’m in a cozy stage now–Leslie Meier, Jill Churchill (although I didn’t much care for her last Jane Jeffrys story), Susan Whiting Albert–taking a needed break from darker stuff.

I still love the classics–Ngaio Marsh is a favorite and Rex Stout is the man. I never got into Christie.

Johnny Angel, you need to read School Days, Parker’s latest Spenser. It is remarkably Susan-less and gasp Spenser has a paying client. I agree with you about Susan. They’ve hit that comfort level that really takes away from the story.

Sometimes, a story will start out with a paying client. Then Spenser gets fired, but since he (and we) need closure, he’ll pursue the until it’s over and he has the answers he wants. He’s also got bread-and-butter clients in between who pay the bills.


I don’t disagree about the fact that there are very consistent elements across books, and when I try to recall specific ones by title, I find it difficult to distinguish between them. Typically, I would hate this aspect of other authors’ work (see Kellerman for example), but I find that I enjoy this from Robert B. Parker. Even in his novels about other characters, the same simplicity is present. Yet, I still enjoy them very well. And I would rather have a boringly consistent relationship between characters than the illogical, poorly written and emotionally discordant attempts at dissention and difficulties between characters that usually comes up when authors try to write it in. They all do it about as well as JK Rowling does discord between her characters - it sounds like bullshit, makes no sense, and takes away completely from the focus of the story.

Conversely, the elitist Alex Delaware can take his koi and shove them up his ass. Or have a group of people shove them up his ass as part of a conspiracy.

Twickster, just curious, but why’d you give up on Faye? I still like her, although I haven’t read any of her recent works. I did just purchase a novel that has works by both Kellermans in it, but haven’t had a change to look at lit yet (heh, just got it yesterday afternoon).

I’ve also been reading Dean Koontz’ Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, which is book 1 of a (I think) 3 book series. It’s pretty good so far; I usually like Koontz’ style.

I don’t even remember. The whole continuing story about Peter Decker – didn’t he turn out to have been born Jewish but given up for adoption? a bit convenient, nu? – the cardboard characters … they all just got totally on my nerves. I got about 30 or 40 pages into one, thought “this is really pissing me off,” and took FK off my “will read” list.

No shit! I just finished it last night too* and couldn’t agree more. Gah! I haven’t hated a book so much since The Corrections. It was a dreadful book – relentlessly detestable. Can she really be the same woman who wrote The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy, The House of Stairs and No Night is Too Long?

I got myself a copy of Basket Case by Carl Hiaasen for some sweet reilef.

*Like wow. Synchronicity.

might i introduce you to carol o’connell? start with mallory’s oracle, continue to stone angel. ah stone angel… what a book.

i tend to the quirky types; anne george, donna andrews, sharyn mccrumb (such a cool last name). gillian roberts has an interesting philly thing.

13 Steps Down is/was on my reading list. I was hoping it would be better than her last one.

James Lee Burke has let me down in his last couple of books, but I keep slogging through them. They’re so dark and depressing.

I given up on Peter Straub. He’s always been weird, but in an entertaining way. But, In The Night Room was beyond weird and I’m not sure a few hundred pages of gibberish qualifies as an actual book.

rockingchair – liked the first Mallory book, but they’ve been going downhill steadily – it’s a darned shame O’Connell allowed herself to get trapped into continuing to work with the same characters. I don’t think they hold up well over the long run. I’m still reading them, but sporadically. And I do like Sharon McCrumb.

Batsina – sorry to bum you out on the Rendell. When it presents itself, read the first 50 pages or so – if you’re enjoying it, keep going, but if you’re not, well, that’s pretty much the tone of the whole book.

And James Lee Burke went on my “don’t bother” list about five years ago – he’s way too dark for me.

My experience with Faye Kellerman is similar to twickster’s. I just never could work up any interest in the first book I tried to read. Also tend to agree with your O’Connell analysis. I haven’t given up yet, but the clock is ticking.

I’ll continue reading Johnathan K (and Stuart Woods and Iris Johansen) as long as my friends keep buying them and loaning them to me. :slight_smile:

Two writers that are the opposite of the OP (kinda) are GM Ford and Harlan Coben. They each started with series that were entertaining but (I think) light-weight. Ford’s Waterman and Coben’s Myron (something, sports agent) were interesting enough to buy in paperback, but too simple to pay real money for. Then, it’s as though they were possessed by (something. I really need a thesaurus, hunh?). The last few books that each has written have been fantastic. Definitely hard-cover-worthy.

I love George P. Pelecanos. I want to have his babies. And I’m a 48 year old straight man. :eek:

Tim Dorsey cracks me up.

Wow - for me it’s totally the opposite! I was very interested in Peter and Rina and wanted to know more. LOL Let’s just say that I did not know anything about Orthodox Jewish customs so it was all new to me. Have you read “The Quality of Mercy” yet? It’s set in 16th century England, Shakespeare’s time - I really liked that one.