Wednesday, July 22, 2015

New Improved Murder [book report]

Hey there! Those midsummer blahs got you feeling...well, sorta blah? Yeah? They did for me, too, until I discovered a secret: Jack Dwyer, the remedy that never fails to do the trick. [cue up tinkling ice cubes over a Jimmy Buffett background]
Pretty good line, no? Above? Didn't it make you just itch to dash out and bring home a fifth of Jack Dwyer? Not if you knew your booze it didn't. But if you knew your mystery writers—well, now that's another story. A good one at that.

You would have recognized Jack Dwyer as one of Ed Gorman's premier sleuths. And if you did you'd be apt to smile knowingly at the title we're talking about here—New Improved Murder--which is a play on a common advertising hook. And while you were smiling you might also have lobbed a chuckle my way for that opening line up above. And you wouldn't be at all confused by the commercial advertising references, because you would know that former cop-cum-P.I. Jack Dwyer solves his share of mysteries in the ego-driven milieu of ad agencies. And you would know this milieu is portrayed with frightening accuracy by a man who made his living in the ad world before he took up writing mysteries.
And if you are one of those unfortunates who have yet to experience the supreme pleasure of sipping one of Ed Gorman's fine mystery concoctions, I cannot imagine a better place to start than with one of his five Jack Dwyer novels. If you prefer to read novels in sequence, New Improved Murder happens to be the first in this series. And it has everything you, or I, could hope for: sleazy ad people, beautiful women—one's a redhead...yum—a vicious dog, gunplay, motives, weirdos, love, conundrums (fancy word for mysteries) and, obviously murder. More than one of the latter.
Underlying all of this is the writing. When it comes to subtlety, pacing, descriptive power, humor, dialogue and a few other qualities I'm probably forgetting because they're so expertly woven into the narrative, it would be hard to name another storyteller who approaches Gorman's level of skill, of artistry. Some paragraphs in New Improved Murder I read several times, not because I had trouble understanding them but because they are so damned good.
Here's one that left my jaw hanging open through three or four readings: She looked up with the eyes of an old woman, a certain bitterness, a certain resignation playing in the mysteries of the irises, like secrets glimpsed through vapors.
There are many examples of such insightful observations in New Improved Murder. Gorman is not just one helluva storyteller. He has the eye and heart of a poet. His characters are real breathing feeling people with blood in their veins. Reaching the end of one of his novels can leave you stunned, as if you've just said goodbye to friends. Take a deep breath. Shake it off. You can always find another Ed Gorman novel.

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