16 October 2011

King's Pirate

Back in September, Nancy and I had the pleasure of meeting Laurie R. King. She is the author of the Mary Russell mysteries featuring Ms Russell and her mentor Sherlock Holmes. King was in town to sign and read from her latest (11th) Russell mystery, Pirate King.

Besides being novelties, Nancy and I thought that the first few Russell mysteries were terrific. We also discovered King's Kate Martinelli series, written about a San Francisco detective. To us, they are equal to the best of the Russell mysteries.

The gems of King's books, in my mind, are the dark, yet hopeful novels about the lengths to which good people will go to do good things. I still wish those books are somewhat based on reality.

But back to Pirate King. The book required lots of research and travel to distant lands. We enjoyed hearing from King about her experience of writing the book. It was a bit weird to have her lead her audience at the reading in an amateurish and off-key new version of a Gilbert and Sullivan classic. (The new words were relevant to the new book.)

It was a treat to hear King read the first chapter. I often imagine an author's voice when I read, and now I'm pretty sure I had King's voice right in my head.

We gladly bought a copy, had King sign it it, and went home looking forward to reading the book that had been so much fun for the author to write. I got to read it first because Nancy was busy finishing a couple big projects.

It took a long time for me to read this book. Things began slowly in this mystery. In fact, the first real "event" didn't take place until half way through the book when one of the main characters pushes the other overboard during a crossing of the Mediterranean. And things didn't pick up much fro that point on.

I came away from the book feeling like I'd read an essay on movie making in the 1920s. (Remember all that research King enjoyed?) Following that was a little travelogue about Portugal, a briefing on heteronyms, a short history of the pirates of Morocco, and a description of an old Moroccan palace where the women of the movie company were held prisoner. (Remember the exotic travel King enjoyed?)

In my mind, stories are made up of events — one following another, often causally related. Essays and travelogues sometimes include themes and even events, but they are not mystery novels. This novel includes a flimsy plot, a bit of intrigue, and a dash of adventure, but it's more essay and travelogue than mystery novel. Enough said (for me).

I know the Russell books sell and they're what the publisher wants, but I want another Kate Martinelli mystery or another Darker Place.

Have you read Pirate King? What did you think of it? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you think.

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