Quality of Writing

While I've been working, I've been listening to audiobooks borrowed from the library and stumbled across an interesting contrast.

I read a couple of murder mysteries by Kate Wilhelm, the first two books from the Barbara Holloway series (Death Qualified and The Best Defense). (Mysteries are generally lightweight enough that I get the right level of involvement.) Her books were readily available, so I didn't have to wait. They were both good. The intricacies of the plot were reasonably handled, though in both there were a couple points that didn't carry through -- that might have been because I wasn't paying attention all the time.

Then, a book I had requested came available -- James Patterson's 1st to Die, the first book in his Women's Murder Club Series. It is definitely not as good. The heroine is melodramatic and the secondary characters are highly stereotypical. Peoples' actions appear nonsensical because he's pushing them unnaturally into a predetermined plot. The plot was very intricate and dramatic and had some interesting twists, but the characters were like a faint fingernails-on-the-chalkboard in the background. He uses what I call "literary shortcuts" that I dislike, especially when I see them in my own writing.

I think, in the future, I'll go for Wilhelm's more realistic plots and characters, even if they are less thrilling.

Slight SPOILER below:

(As a side note: What IS it with female leads falling deeply in love and then having their beloved die at the end? Can't have happily married (or otherwise relationshipped) women... no conflict, I suppose. That is one reason I like the TV show "Medium." The lead is happily married - though they have the inevitable occasional squabbles - with fairly realistic children.)


Random Michelle K said...

Well, for what it's worth, I've seen that one go both ways.

And I love Robert B Parker's Spenser series; although Spenser and Susan aren't married, they are devoted, and the worst (IMO) books in the series are the ones where their relationship is in conflict.

Plus, unrequited love is a bit harder to do perhaps in modern times--you no longer have race or class or parental disapproval or even socioeconomic status as barriers to relationships, so if you're going to have the hero or heroine suffer in love, you're kinda stuck with death as they way to end a love match.

Do I agree with that? No. But then I don't like stories where the focus is on the relationship. :)

belsum said...

I agree that mysteries are just right for audio books. I "read" one of the Home Repair is Homicide books a while back and thoroughly enjoyed it. Incidentally, the protagonist was happily married and so was her partner. No relationship angst!

(I find I often enjoy sequels better than the first part of stories if the relationship is a key plot point in the first one. It's out of the way then and we can get on with the fun stuff.)

Anne C. said...

True, bel. Then the heroine can be "faithful" to her dead love and never another word said about it.

And the funny thing is (from what I've experienced in real life) that attachment can be incredibly easy to break off. One or other of the partners just decides that s/he wasn't as much in love as s/he thought, s/he moves to another city for serious or frivilous reasons, s/he meets someone else, etc. ad nauseum. Fiction of many sorts is too apt to depict love as the completest most enduring sort of love, something that only Death can sever.

Of my mystery partners (whose story unfortunately is incomplete), one is happily married and the other unlucky in love. Though they are of different genders, they each have little sexual interest in the other.

I think the Loss Of Love Through Death is a lazy shortcut. Not saying it doesn't happen IRL, it just happens WAY too often in mysteries with a female protagonist. Almost as often as the parent(s) who died prematurely through some accident or violence.

Karen said...

You might try the Dianne Mott Davidson mysteries about a caterer in Colorado. The early ones have her single (newly divorced, which offers plenty of drama) but she progresses from there in a way you might like. I picked the series up in the middle, being intrigued by "Sticks and Scones" but then backtracked because I liked the character so much. Just my 0.02.