Crime Stories: Twenty Thriller Tales Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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About the Author
J.A. Konrath is the author of the Jacqueline Jack Daniels series that includes Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, Rusty Nail, Dirty Martini, Fuzzy Navel and Cherry Bomb.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I suspect Konrath has never had an original idea in any of his writings. What he does best is to take up tropes from his favorite genres (also my favorite genres as it happens), and give them new twists. He makes them his own and what results is enjoyable, fast paced and that word again, fun, reads.
The author prides himself on his humor, and in this one he confesses to having once attempted to be a standup comedian. As a comedian, he is a great writer. His output is prolific and his confidence that he is really a comedian misplaced as a writer is unshakable (or unstirable to stay in character). Both of these qualities are sometimes his Achilles heal. In terms of the former, nothing is left on the cutting room floor. Rather, it is recycled and diligent readers of his books are often left with a sense of déjà vu. But then again, he is such a terrific writer that second helpings are not so bad. Especially at the prices of his works in kindle versions.
Where Konrath's fans run into trouble however, is when his jokes become the premise of a story rather than a feature of it. Explaining this process in Crime Stories, Konrath notes how he saves up jokes on slips of paper for later use if they don't fit into a particular story. The result at worst is something like Crime Stories. The book tries too hard to be funny and as a result most of the stories contained here are simply tedious. A few were printed in minor journals, conference programs--or for that matter probably on cocktail bar napkins as he is sliding off his stool at the end of long and bleary night. Apparently, a monster, zombie, space alien or--most likely--a sadistic serial killer sees that these musings are found on the body the next day and added to the clutter on his disk top. Others were rejected outright. Some several times by different venues. Never one to waste a word once typed, they are simply thrown back into the hopper. Too many of these rejects are contained in this volume.
There are a few hits among the many misses however. One is a cuttingly hilarious recounting of the authors' side of cons (where the rabble seek to rub shoulders with their favorite writers). The story is wonderfully self-deprecating, and also names names in cutting observations of his fellow 'artistes'. The highpoint of this collection though is also the most telling. In this cautionary tale (a caution which J.A. fails to heed unfortunately), a truly bad story is panned by his wife, his mother, and even his house cat. Rather than take this to to heart, our hero finds a wino (umm, street person, sorry) who he offers five bucks to listen to the story and offer a critique. Having committed the atrocity on the person of the aforementioned derelict (ummm, homeless person, sorry), he then stiffs the victim in retaliation for his unenthusiastic reaction. The story is so bad however, that the enraged bum (umm, domicilecly challenged, sorry)runs him down and demands--and gets--$40 for his pain and suffering. I am sure that this story itself lurks in this collection.
The whole book costs less than $3. I do hope to see a refund of $37.00 to cover my time and disappointment. Alternatively, I would be satisfied to have the author keep my money, but but to run a warning on the cover to the effect of: "Beware, most of these stories have been rejected by publishers, family members, domestic pets and other audiences. Proceed at your own risk"
Four of the entries are mystery set-ups to be solved, followed by an explanation of what happened. One had a tell that was a giveaway, and a detail that felt like a plot device. One was clever, but a major detail felt contrived. A third relied on trivia rather than cleverness. There’s a tale of a baking contest, however, that I really enjoyed–the setup was clever, and it had a nice whimsical flair.
Several of the stories are dark and clever. The first story, about a shark-fishing expedition, is funny enough that I didn’t care that it was predictable. There’s a parody of cozy mysteries that’s over-the-top in its morbid fun; there’s a parody of the insanely insightful Sherlock Holmes-style detective that hit that too-random spot for me. A tale of an abusive husband, his wife, and her father gave me a bit of a shiver. A couple of stories (Urgent Reply Needed, for example) felt like they were ‘cheating’ in the information that they hid from the reader and how it was hidden.
For humor value my favorite story is Light Drizzle. In this case the seeming randomness works, as it builds very deliberately on itself, becoming more and more ridiculous. It’s a short tale of an assassin who kills with everyday objects, as a bad day gets worse and worse for him. Don’t Press That Button also made me laugh: it’s a run-down of James Bond gadgets, what makes them cool or not, whether you’d want to own them, and what you might do with them. Cozy or Hardboiled? provides a hilarious, handy checklist to help you figure out what type of mystery you’re looking at, and it made me snort at the end.
A few too many of the stories were kind of ‘meh’ for me, mostly because they just didn’t suit my sense of humor. But again, that’s likely to be very much a matter of personal taste.
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