putting it plain: I love returning to this book to find out what surprise has been waiting for me while I was away!
even though Emma is uncomfortable around Levi - Oliver's clone - she and Levi team up to do some detecting. one most-sought-after piece of info stays hidden - but a few other pieces of a different puzzle fall into place.
this is turning out to be an excellent YA/SF novel exploring the ethical and social ramifications of human clones, while also functioning as a superb Thriller. the Similars are actually taking me back to how I felt about the Replicants, in the film Blade Runner...’born’ into a life of extra unfairness and ostracism, and thus develops bitterness and a sinister agenda. the school setting, on the other hand reminds me of a YA novel I read not too long ago: 13 Minutes. ha! - 13 Minutes...meets Blade Runner!?
you know it’s a different sort of book when: the main character goes to bed...and the next scene features her ‘waking up’ underwater, drowning, with a brick tied around her ankle and so discombobulated she doesn’t know if she’s swimming up or down - and you know this is the part where she’ll wake up for real and you think to yourself “well there was no way this is not a dream...”. except here, Emma does go to bed, wakes up drowning under water, tied to brick, and not knowing which way is up. “okay, that was unexpected...even at a school that accepts clones...”.
This was a hoot - and my introduction to Herbert Brean, along with his amateur sleuth, William Deacon. The book was published in 1960, so I think we can say that the action takes place around 1958-1959, and we roam all around Manhattan.
Deacon, writer of magazine articles, gets a visit he doesn't really want from old acquaintance Archie (Achille, actually - that's French!) who insists his other pal, Brill Brillhart died two months ago...was murdered actually. Archie seems to want to drag things out when it comes to passing along the nastiest details concerning this situation - but he's in a tizzy, because around Manhattan, people from Brillhart's social circle and also his professional network - he's in music; singing, songwriting, helping budding voices make it to the big-time, all sorts of skills has (had??) our Brillhart - all sorts of people around Manhattan talk like "hey, I saw Brillhart a few days ago...", "just had lunch with Brillhart...", "heard from Brillhart that he's working on new lyrics for a show...". But Archie (Achille!) is stressing out over this because he insists Brillhart could not be meeting anyone for two months...unless brought back from the dead, or appearing in spectral form.
The trick of the book for quite a while seems to be having Deacon chase down clues and evidence that proves Brillhart is either (a) dead, or (b) alive, and then just when the reader can take it as a given that we have the right answer, the opposite is shown to be true in the next chapter, if not on the next page. And then back again! A savvy reader perhaps absorbs all the clues and evidence shooting out in all directions, so that were Brillhart to stay, uh, definitively dead at any juncture, a lot of the groundwork will have been done. If that makes sense.
The book has a lot of strange humor to it. For instance, Deacon is fresh off writing an article about a scientist who claims success revivifying dead rats (admittedly only dead a few minutes) with promises of future successes on species (humans?)...so Deacon actually gets in touch to discuss the likelihood of zapping a human back to life, even after months. Fortunately, the investigation does progress from there - and in fact, a lot of suspects carouse their way through the book, and Manhattan, especially for fun at night - drinks, dancing, gossiping, slouching home in the wee hours - when they aren't answering Deacon's questions. Interestingly, at least three good suspects have a weird situation whereby they have a good reason for wanting Brillhart to suddenly turn up alive...and yet that could turn on a dime, and breed a sort of mirror-image reason for hating him and wanting him dead (just about everyone who knew Brillhart thought he was a cad and a jerk).
Initially, this book reminded me of a recent read called Death and Taxes by David Dodge, because of the general mood, writing style, characters' dialogue and behaviour, the drinking, and all the drinking. But it didn't take long for the plots of the books - both compelling - to become wildly different. And Traces of Brillhart is much shorter, if somehow just as twisty and serpentine. I had a great time with my first look at Herbert Brean's work - no work for a reader, just a lot of fun, and some great suspense, particularly at the finale.
'The Mandarin's Pearl' broke the pattern of stories only being "inverted Mysteries", which is fine with me, as I never wanted things to become so predictable. on the downside, this story was merely okay, not bad - but not a favorite. three stories left in this book, and I hope to hit on something special before I'm done.
a school called Darkwood Academy, where clones get an education. their originals also go to school there. apparently, a girl named Emma had a friend named Oliver - but he died, and she’s having a hard time dealing with Levi, his clone. this seems like a recent Young-Adult SF pick that fits in with my Halloweeny reads that have so far been Horror and Mystery.
nothing special - and yet, entertaining and certainly without a pacing problem. this is easy to blaze through, so I may actually try to wrap it up tonight.
thinking about my next book - The Similars...featuring some kind of school full of clones. hopefully decent SF.
this was a true impulse buy, off a spinning book displayer at a convenience store once the cover got under my skin as “so ugly that I may have to investigate”. at the time, I think I got overcharged on the tax - so, y’know, I don’t buy a lot of books where I get my soft drinks and pizza pops. but, that time I gave in.
regret sunk in, or at least, I became indifferent to the book...but it seemed like the lead up to Halloween would be a swell time to get to a serial killer novel that ought to be kind of “trashy” and high-concept, mixed in with all the books I read because of reading guides and lists; it can be fun to experiment with a new author found just at random.
the writing style of Crushed is not likely to end up my favorite thing about this book - but it’s moving fast, Ellie and her partner in crime-solving, Jason, are likeable leads, and it’s fun being transported to Wisconsin by a Crime novel, which doesn’t happen to me very often.
I’m doing okay with this, and have impulse-bought myself into worse messes than Crushed is how things seem right now.
all three stories I’ve read so far have been very entertaining...and it’s a good thing I tend to enjoy ‘inverted Mysteries’ because it seems that’s mainly what I’m going to get from this collection. I read ‘Echo of a Mutiny’ this morning, and enjoyed this creepy tale of murder at an old lighthouse. it’s been easier to tell - in the last two stories - how Dr. Thorndyke would be able to solve the case, so I’m hoping that changes, as I want the detective’s sifting of the clues to dazzle me, not seem rather easy. still, I don’t figure out everything, and sometimes it’s nice to feel smart like mastermind sleuth.
well, I did one chapter because I finished P. D. James at the coffee shop and I had Crushed with me...but I’m behind on my short story reading - that is, reading a short story in between each novel. so, three short things, and then back to this.
I love it, I love it - it almost feels like a throwback to the Golden Age...except, the cellphone going off and alerting everyone present in the The Murder Room that there’s a body stashed there somewhere - that is not a throwback to the Golden Age.
alright, that’s going to have to do it for tonight. this one glides along pleasurably when I get going on it, so I should have no problem finishing it in two long bouts of reading tomorrow. very happy with it.
Commander Dalgliesh questions a rather shaken Tally Clutton. I’d be shaken too if I’d seen what she saw.