THE FINANCIAL LIVES OF POETS by Jess Walter

Not sure exactly what to think of this book. Maybe because of my advanced senility, but a story of poor choices, clothed as it is in a somewhat humorous story, no longer floats my elderly boat.

It is about a journalist who has spent 18 years writing about finances, the media, etc., thinks he is all that and a bag of Doritos, so starts his own website which is business advice and poetry. Go figure. It sinks. He is totally out of money, crawls back to his old job, lasts only a short while before being laid off because this is the era of the dying newspaper business.

He has married a women who is all about being a material girl, so we know where THIS little thread is going as they get deeper into debt and are about to lose their dream house.

In a convoluted storyline, he meets up with some pot heads who offer him a hit, he talks about it to his financial adviser and a couple of other people who all wax nostalgic for the old days of getting high, and he decides to see if he can buy some bulk and resell to make money to save his house.

On and on and on and on with one bad decision piling on top of another until you want to just grab him by the throat and scream WTF ARE YOU THINKING???

In the end, he loses the house, his wife, and his job, finds another little writing job paying one third of his former salary, moves into a two bedroom apartment with his two young boys, and he and the little wify try half-heartedly to put their basically dead marriage back together.

My biggest gripe with this book was the idea that a seemingly intelligent man would make (a) the decision to start a stupid website and pour all his money into it. And (b) that he would get involved in what was in reality drug dealing, and (c) that he couldn’t see past the tits to the part where his wife was all about money, appearances, and superficiality. She goes on some shopping spree and spends them into even deeper debt, has an affair with a high school boyfriend, and when she leaves the husband, leaves him with the kids, saying she needs space. But he still loves her? Oh, please.

Yeah. I am too old for this crap.

INNOCENT MONSTERS by Reed Farrel Coleman

This is the sixth in the Moe Prager detective series.   I don’t know how this series slipped by me, but this is the first volume of the series I have read.  It is stand-alone as such with enough back story to give the reader sufficient background to understand our erstwhile P.I., so that reading the series in order is not necessary.

It is a well-done PI detective crime novel about a child prodigy artist who goes missing at age eleven and the hunt for her and for her possible kidnapper and killer.

Once again, we have the emotionally damaged ex-cop turned Private Investigator trope, although as a twist on this well-worn theme, our PI hasn’t been a cop for twenty years, nor a PI for seven, and now is partners with his brother in a successful wine business with a number of retail outlets.

He gets sucked into the investigation by his estranged daughter, whose early girlhood friend is the mother of the missing child. Seeing the situation as a way back to a relationship with his daughter, he takes on the investigation.  Unfortunately, he isn’t called in until three weeks have passed, when the police and everyone else are certain the child is now dead, so really the search is for her body and her killer.

It contains the usual ex-cop with emotional issues schtick which has a couple of its own minor threads, but all in all, a good read.

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A. J. Finn

Interesting read, kind of along the lines of The Girl on the Train, and others of that ilk. Anna is a psychologist specializing in treating children. We learn after a lot of circumlocution, that she was having a affair with the partner in her practice, and the husband wants a divorce. They attempt a winter holiday vacation before telling the young daughter, but that does not go well, and leaving the mountain resort in the face of a bad snow storm, with Anna driving, they slide off the road down a deep hillside, where she has no cell phone service, and they are not rescued for three days.

We meet her as an agoraphobic, psychologically locked in her home, unable to leave, or even have the windows open. We are to know that she and her husband are separated and that the daughter is with him, although they speak daily. She drinks entirely too much, and is profligate with the medicines she is taking for her mental issues. She spends her time peering (ok spying) on the various neighbors, and sees a new family move in. The teenage son of the new family comes bearing a scented candle from his mother, and this sets in motion a series of creepy events which force her out of her house a couple of times, each ending in disaster, and culminates in her facing some hard truths both emotionally and physically.

It examines the issues of  what is real? what is imagined? who is in danger? who is in control?    And I am not telling you any more of the plot.  You will just have to read it for yourself.

Really good book, this author’s first, and I am looking forward to more work from her.

JERUSALEM THE GOLDEN by Margaret Drabble

Well, Gentle Readers, I have had no internet for almost two weeks, so the postings are a bit behind, but no internet does not mean no reading, so scrabbling right along, we with start with an offering by Margaret Drabble,

Set in England in the mid 20th century, the story is about a young woman who grows up in a town north of London with a mean spirited uncaring mother, a distant father, and two brothers whom she doesn’t much care for. She finally escapes by going to school in London, where she meets the Denham family, a free-wheeling, happy group who love each other most of all. She sees a way of living, an attitude toward life, that is diametrically opposed to the one she grew up with, and feels she can now approach life with verve and zest.

She gets involved with one of the married brothers, whose marriage seems to be on the rocks, and later turns out it is because the wife was also having an affair with one of the other brothers. All very Iris Murdoch-y, and all is sort of well that sort of ends well.

It is fairly light on action plot and pretty heavy on character development and explanation, and although I found it interesting, because, of course, Margaret Drabble and her delightful writing style, I could see that it would not be everyone’s cup of darjeerling.

If you want to see what I have to say about other books by Drabble, just type her name in the search window of the blog.

SPEECHLESS by Stephen Puleston

The story:  The body of a young Pole working in Cardiff is pulled from the River Taff. His tongue has been amputated in some sort of ritual. 

More murders in the Polish community take Inspector John Marco and his team into the East European immigrant community and the murky world of people trafficking. 

But what is it that links all the deaths together?

When the evidence points to one of the city’s criminal and the involvement of a gangster from Poland Marco faces the challenge of gathering evidence from a close knit and secretive community.

And why do the Polish Secret Service seem to be interested?

When Marco finds himself entangled emotionally its impossible for him to think clearly. In search of an answer Marco travels to Poland only to find himself implicated in a murder and hoping he can avoid another. 

Racing back to Cardiff he hopes he has enough to unravel the case and arrest the perpetrators.

The title comes from the fact that several of the bodies have their tongues cut out.

OK, a competent enough crime/police procedural, but it suffers from having a former alkie cop, which alcolism ruined his marriage and his relationship with his young son, and a new girlfriend whom he basically has no time for, thereby replicating his former problems with his relationship life.  And ignoring and frankly exhibiting no interest whatsoever in his son.  You know, THAT trope.

I did not find Marco much of a sympathetic character,  as he is obviously married to his job, what I call the “Brandy Syndrome”.  You know the song,  “Brandy, you’re a fine girl”, What a good wife you would be, But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea.”  And THEN he goes and starts boinking one of the women involved in the case.  Despite the fact he is living with his girlfriend, Trish.  I call that infidelity.  I call that scumbaggy.

So, no, thanks.  I think I am done with this series.

OFFSHORE by Penelope Fitzgerald

“On the Battersea Reach of the Thames, a mixed bag of the slightly disreputable, the temporarily lost, and the patently eccentric live on houseboats, rising and falling with the great river’s tides. Belonging to neither land nor sea, they cling to one another in a motley yet kindly society. There is Maurice, by occupation a male prostitute, by happenstance a receiver of stolen goods. And Richard, a buttoned-up ex-navy man whose beautifully and fussily maintained boat dominates the Reach. Then there is Nenna, a faithful but abandoned wife, the diffident mother of two young girls running wild on the waterfront streets.

It is Nenna’s domestic predicament that, as it deepens, draws the relations among this scrubby community together into ever more complex and comic patterns.”

Don’t get the idea that these are houseboats like you see in the high rent districts of water areas.  These are basically just converted barges, no engines, moored permanently to the docks.

It’s plot is tight, concise, it’s characters ones you would actually like to meet, and as the tide goes in and out, and the boats rise and fall with it, so too do the fortunes of this handful of neighborly friends, until all ties up somewhat together in the end.

I found it a delightful read, one I had trouble putting down, just because.

DEAD POINT by Peter Temple

Peter Temple is arguably the best crime fiction writer in Australia, and if you would like to see what I have to say about some of his other work, just put his name in the search window on this blog.

In Dead Point, the third in the Jack Irish series, our boy gets involved in looking for answers as to who killed a part time barman, and in the process comes up with some knowledge about a few biggies in the world of not-so-nice people, meets up again with a couple of characters from the earlier books, and generally gets involved in fights, gun battles and smooching an on again, off again, flame.

The official plot is:  “Jack Irish’s mind is not fully on the job he’s being paid to do: find Robbie Colburne, occasional barman. But when he does get serious, he finds that the freelance drink dispenser is of great interest to some powerful people, people with very bad habits and a distinct lack of respect for the criminal justice system.”

We learn a bit about horse racing, about carpentry, and about Jack himself, told in the first person.

Love this guy’s books.