I occasionally run “short review roundup” posts over at the other blog so I can knock out a few reviews at a time rather than write at length. I am running behind on my reviews here, and I recently read a few books that don’t quite fall into the Hillbilly Highways wheelhouse but that I think are worth talking about anyway.
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
It isn’t as good as Russo’s satire of academia, Straight Man, but is still very good literary fiction. Empire Falls is set in the titular declining New England town. The mill closed down, although the last member of the mill family, Francine Whiting still owns half the commercial real estate in town. Miles manages the local diner in return for promises from Ms. Whiting that she will leave it to him in her will. Builds to a surprisingly satisfying and action-filled conclusion, but mostly we’re here for the meditation on dying mill towns.
4 of 5 Stars.
Mum’s the Word for Murder by Brett Halliday
For whatever reason mysteries hardly ever work for me. This one did. A writer and a cop chase a murderer in 1930s El Paso. The murderer taunts them by announcing each murder in the paper before it happens. The cop is a retired cowboy. The book holds up surprisingly well. Texas border culture is recognizable (the days of casually crossing the border are over but within recent memory). About the only things that stand out as odd are the main characters treating a guy who smokes weed like a crackhead and the extraordinary amounts of alcohol they consume throughout their investigation (We have an hour until the killer is supposed to strike again? Let’s polish off this bottle of whiskey!). The “perfect murder” scheme they uncover is genuinely inventive and interesting.
4.5 of 5 Stars.
Full Curl by Dave Butler
This one is sold as a mystery, but it isn’t really—Butler uses POVs for the criminal characters, so we always know what is happening on both sides. Full Curl follows a park ranger and law enforcement office, Jenny Willson, as she investigates several incidents of poaching in Canadian national parks. There was no real tension to the plot, though, and I found the dialogue annoying.
2.5 of 5 Stars.