Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cooking with Killers

So I'm currently nursing a cold, and a severe outbreak of senioritis. And I'm getting sick of the amount of technology I own gradually breaking down and not working any more - like my phone, and, I'm beginning to fear, my laptop - and let me add that I'm also getting sick of this weather. Like many others who are similarly sick, I feel awful, I crave chocolate, and my room is a mess.
Unfortunately, this is why you see my own unique brand of cover art above. The book I recently read - The Marinara Murders, by Erik Hanberg - actually has some pretty cool cover art, which I cannot show to you, due to the simple fact that I have temporarily lost my Kindle. It lies somewhere at the bottom of the piles of messy clothes, books, and discarded school-related-angsts that are lying in various places around my room right now. I'm sure I'll find it later when I sort out my mess before the start of the week (but seeing as though I'm wearing a pretty thick coat of apathy right now, the angst may continue to lie there until Finals start on Thursday).

The book itself provided a neat respite from such a depressing atmosphere. As everyone knows, there is nothing I love as much as a good mystery.

It follows the story of Arthur Beautyman, a worn-out once-police-detective who moved from LA to Minnesota, and now lives in his mom's basement. With no real friends or connections outside of his Mom's bridge circle, his life is spent online, before his mom shanghais him into a new case, and a new crime-fighting partner: her. It is up to him to solve the mystery of a son, believed to be dead, who winds up only recently dead shortly before the opening of his Dad's restaurant. What follows is a story of murder, sort-of blackmail, parental pressures, and pasta sauce. And a pot-smoking environmental engineer, but that's the subplot.

To be perfectly honest, I was thrown off a little by the first two words in the book: the character's name, Arthur Beautyman. It's something you learn to get around once you get into the novel, but it's certainly a mouthful at the start of it.

Other than that little early speed bump, though, it was all pretty great. After reading so many mystery novels, I allow myself the vanity of being able to spot the killer from a mile away, which I was able to do with this book, too. But, like I said, vanity. And even though I could tell who the killer(s) was, the plot was interwoven with so many varied veiwpoints that my convictions were shaken in a few places. It was different from simply picking the doctor out of an Agatha Christie novel: the killer, though I guessed right, had a motive that threaded through so many different personal stories, that the whole truth of it wasn't laid out until the very end, and you weren't fully secure in your understanding until that understanding was made.

Those threaded stories - those interlocked personalities - were probably my favorite part of the book. Unlike your basic modern mystery, there were no pure stock characters involved. Each one had its own complete identity. The cop was harsh, but friendly. The lady threw a killer punch and played hockey. The wayward teen activist scrambled around Europe, but came to have a keen business mind as well. No one was just their basic title. Arthur's mom could have been the stereotypical, meddlesome and mild-mannered old lady, but instead, she struck off into the investigating business with a level head. Her relationship with her son was unique, too: while you got the distinct Burn Notice-y vibe between the two, similar to Micheal Weston and his mother, Mrs. Beautyman was a character all her own. These aspects, that made Marinara Murders so different than other modern mystery novels - like how for a has-been detective, he gets along pretty well with people, and the "verbal embellishments" are pretty limited, and not lightly used - were what I enjoyed the most about it.

In my world, filled with mystery novels, I felt like I hadn't read this one before.

#20. The Marinara Murders by Erik Hanberg.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful review, thank you Savannah! The last line of the review felt so good to read.

    And I love your hand-drawn cover! I showed it to my wife Mary (who designed the cover) and she thought it was really clever.

    Thank you for posting your feedback!