Friday, March 12, 2010

Book Review: TOO MANY MURDERS

Too Many Murders is Colleen McCullough's latest, her belated entry into the homicide-detective sweepstakes. I don't know if mystery suspense series have always been this prevalent and I just wasn't paying attention, or whether this is some new trend. I suspect the latter, as in other entertainment mediums, most obviously movies, the sequel or the series, the "safe" play, is what gets the bankroll to proceed. McCullough has been famous since the 1970's, but dropped from the public eye when she stopped writing the trashy Thorn Birds novels and penned the magnificent Roman series, which took historical fiction to dizzying heights. She has, in the last decade, moved on to other pursuits, including the exploits of Detective Carmine Delmonico, a homicide detective in a very thinly disguised New Haven, Connecticut, in the late 1960's.
McCullough is a better writer than most who write these sort of stories, and the plot, immensely complicated (twelve murders in a single day) never unravels or becomes fantastic or unbeleivable. They are connected, of course, and the unraveling of the threads, the peeling away of layers, is artfully done. There are a few minor anachronisms (a character mentions a "fax", which I am pretty sure was not around in 1967) but overall this is a real good yarn. McCullough is getting on in years and going blind, according to press reports, and it's likely that this is going to be her bread and butter for her remaining years. If not quite up to the monumental standards of her Roman work, it certainly is enjoyable to read, and of much higher quality than not only the usual potboiler fare, but also of the established titans of the genre like Grisham or Cornwell. If she sticks with the Delmonico series, he will be right up there with Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch as the most interesting and sharpest current fictional detective.

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