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Reading Slothfully

I was told in elementary school that I only could read at half the speed for success in college. Oh well, one benefit of slow reading is you get to live with the characters a longer period of time. I read in a vain attempt to better understand people. At my other homes, I'm known as a spouse, pop, guy in the choir, physical chemist, computer/web dilettante and child-care provider. In theory, I'm a published author, if you consider stuff like Quenching Cross Sections for Electronic Energy Transfer Reactions Between Metastable Argon Atoms and Noble Gases and Small Molecules to count as publications. I've strewn dozens of such fascinating things to the winds.

Currently reading

A Good Death
Christopher R. Cox
The Black Cargo
John P. Marquand
A Highland Christmas
M.C. Beaton
Tales from Moominvalley
Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton
Moominland Midwinter
Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton
On The Beach (Vintage Classics)
Nevil Shute Norway
The Maltese Falcon
Dashiell Hammett
Obscure Destinies
Willa Cather
A Start in Life (The Michael Cullen Novels)
Alan Sillitoe
Mobilizing Web Sites: Strategies for Mobile Web Implementation
Kristofer Layon

Death Wore White

Death Wore White - Jim Kelly My friend, Angela, who got me into playing flutes in church some twenty years ago, but whom I've not seen in a number of years, recommended this to me. I'd been commenting (of FaceBook) to someone else from church about the audio book series that were so popular with the two women who ring handbells next to me (the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny). For some reason, Angela jumped into the thread and recommended this series to me, albeit a readable series. I don't do audio books yet. I don't spend enough time in my car.

Anyway, I snagged a copy from BPL and checked it out. It's an interesting, albeit rather convoluted story. It begins with a bunch of people being directed into a small lane/short cut by a sign claiming the main road was out. They are trapped on one end by a felled tree, and at the other end by a slewed car. So they can't drive out, nor back up. Also, the lane is a mobile dark spot, so they can't call for help. Eventually, the police, who are nearby fishing a body out of the sea, notice their presence and show up to help get them out. They find that the first vehicle in line, a pick-up truck, has a dead body inside. The driver was stabbed through the eye with a chisel. Several other bodies show up in the area, and Detective Inspector Shaw wonders if they're related.

Detective Inspector Shaw has been teamed up with Detective Sergeant Valentine. Valentine was once the partner of Shaw's father. But ten years previously, Shaw's father bungled an investigation. The father was essentially kicked off the force and died a year later. Valentine was demoted and sent to the hinterlands of Norfolk, the northern part of East Anglia, in England, where he languished for a dozen years. So, there's a certain tension between the two.

The problem with the dead guy in the truck, is that it was snowing at the time people got backed up in the blocked "short cut". But there's only one set of foot prints going up to the truck in front and then back again. Those are of the guy who was third or fourth in line. He claims the driver was alive when he walked up to him, and that he had a young-woman passenger with him. The woman who was second in line confirms that there appeared to have been activity in the truck. She saw motion in the cab, and also noted that the sounds in the truck, some kind of loud rock, eventually changed to a slightly more muted radio program. But, the police found only one body in the truck. His passenger, the young woman managed to disappear without leaving a single foot print.

Well, other bodies show up. People are found to be lying. People in the pile up appear to be more related than one first thought, or than they admitted, and so forth. It makes for an intriguing story.

I found several problems with this book. The author keeps trying to soar off into artsy/fartsy flights of description. Rather than being evocative, I found them forced, sometimes inapt, and a distraction. For example, in one place we are told about the dried grasses appearing in footsteps which disturbed the snow. Well, dried grasses might appear if the footsteps are disturbing an inch of relatively wet snow. But only a page or so earlier, we were told there was a foot of snow on the ground. No way a foot step is going to scuff up enough snow that's a foot deep that you'll see dried grasses at the bottom of the foot print. There were other "details" that didn't gibe with settings we'd been given only a few pages earlier. So, neither the author nor his editors were paying much attention when they read the rough draft for editing.

Then, lots of acronyms are thrown around. They might make sense to Brits, but certainly not to us more mundane 'merikans. I'm not sure if this is a problem per se. The book was probably meant to be read only by Brits. But it was a problem for those of us who spent most of our lives on the western side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Finally, I don't think I've ever read an allegedly professionally prepared book with so many typos. In my experience, books produced by professional publishers rarely have even one or two noticeable typos. In the case of books produced by scanning dead-tree manuscripts, and then performing optical character recognition (OCR) to render them into electronic format, you might get a typo or two, but generally not oodles, unless it's a scan uploaded to a place like Archive.org, where no one follows up. Properly produced OCRed books from places like Gutenberg tend to be well enough proof read that only one or two typos show up.

This book, however, had dozens of typos. Given that the book was published in 2008 if seems reasonable that the original manuscript was produced on a word processor and that the e-book version was produced from an electronic manuscript. Apparently, this particular publisher, Minotaur Books, is too lazy to pay editors to check manuscripts (although the author praises a number of editorial helpers in his acknowledgments), or else too cheap to use decent software than can create a useful EBook from a word-processed manuscript. How in the hell is that possible?

So the story itself was rather fun, but the poor quality of the background detail and of the production was not so fun. Hence, what should probably warrant 4*s, gets only 3*s from me. I'm seriously on the fence regarding whether or not I'll try reading another book by Jim Kelly.