May’s discussion was passionate and as diverse in opinion as ever. I think we also broke our attendance record: eighteen mystery lovers attending this month to discuss two examples of cold case mysteries.
We began with The Hanging Wood, #5 in the Lake District Mystery Series.
- 6 thumbs up
- 5 thumbs down
- 2 thumbs hovering in the middle
Note that a few “thumbs up” people said they were giving “teeny, tiny” thumbs up. On the positive side, many felt the story was pleasant (yes, damning with feint praise). The red herrings, of which there were a few, were well placed and convincing enough to have lured a few readers down the wrong path. In addition, the historic research component was liked by many and the concept of “historian as detective” resonated.
The setting was discussed; for those Anglophiles who love the English traditional mystery, the Hanging Wood locate appealed and one member gave special mention of the “atmospheric library” setting. Yet others felt a lack of real atmosphere. In fact, another member said, “It was the atmosphere that killed it.”
The “thumbs down” group mentioned the lack of tension and the slogging pace. There seemed to be a dislike of the personal dramas woven throughout. Plodding dialogue with little action were mentioned by a few.
Another aspect that was met with diverse opinions was the nature of the “amateur detective” in this novel. One reader mentioned the nice “twist” in a cozy of the amateur being the male and the police being female. However, the majority found the relationship between the two confusing at best and a few were struck that Daniel seemed too heavily involved in the actual solving of the case…especially since the element of Hannah as detective makes the novel a bit of a police procedural too. It made for a odd pairing: police procedural and traditional cozy.
The group mentioned that this was one of our few times reading “into” a series rather than starting at the beginning. Starting at the beginning of a series often leads our group to make comments like, “Well, maybe the writing gets better,” and yet starting into the series leaves lots of background (like Daniel, Hannah and Marc’s relationships) out.
Dennis LeHane’s Moonlight Mile was enjoyed by the majority of our group:
- 11 thumbs up
- 4 thumbs down
One of comments from a “thumbs up” person caught the spirit of those who liked it when she said, “I agree with [all the criticisms] but I don’t care. I loved it.” Another reader added, “the ending was corny, but satisfying.” On the other hand, a “thumbs down” reader said, “It had all the characteristics that I should have liked..but it wasn’t working for me.”
Those who enjoyed the book almost unilaterally agreed that it felt more like a tv script than a novel, but it was so fun it was hard not to like it. Even the Russian gangsters were seen as stereotyped, but enjoyable.
- pithy conversations
- felt like [the author] was wrapping up a contract
- very generic type of writing
- fast paced
- fun repartee between Russian and Patrick
- Very ‘Boston’–smart alecky and sarcastic
Some felt the writing was choppy, and a few people commented on the righteousness of Patrick being out of place, given all the terrible things he’s done in the past. And finally, one member commented about how LeHane lost a good opportunity for a really strong femme fatale character in Amanda…she was strong and manipulative but her character fell short of being really stand out.
Readers: please feel free to add your comments!
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