REVIEW SUMMARY: Gene Wolfe returns with a fascinating and multi-layered novel that keeps its own secrets.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An American writer is arrested while visiting the country he is writing about, and is forced to navigate a culture he knows nothing about.
PROS: Enjoyable to read and accessible; fun characters; a good place to start if you’ve never read Gene Wolfe.
CONS: Little to no payoff and the end; dialog is easily misinterpreted; not Wolfe’s best work.
BOTTOM LINE: An enjoyable and entertaining novel you’ll find yourself wanting to read again due to the subtle tricks Wolfe plays on the reader.
An American travel writer, Grafton, decides to write his next travel book on a rarely visited eastern European country. Even entering this country is a challenge, as flights he books are cancelled, and drivers are advised to turn back from mountain roads. He finally gets a train to the capital, but gets accused of being a spy, and is arrested. His passport is taken, and thus the plot begins.
E.L. Tettensor is the author of the Nicolas Lenoir series of fantasy mysteries. She lives with her husband in Burundi, Africa, where she spends her time working, writing, and defending her home and garden against the insidious, creeping onslaught of the jungle – which is possibly why she equates the colour green with evil. You can learn more at her website, www.eltettensor.com.
How To Spice Up a Mystery Story with Speculative Fiction
by E.L. Tettensor
“I couldn’t put it down.”
The five little words every author wants to hear. For mystery writers, especially, this is the Holy Grail of review language. The validation of every plot twist, every cleverly placed clue, every chapter left teetering on the edge of a cliff like a school bus in a Superman movie.
So, what makes it work? What turns a reasonably paced read into a ravenous, up-till-two-in-the-morning page burner?
REVIEW SUMMARY: A mystery that starts out interesting enough to compare to Lost, but loses interest in the middle and falls too far outside of reality in the end. (Not that Lost didn’t also.)
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A young guy without direction in life moves into an old apartment and gathers other tenants to investigate oddities where they live.
PROS: Strong setup for interest in characters and mystery.
CONS: Characters and mystery become less interesting by 40% mark; the ending.
BOTTOM LINE: The beginning established an interesting cast of characters and doubly so for their discoveries of this ancient building and its secrets, but the piecing together of the puzzle lost my interest and the climax was not as surprising or engaging as I hoped after liking the beginning.
“A movie needs three things,” my husband recently announced. “Horses, rocks and girls.”
“Not so!” I protested. “A movie needs butt-kicking martial arts. Also really over-the-top costumes.”
Our friend Scott shook his head sadly. “I hate to see you two arguing,” he intervened. “Especially since everybody knows what a movie really needs is a convoluted mystery.”
Not to worry. We made peace. We watched Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame.
What? You’ve never heard of it? But it won a dozen major Asian film awards! It was nominated for the Golden Lion at the 2010 Venice Film Festival, and was well received at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. It was directed by Hark Tsui, China’s number one big name director, and starred Andy Lau, a major Hong Kong leading man. It got glowing reviews in the Washington Post and 81% at Rotten Tomatoes. But, as you may have heard, Americans don’t like subtitles. In the US, it vanished like an ice cube dropped into the sun.
Genre fans love to label things. There are good reasons and not-so-good reasons for doing so, but amidst the discussion, it’s easy to forget that sometimes science fiction writers write stories that aren’t science fiction. Case in point: Fredric Brown, classic science fiction author and (surprise!) mystery writer!
Haffner press is publishing the mystery works of Frederic Brown in two sweet-looking volumes. Here’s what’s in them: