Book Reviews: X Files, Paris, and Genre Fiction

“Ever have sex on a leather blanket? It’s very. . . interesting. . .”

Hit and Nun
Third in a series featuring an accidental detective, a woman who volunteers at a church where she comes across a dead pizza owner and is talked into investigating with her midlife-crisis semi-crazy best friend.
This is my first entry into this series, and it had a weird vibe to start, but I kept going. The weird vibe grew more enjoyable and by the end I was fully into it, though it was difficult sympathizing with the main character. In addition to not being the smartest person in town—and therefore easily manipulated—every once in a while she would spout some religious nonsense that had me rolling my eyes. The best part is the subtle touches of humor, especially the “caveman” diet. Thinking of two women in their mid-50s fist bumping has ruined it for me. There are also touches of not-so-subtle humor, which don’t work as well individually but fit into the weird vibe I was pontificating on earlier.
I’ll never forget the mental image of the out-of-control fire truck ladder, with or without the middle-aged semi-naked nun-dressed amateur detective on it. . .

X-Files: Season 11 Volume 1
I really hope I don’t have to explain the premise. . .
Though I’ve of course seen the 9 seasons of the TV show, plus the movies, there’s apparently one season of comics I’ve missed, which as I read this figured to be important, because things were far more confusing than they needed to be.
Really awkward exposition, one person telling everyone things they obviously already know to inform the reader; sloppy. I didn’t recognize Mulder with the mustache, which I guess I wasn’t supposed to, but worse, I couldn’t tell if the redhead was Scully; turned out she wasn’t.
Hey, Lone Gunmen!
At the end of one of the individual comics Mulder is falling off a tower, but since this is a collection you don’t have to wait for the next edition to come out. Go to the next page and find out. . . nothing. The story continues with no explanation as to how Mulder survived the fall. Even Scully asks him and gets no answer. That crap alone deserves a lowered grade.
The last story goes back to the main villain’s—not Cancer Man—story, but because I barely remember the character from the series eighth season, I couldn’t get into it. The whole thing was simply too confusing for its own good.

The City of Blood
Police force in Paris look into a time-capsule-type murder which turns into a hunt for a serial killer.
There are plenty of instances of men writing novels where the main character is a woman, but not all that many with a female author writing about a male protagonist. That is the case here, and even though I haven’t read the first two in the series, I’m confident in saying this should happen more often, if the results are as good as these.
Paris is one of my least favorite cities in the world—never enjoyed myself other than in the Louvre the times I’ve been forced to be there—but I’m liking it here; the occasional descriptions are spot on, especially the bookstore. The other highlight is in the plotting, showing off a police investigation that isn’t solved in a day like you see in most fiction, but takes its natural course, with forensics, autopsy, and interviewing all needing time to work things out.
If there’s one problem here it’s the introduction of too many characters, especially among the cops, but also later on with the suspects. Is the author assuming everyone has read the first two? Okay, one more quibble: I didn’t like the sick mother subplot, thought it muddied the pacing. No doubt it was included to humanize the protagonist, but I liked this character without it. Unlike most cops in today’s stories, he’s not dour or suffering from an existential crisis. Some of the chapters are very short, which also screws up the pacing a bit, but all that is minor. I’m looking forward to reading the others in this series.

Writing Genre Fiction: Creating Imaginary Worlds
Essentially a list of twelve rules for writers who want to delve into science fiction, fantasy, and other genres. Some of these fit all fiction writing, while others are more specific.
I enjoyed some of the tidbits, for example finding out that the phrase “suspension of disbelief” was coined by one of my favorite poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
The most important point in this book is one I’ve been saying all my reviewing career: it’s fine to have surprise endings, but the author has to subtly signal it in advance—“in effect hidden them in plain sight within the text”—so the readers can think, “I should have seen that coming!” It’s amazing how often this is overlooked in both print fiction and in TV and movies; far too often we finish a work and wonder why we feel cheated.
Good little piece on things that should be obvious to writers but are sadly not.


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