I do not have a method for choosing what books I’m going to read next. So often it’s what I’m interested in at the very moment, and what comes available when I’ve put a hold on something through my library Overdrive account. If I don’t have a book that I’m currently listening to or reading, I’ll often just browse my list of saved items, or someone will suggest a book and it either gets put on hold or I borrow it right away (especially if I’m looking for something RIGHTNOW).
And that’s how this book choice came about – I support my favorite library-themed webcomic (Unshelved) on Patreon, and one of the benefits of the level I support at is talking about books that we’re reading, or finding out what the creators of the strip are reading with a potential book club discussion of the book. Unfortunately, by the time I actually got around to reading the book chosen for the month of April, the discussion had passed, and disappeared from the super-secret slack channel that we use for all of that. Drat.
So – what did I know about this book going in? Nothing, honestly. All I had to go on was the description that Gene gave, which was “a poetic novel about a reluctant New Orleans detective, my favorite in the series.” Cool cool – I like mystery novels. New Orleans intrigues me, this will be good, right? Right?
It was…ok? As we know, I’m a completist. I hate to start a series and not finish it, and I definitely have philosophical problems with picking up a book in a new series but not starting with the first one. There’s often so much continuity from book to book that requires you to have a basic knowledge of what’s going on before things make sense.
And so that was my major issue. The book was not abrupt in its beginning, but neither did it reintroduce the main character in such a way that it was easy to relate to him right from the beginning. And it didn’t do a great job of establishing just what was happening or when in the timeline. I’m pretty sure we jumped back and forth a few times. Part of that may have been because I was listening to an audiobook, and sometimes you get visual clues that you are in a different place and time (italicized words maybe, even if there’s no other written cue), so maybe that was it. I was also confused because very little of this felt like a “mystery”. It felt more like I was following a private investigator around, and while there were some things that the reader and the detective found out at the same time, none of it was surprising – it was more of a “let’s find this person and help them” … but not in an awesome dramatic way? And then it resolved that “mystery” and sort of started another, and then just ended.
I don’t know guys. It’s not a bad book. As Gene said in his description, it’s very poetic. But it also feels disjointed, and maybe that’s the difficulty in not having a central “mystery” for a detective novel. If a story isn’t big enough to carry us through from beginning to end, maybe it shouldn’t have been the mystery for this book, or maybe it should have been done in a different way. It is novel to go back and read contemporary fiction that takes place in a time not too long ago that also is missing things like the internet and cell phones. So that’s interesting. And I felt like Lew Griffin would be an interesting detective to follow in another book, so long as the mystery is more of a mystery. In conclusion – meh?
Details: Moth by James Sallis, Originally published 1993 by Carroll & Graf Publishers