Some not-as-good reads from pre-blog days, and what I thought about them then… #5

For the fifth in my series of posts in which I bring you the short capsule reviews I used to write pre-blog. I’m turning my attention to some novels that didn’t quite make the grade this time. This batch are all from 2007 or earlier.

The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell by Lilian Jackson Braun

The 28th (!) in this popular series, but first that I’ve read. As the small town of Pickax (really!) gets ready to celebrate its 150th birthday, some odd things happen and Koko the Siamese cat has his cat radar working overtime; owner and local journo Jim has to make sense of it all …

A relentlessly upbeat and folksy, whimsical, sort of whodunnit, with too many plot threads to elucidate successfully in its 210 wide-spaced pages. Jim Quilleran, the moustachioed lead with his two Siamese cats is immensely likeable, but ofttimes irritating with his habit of spouting off the cuff limericks. Other characters are sketchy – I couldn’t picture his girlfriend Polly at all. Maybe I should read a couple of the earlier installments … or maybe not. (5/10) [This was the 28th of 29 in the series, originally published in 2006]

The Man with the Dancing Eyes by Sophie Dahl

Naturally, I was hoping that the Dahl magic would have rubbed off on his granddaughter. I read this very short story in 15 minutes. It was sweet, naive, a little surreal and utterly slight. The illustrations by Annie Morris are quirky and suit the story well – enabling it to be padded out to a slim hardback with few words on each page.

I’m glad I paid just £1 for it in a charity shop – whence it has returned. (3/10)
[Book first published 2003]

Derailed by Charles Siegel

Charles meets and falls for a woman on the train … but their tryst goes very wrong. They’re robbed at gunpoint and the woman is raped. They don’t tell as they’re both married. Later the robber/rapist adds blackmail and Charles goes off the rails to sort it out before his wife finds out …

Fairly standard stuff until about halfway through when the twists and turns really start happening, but they’re mostly well telegraphed. We’re meant to sympathise with the would-be adulterer Charles because his daughter is on dialysis, but that didn’t work for me!
[Published 2003]

Dead Even by Brad Meltzer

I found Dead Even quite the opposite – rather lumpy in fact.

I found it hard to believe that once it became clear that the case in question was more than a simple burglary, that husband and wife lawyers would still be allowed to face each other across the courtroom. New prosecutor Sarah, who was the most interesting character, appeared to have amazing luck, picking up a seasoned assistant and one of the department’s best as a mentor within the first day or so at her new job. However hubby Jared was so wet – it must have been a case of opposites attract. Most of the dialogue was awfully corny, yet I did enjoy the plot for the most part. (5/10)
[Published 1998]

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

A book group choice we were looking forward to given the hype surrounding this novel – but we were hugely disappointed. Apart from it being too long, we particularly disliked the modern day strand – not caring in the slightest about the characters; the medieval story was better, but only slightly.

Nuff said. (5/10)

[Published 2006]

Have you read any of these? Was I too harsh?

11 thoughts on “Some not-as-good reads from pre-blog days, and what I thought about them then… #5

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Ditto! Although before Labyrinth she’d written an excellent (and concise)
      eco-SF-thriller Crucifix Lane (now O/P.

  1. Rebecca Foster says:

    I started reading The Cat Who… series when I was about 11. My mother and I began with the 6th book, perhaps, then caught up, and were always quick to get in the library reservation queue for the new book each year until Braun’s death. I recall that the early to middle books were the best, before Qwilleran got stuck in his small-town ways. Though I’m not a series reader nowadays, I’m interested to go back and try a few of the better ones again. I have an omnibus I got from a charity shop some time back, so will eventually try a reread.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I can remember being so irritated by the limericks! Mercifully, it was a very quick read.

  2. Margaret says:

    I read Labyrinth pre-blog too. All I noted at the time is that it was OK – but too long. I’ve read one of The Cat Who books – and decided not to read any more of them.

  3. Calmgrove says:

    As somebody who’s been on a few archaeology digs I was so appalled by the cavalier attitude to the modern-day excavation depicted in Labyrinth that I couldn’t suspend disbelief any more. It also reheated all the old hokum about Cathars and reincarnation that had been debunked back in the 70s (I read Arthur Guirdham’s bestseller on it at the time, and then all the criticism) — as far as I could see it was all just Mosse’s personal lovesong to Carcassonne. I was so disappointed as I’d enjoyed some of her broadsheet reviews and her radio discussions.

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