I used to claim that I read everything that crossed my path and, as a young person, selection was not important since any book could teach me about life. Later I became a ‘serious’ reader concentrating on philosophers (who I didn’t understand), history that helped me piece together trends in today’s world, and biographies of famous people that were far more boring than a reader wants.
Reading today is
impacted by the volume of pages on the internet. The urge to engage with
ideas and words (and images) can be satisfied daily on Facebook,
depending on who you follow.
reading for relaxation takes a backseat in today’s world. Writers offer
a series of books with returning characters like the Jesse Stone series
by Robert B. Parker to build a brand name. Readers return to discover
the new case and Stone’s cynical solutions for finding bad guys adept at
hiding their empires in small towns.
have avoided murder mysteries over the decades of reading, partly
because I figure out who-dun-it too early in the chapters. Crime stories
are mostly about people in the seedier side of life, so I find them
grim and difficult to finish. Also the patois (accepted slang) of city
detectives seems dated and forced in many stories, pushing the conceit
to an impenetrable extreme. Who can forget Don Cheatle’s explanation in
Oceans 12 that even the lead characters couldn’t follow? – We have a
what motivation to finish reading WIDOW by suspense writer and Bram
Stoker nominee Billie Sue Mosiman? We follow three primary characters
(a female victim-turned-killer, a Texas detective, a demented copycat
killer) through scenes in titty bars and madhouses, each speaking a
distinct patois, to view the losers and naive victims who are easy prey
for a couple of serial killers.
and crime novels have raised the bar for gruesome violence to a degree
that the most depraved acts are no longer shocking. Who remembers our
collective shock in Chinatown when the female lead admitted her sister
was her daughter by her father? That revelation seems tame now.
addition in WIDOW of a haunted mansion, a savvy homeless woman, and a
eager-beaver junior detective provided questions about where the story
was going and how these influences would impact the ending.
Unfortunately, these elements were pushed aside for a more conventional
I did finish the story, though, mostly to see how the
killers and detective performed when they were knowingly in a room
together – although each met and talked with the others more than once.
What happens next? The morbid curiosity was active, and the characters
well drawn enough that I could put the story down and return with a
memory of events and who was in the next scene.
in crime stories is the death of the bad guy in a shoot-out – no trial
or lawyers or media. Our copycat killer dies violently of course; that
was assumed. But do the detective and dancer blame all evil on him and
build a life from the ashes? You’ll have to invest the time I burned up
to learn their fates.