05 January 2010

Oh, darn

Nevada Barr has written many good mysteries set in U.S. National Parks. Several have been suspenseful and violent. One, set in Carlsbad Caverns, was too intense, dark, and deep in the earth for me. Most have been very good, partly based on Barr's work as a park ranger in several of the parks she wrote about.

(See Winter with Wolves and Worse, Along the Rio Grande, Endangered Species, Firestorm, What a Deal!, High Country, and Hunting Season.)

Our book supplier, banker Mary, dropped a new Nevada Barr book at our house at Christmas time. Its setting is not a National Park and its main character is not Park Ranger Anna Pigeon. It's much more a suspense and terror story than a mystery. It's set in New Orleans. The title is 13½.

One of the main characters is a serial killer. Even the survivors at the end are victims. The plot resembles a masquerade ball in which it's difficult to know who is who.

Barr tells the story in disjointed chapters that aren't quite short stories in themselves. There's little insight into the minds of the main characters until the very end of the book, and by then the insights seem abnormal. And by that point, I had figured out who was who in the masquerade, but I didn't really care. I finished it only to see how Barr pulled the strings together at the end, not because I was really interested in the story any more.

Maybe this was practice for writing outside a genre and a framework. I wish Barr well in another, better endeavor.

Then again, maybe 13½ was too intense, dark, and deep for me and I should go back to reading depressing Swedish mysteries that are so much the rage that there are bookstores in Germany that specialize in them.

If anyone else reads 13½, write and tell this little bit of the world what you thought of it. I really would like to know about someone else's reaction.

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