What a passionate meetup! 12 members were present and we had lots of discussion about both books.
The Royal Wulff Murders had a few thumbs down, but overall it was liked by the group. Most people agreed that it had a slow start, and Sean, the main character, came across as whiny and unlikable. But the book picked up steam if you stuck with it.
One reader likened the Royal Wulff Murders to a “rural noir,” and the group felt this was right on target. When viewed through this lens, characters and plot made more sense and “fit” better.
Set in Montana, there was a good sense of place, and a decent mystery once it got started. We also all agreed that Martha, the policewoman and Sean’s co-protagonist, was very likable. As a first in series, this one was better than most.
I will mention that those who didn’t like the book found it slow moving and too “fishy.” All agreed that the fly fishing component, although the author was clearly knowledgeable, was tough to take after a while. Either you found something else to care about and liked the book, or you were overwhelmed by it and thought, as one member put it, “is it all going to be about fly fishing?”
Final vote: 8 thumbs up, 3 thumbs down.
Bangkok Eight was both liked and disliked in equal measure.
Those who enjoyed the read were drawn into the story line completely. The mystery itself became secondary; the plot revolved around the sex trade and transgender issues in modern day Bangkok and the reader was “pulled in” almost to the point of culture shock.
The theme, in a sense, fit a traditional mystery fiction theme of morality, good and evil, corruption, etc. The setting was so vivid it really felt like being in a third world country. The smells, the sights–one reader commented that the experience of reading about Bangkok through this writer’s eyes was very “tactile.”
Those that didn’t like the book frequently said that they “wanted to like it.” The concepts were great but the read wasn’t easy. It was hard to keep track of the plot and characters (the writer frequently didn’t use he/she when introducing a character, which led to lots of confusion. One is left wondering how deliberate this was.
Another criticism was that there really wasn’t a mystery. Those who liked the book looked past this but for those who the reading was a chore, the lack of a true mystery made the process even more unpleasant.
There was also quite a bit of violence, which was sprung on the reader without much lead up.
There was also criticism of the structure of the story; those who disliked the book agreed, although no one was able to really put a finger on why.
Whether our members liked or disliked it, the book provoked an interesting discussion about the need to let go of our own cultural perspectives when reading Bangkok Eight, not to judge and to see the beauty as well as the grit in this culture. One reader stated that reading the book was a “wonderful cultural meditation.”
There was strong appreciation that the prostitutes (who were characters throughout the novel) were given lives and distinct personalities. They were strong women and portrayed very differently than their counterparts in Western culture.
We also all agreed that the murder itself (yes, there was a murder) was one of the most unique murders we’d read!
Final vote: 4 thumbs up, 4 thumbs down.