#284: Lament for a Maker – Logical Fallacies Abound in The Mentalist Season 1, Episodes 1-8 (2008)

The Mentalist Season 1

I don’t watch much TV.  I’m not going to be pompous about it, I just don’t.  Recently, however, I came into possession of the complete run — seven seasons, approximately 800 DVDs — of the US show The Mentalist and was intrigued enough to give it a look.  If this is new territory to you, it stars Simons Baker as Patrick Jane, an ex-psychic who following a personal tragedy now helps the seemingly-autonomous California Bureau of Investigation with his keen insight into the crimes they are called to solve.

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#273: Think of a Number (2010) by John Verdon

Think of a NumberThis isn’t a review, it’s an obituary.  My copy of Think of a Number by John Verdon opens with twenty-six glowing review excerpts from a range of authors, publications, and blogs, but it genuinely might be the single worst book I have read in a very, very long time, and without being in the least splenetic about it I’m going to explain why.  I will avoid spoiling it in full thoughtless fashion but, honestly, I’m being mindful of your time, your money, your families, and your health in writing the following.  I take no pleasure in this, it’s purely to save you the experience of this fustercluck of a novel posing and sold to you as something intelligent and worthwhile.  It is neither.  That this is on the market at all is a slap in the face to all concerned.

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#256: Catastrophic Protagonist Failure in Too Many Ghosts (1959) and The Hand of Mary Constable (1964) by Paul Gallico

Gallico

A little while ago, while secondhand bookshop haunting as is my wont, I stumbled upon a copy of Paul Gallico’s The Hand of Mary Constable (1964) — a book I have recommended here before for the brilliant way it shows up the tricks of the séance through a combination of perspicuous writing and trusting its readers’ intelligence.  My copy was a rat-eared, much-abused paperback and this was a lovely hardcover for a very reasonable price…and yet I vacillated for some time (like, a few weeks) before buying it.

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#252: Your Favourite Bad Solutions…

Bunny facepalm

In the comments of my post on reality and Golden Age Detective fiction from last Saturday, Harry shared his frustration with the solution to Murder on the Marsh (1930) by John Ferguson — it’s very spoilerific, be warned (though it also sounds terrible, so…) — and I in turn recounted a couple of awful solutions to locked room short stories in sympathy.  Because, let’s face it, we’ve all read some stinkers in our time, haven’t we?

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#239: Construction, Clarity, Conformity, and the Contortions of Ellery Queen in The French Powder Mystery (1930)

French Powder Mystery

Contrary to what the books may tell us, the father of Ellery Queen, detective, is not Inspector Richard Queen but instead Philo Vance, the dilettante amateur wise-arse detective created by S.S. van Dine.  I’m not claiming this is an original observation — far from it — but reading the second novel to feature the Queens and the first in which Ellery actually solves the case (he has a very small hand in their debut, The Roman Hat Mystery) it’s interesting to realise just how heavily Dannay and Lee were leaning on van Dine at this point of their careers.

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#214: The Notion of Commotion, and the Demotion of The Devotion of Suspect X (2005) by Keigo Higashino [trans. Alexander O. Smith & Elye J. Alexander 2012]

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Every so often, a novel is adopted by more mainstream fiction when it is in fact pure genre.  Typically the result of this is that those of use who read the good stuff in our own genre have to put up with a ripple of brouhaha while we’re lectured by the broadsheet darlings as they fall over themselves to recommend something as inventive or ingenious when in fact we’ve read three books more inventive or ingenious in the last month alone (or, worse, phone someone in to explain incorrectly to others who don’t know any better). In SF, say, we’ve recently been subjected to Hugh Howey’s Wool trilogy which is…well, every single cliché you can name and about as awful as you’d expect, but it especially seems to be happening more and more in crime fiction.

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#213: On Audacity and How to Prepare for It, via John Russell Fearn’s Thy Arm Alone (1947)

thy-arm-alone

Sometimes someone is so taken with a book that you can’t help but stop and take notice yourself.  So when TomCat was full of praise for this impossible crime, it hopped up my TBR pile with the effortlessness of a mountain goat on an escalator.  I was promised audacity, and I love a bit of authorly audaciousness where an impossible crime is concerned — indeed, the boldness of such schemes as employed in John Dickson Carr’s The Man Who Could not Shudder (1940) or John Saldek’s Invisible Green (1977) make them firm favourites of mine, and if a book of this ilk has chutzpah enough to make TomCat and John Norris sit up and pay attention, then surely you must be onto a good thing.

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#205: Is it Necessary to Like an Author in Order to Enjoy Their Work?

splash-heartI don’t read many living authors — not intentionally, it’s just that the current trend of a lot of fiction doesn’t intersect with my tastes very often — and so I’m saved the concern of how they comport themselves on a daily basis and how this impacts my feelings about them.  But following a comment by Dan at The Reader is Warned about a comment made by John Dickson Carr in She Died a Lady (1943), I got to thinking about the above question.

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#186: On Daemons’ Roost (2016) and the Sad Decline of Jonathan Creek

jc1

Aware of my fondness for the programme itself and an impossible crime in general, people keep asking me what I thought of the recent Jonathan Creek Christmas special ‘Daemons’ Roost’.  And I keep having to relive it by telling them.  The only sane response is therefore to write it all down here and direct all future enquiries to this post on my blog (which might at least get me some readers…).  I apologise in advance.  This is not going to be pretty.

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