Saturday, April 6, 2013

Gone for Good: Book Review

Now that novelist Robert Parker has passed I am on the lookout for fast reads that are similar.  Parker was the author of the Spenser novels (as well as two lesser known crime series) and his books were very easy to read and often--but not always--left you with some lesson to contemplate.  The stories could get repetitive and his depictions of Susan Silverman (Spenser's sweetheart) and Hawk (Spenser's friend) were stick figures with a bad case of anorexia.  Still, you could breeze through the novels and they more often than not were more than just a tale.

I've enjoyed some of the Ed McBain 87th precinct series. Kiss is a real good one.  McBain is also Evan Hunter and, I'm guessing, wanted to keep his cop series (authored by McBain)  and other writings (authored by Hunter) separate. One of the best 87th precinct novels, however, is called Candyland which is brilliantly presented in two parts, the first written by "McBain", the second by "Hunter".

Had good luck with a few of the John Sandford books too, but some of the Prey series are just too bloody for me.  Worked with a fellow in the post office once who asked me if a movie I'd seen had "a lot of killing in it."  He went on to explain his inquiry by adding "I don't like any movies without any killing."  This guy would love the Prey books.  The Virgil Flowers offshoot are sometimes fun but the stories are often very repetitive. Flowers goes to a town where there is a murder. It involves some sexual activity. He gets involved with someone sexually. He solves the crime with the help (or not) of his bed mates.

There are other authors I've tried too, but I have not found a consistent winner among the whodunit yarns-- haven't found a lock as we say in the casinos--an author you can turn to and know that you can pick her/his book up, you will like it, it will not be ridickalus in terms of plot or a character's superhuman qualities, and the story will hang around in your head for a while.

A few weeks back, there was a two page ad in the Times about a new Harlan Coben novel.  I never heard of the guy.  Looked him up on the internet and apparently I don't read enough because this guy has written many novels and has quite a loyal following.  I found the reviews from Amazon and picked out the Coben books that had the highest rating.  Gone for Good was one of them.  Coincidentally a local library was having a used book sale.  I brought the list to the sale, found Gone for Good and started reading this past Monday.

It is, as advertised, a page turner.  But the twists and turns while engaging are so unlikely that I can't hang the story anywhere when I think about it.  If you think you might want to read the book, you might want to skip to the next paragraph, but it's not essential. I will not give the whole thing away. Here's the frame. Guy is in love and trying to find his missing brother who, eleven years ago, was accused of killing the main character's ex sweetheart.  The brother ran from the crime scene and is thought of as dead, but the brother is told by his dying mother that the brother is alive.  So, the main character tries to find his brother and then lots of stuff happens involving his current love, his former girlfriend's sister, a transformed redneck, a couple of ne'er do wells who like killing people, a cop seeking personal justice, a seedy ex doctor in las vegas, and a child.

Is it a good read?  Well, it doesn't pass the ridikalus test.  Lots of  stuff happens zip zip that could not happen so quickly.  Guy gets the crap beat out of him and the next day is out bouncing around town following clues.  Guys make it from New Mexico to New York in no time.  People pop out from behind trees conveniently.  So, it does not pass the ridickalus test.  And, as I wrote, I don't think it will pass the hanging around in my head test either.

What will hang around in my head is not the story, but the title.  Gone for Good.  A number of times I looked at the book cover and the words stared back at me.  One particular night the words seemed especially ominous when my cat decided to hit the late bars and did not come back until around midnight causing some distress in the household.  Must have had a hot date. But he came back.  The thought of him gone for good was not comforting. Nor is it comforting when you face the reality or even possibility, like the character had, that someone you love may be gone for good.  You'd have to read the book to know who among the many characters in this novel is indeed gone for good and who you might think will be, but is not.  Maybe this is an applicable message from the novel. In life, we have to live it out to know for sure who in our lives among the living are in fact gone for good.

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