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October 17th, 2007

Worth At Least What You Paid For It

I recently borrowed three books from the library; of the three, only two ended up being worth the price.

The best one was The Father Hunt, by Rex Stout. One of his later Nero Wolfe stories, this one wasn't the absolute top of Rex Stout's form, but not the worst either. But believe me, "solidly in the middle" of Rex Stout's body of work, is not a bad place to be. Anyone who's seen the A&E series or read Death of a Doxy and The Mother Hunt will find some entertaining cameos.

The next one was Ring for Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse. This is the only Jeeves story sans Wooster, and you can tell that Wodehouse (and Jeeves for that matter) missed him. This story was originally conceived as a stage play, and basically reads as one. It all takes place basically in a single room of a Stately Home of England, which has become a major white elephant for the owner, who is Jeeves' temporary employer. All of the usual Wodehousian elements are there, but without pep or enthusiasm. Plum phoned it in, as it were, and only seems able to keep himself interested by having characters talk about Bertie Wooster. Somebody who was unfamiliar with Wodehouse and happened to pick up this book, would probably enjoy it but be wondering the whole time who this Bertie Wooster is, and why Jeeves is so keen to get back to his employment at the end. This one was worth getting from the library, but only that.

Finally, the washout was My Lucky Star, by Joe Keenan. This was the third in the same series as Blue Heaven, which you may remember I was less-than-impressed by. Why did I bother with My Lucky Star when I didn't care for Blue Heaven, you ask? Two main reasons. First, I wanted to give Joe Keenan another chance since he keeps getting good reviews, and second because hope springs eternal that I'll be able to find a contemporary comic novelist who I actually like.

Unfortunately, I only got four chapters in My Lucky Star before I came to the conclusion that reading it was too much like work. All of the same problems with unlikeable characters idiot-balling all over the place remained. The prose style, an unabashed Wodehouse pastiche, was pleasant enough, but not enough by half to make up for the fact that there was nobody in the book I actually wanted to spend my time with. (Ever seen Withnail and I? Imagine a farce in which everybody is a slightly-flamey Withnail. That's Joe Keenan's books. Pass.)

So now I'm gonna start trolling for books again. I expect the next thing I pick up with be more Rex Stout.

-The Gneech

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