Monthly Archives

March 2011

AMERICAN IDOL S10: Top 11 Perform Elton John Songs

I haven’t been posting American Idol recaps this year because I haven’t been home most nights the show is on. Finally found myself with a little free time yesterday evening so I tuned in, though I wasn’t thrilled about the theme being Elton John songs. He and Bernie Taupin have written some great tunes but their catalog is ballad-heavy and I just wasn’t in the mood. I wish we could have Springsteen or U2 night. Hell, I’d take Bryan Adams, Eagles, Bob Seger. We need some rock ‘n’ roll and I don’t mean what James Durbin is doing.

This isn’t a full recap, just the highlights. Let’s jump straight to the surprising best performance of the evening: Haley covering “Bennie and the Jets.” I’ve liked her husky voice in the past but she always picks the wrong songs and tries too hard to be vampy on stage. I thought it was going to be more of the same when she started out reclining seductively on the piano but man, she burned it up. Though she still does that throat-clearing type of singing too often for my taste, the song allowed her to growl, belt, and slink through different octaves, opening up my eyes and making me say “Yowza.” Check out the clip below if you missed it.

Elsewhere, Casey did a nice job with “Your Song” but he’s had better performances. Pia was pitch-perfect as usual but still lacked a warmth of feeling. The best singers are also the best interpreters, taking lyrics beyond words and into emotional territory. For some reason, Pia hasn’t learned to do that yet. Plus, her song, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” is a drag.

Lauren had a personal best with “Candle in the Wind” though I’d be thrilled if I never hear that overexposed saccharine ballad again. The judges were too harsh on Naima because I liked her groovy reggae version of “I’m Still Standing.” Jacob was good but wasn’t in the top 3 for me. I still dig Paul‘s funkiness; Steven Tyler said it perfectly when he told Paul if he started hitting all the notes, he’d become boring. I fast-forwarded through Scotty‘s performance as I normally do because he’s just too corny for me. “I love you, Grandma!” in the middle of the song? Puh-leeze.

Who stood out and who are you rooting for?

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Winners of Kate Atkinson Prize Packages

I’m happy to announce my 5 winners of Kate Atkinson prize packages. Each set includes the four Jackson Brodie books: Case Histories (trade), One Good Turn (trade), When Will There Be Good News? (trade) and a hardcover of her just-released Started Early, Took My Dog.

  1. Paulette
  2. Alison/Alison’s Book Marks
  3. Novelwhore
  4. jenn aka the picky girl
  5. Rose City Reader

Please use this contact form to let me know where Hachette can send the packages. Winners who don’t respond by Saturday, April 2, 9 a.m. PST will be replaced by alternate winner(s).

Thanks for entering, everyone. I’ll have another great giveaway in the next two weeks!

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Book Review: Manuel Muñoz’s WHAT YOU SEE IN THE DARK

You know this book is unusual when it begins by drawing you in with a second person narrative. Right away, you’re in Bakersfield, CA in 1959 as the tragic love affair between locals Teresa and Dan unfolds, intertwined with a fictional account of Janet Leigh (called only the Actress) and Alfred Hitchcock (the Director) coming to town to scout locations, including the perfect Bates motel, for Psycho. Through these and other characters, you explore what it was like to have dreams in a small town, to have them turn out differently than planned, or to know you’ve missed your chance at fulfilling your dreams altogether.

Debut novelist Manuel Muñoz’s voice, which switches to third person for most of the book, is an atmospheric, nostalgic one. I normally don’t care for a lot of descriptive prose but his evocations of another time are so hypnotic that I didn’t mind. Witness the way he sets up the following scene so you can watch Teresa, a Mexican girl abandoned by her mother, and Dan, the most coveted boy in town, as they have lunch:

They were eating in the café located on one of the choice corners on a better stretch of Union Avenue, the café that still had the plate-glass windows all the way down to the sidewalk…You could see the entire booth through those windows: the table, the red vinyl, their dishes, the waitress’s white shoes when she came by to check on them, how the girl crossed her feet and rocked them nervously. She was not dressed as crisply as he was. Even if her clothes looked clean and pressed, you could tell right off that the day she began wearing nice things around town was the day the two of them had done more than talk and have lunch.

And with that, the author has turned you into a voyeur and town gossip.

Teresa and Dan’s story—and that of his mother, Arlene—is rife with loneliness and hope, with observations both subtle and heartbreaking. Muñoz also pulls off getting inside Janet Leigh’s head as she struggles with self-doubt while preparing for what would turn out to be her iconic role. The author writes in meticulous detail about how the famous shower scene was shot, how exacting Hitchcock was, and how Leigh tried to bring sympathetic dimensions to a character who was a thief and adulterer. The result is a mesmerizing combination of behind-the-scenes movie lore and noirish mystery.

But while the Actress only has to deal with fake blood, Teresa and Dan’s relationship erupts in real violence. Muñoz provides some details of the crime but doesn’t give a definitive account of what goes down, asking you to speculate on events as the locals do. It’s different from mystery novels that end with a “here’s what happened” scene but is effective nonetheless, because Muñoz wants you to use your imagination to fill in what you think you saw in the dark.

Nerd verdict: Hypnotic, noirish Dark

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It Gets Better

Last week saw the release of the book version of It Gets Better, the outreach project spearheaded by Dan Savage and Terry Miller as a reaction to news of bullied youths killing themselves. Many of the stories target LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered) teens but the message that life gets better beyond adolescence is the same for anyone who’s ever been bullied. That includes me.

I was picked on for being different, one of the few Asian kids in my school and an undersized one. In seventh grade, I weighed only about 10 ounces more than a newborn. I wore glasses, spoke with an accent, and was no good in sports. I was called names I didn’t understand and the kids laughed at my clothes.

One kid, Tom, would wait until I got my lunch after standing in the cafeteria line for a while and he’d come over and just take it away from me. There was no attempt at being sneaky; he would grab the tray right out of my hand. “What are you going to do about it?” he’d smirk. What, indeed. He was popular and bigger than I.

I was miserable, not to mention hungry. One day, after the lunch-snatching had gone on for about a week, I decided I wasn’t going to take it anymore. When Tom came up to steal my lunch, I said loudly, “Why are you so mean to me?” Suddenly the cafeteria went still. All the chatting and clattering of silverware were suspended as eyes turned to us, but more to Tom, awaiting his response.

We stood there for a long moment, with me unsure if he’d pound me. Regardless, I really wanted an answer. But he didn’t have one. He finally shrugged, said, “Fine, you can have your lunch back,” and handed over my tray but not before licking several of my french fries first. He never bothered me again.

I had other incidents with other bullies but they all taught me that I have a voice—I just have to use it. There are many ways of speaking out and it pains me to think of bullied kids who feel they don’t matter. Even more tragic are the ones who think it doesn’t get better. Tom, the guy who tormented me? He apologized several years later on our high school graduation day and even became my friend afterward. He explained the bullying wasn’t about me—he had his own issues. If only he’d spoken up about them.

Do you have a bullying story to share? Doesn’t have to be firsthand experience; it can be something that happened to someone you know. I’d love to hear how it got better.

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Nerd Chat with Author Brett Battles

Brett Battles’s fourth Jonathan Quinn thriller, The Silenced (Dell, 4/5/11), is about to drop so I invited him by to talk about it and the 237 other projects he has up his sleeve.

First, the description for Silenced:

Quinn has a new client and an odd job: find and remove the remains of a body hidden twenty-five years ago inside a London building now scheduled for demolition.

But Quinn, his deadly and beautiful girlfriend Orlando, and their uniquely talented colleague Nate are being watched. Suddenly caught in the crossfire between two dangerous rivals who demand the remains, Quinn and his team must learn who the dead man was and why he’s still so important. Because a plot stretching from London to Hong Kong to the former Soviet Union is rapidly unraveling. And Quinn hasn’t just been hired to tie up loose ends—he is one.

Pop Culture Nerd: The launch party is this Saturday, 3/26, at Book Soup. Can you confirm if there will be cake and acrobatic chimps?

Brett Battles: While the acrobatic chimps are confirmed, I’ll have to work on the cake. Any preferences? [Ed. note: Banana nut ice cream cake!] I am very excited that The Silenced is finally coming out. I think it’s the best Quinn yet.

PCN: What did you do to him?

BB: I get into Quinn’s past, who he was before he was Jonathan Quinn. And I make his past get tangled with his present. That was a lot of fun! For me, but probably not for him.

PCN: Oh, good, I like tanglediness. Silenced isn’t the only new release you have. You just e-published two short stories and another thriller, Little Girl Gone. Only one of these has Quinn. Want to elaborate?

BB: One of the short stories, “Just Another Job,” is a Quinn. It’s from when he was a younger cleaner and still working with his mentor, Durrie. The novel, Little Girl Gone, is the first of a new series featuring Logan Harper. All three should be available at the Kindle store and other places where e-books are sold, such as smashwords.com.

PCN: Who’s Logan Harper and why did you decide to start another series with him?

BB: Logan is a former soldier who went into security work at a defense contractor after he finished college. While he was working there, something bad happened that got him fired and caused his wife to leave him. That’s all backstory, of course; Little Girl Gone opens two years later. Logan has moved back to his hometown of Cambria, California, and is working at an auto-repair garage owned by his almost 80-year-old father. He’s there because keeping life simple is the only thing that helps him move on from the past, a past he blames himself for but shouldn’t.

I wanted to write a series about a guy who isn’t a professional like Quinn, but who is resourceful and gets drawn into helping others. His father and his father’s group of friends are going to play a large part in finding people who need Logan’s help, whether he wants them to do that or not.

PCN: Also on deck is a YA, your 359th book this year. What inspired you to write that?

BB: Definitely my kids. I wanted to write an adventure I thought they might enjoy. It’s called Here Comes Mr. Trouble and should be out mid-April.

PCN: Can you reveal a little of its plot?

BB: A little, perhaps. Thirteen-year-old Eric Morrison thinks he might be going crazy. His whole life has suddenly turned upside down. Among other things, he’s forgetting homework, unable to get to his classes on time, and constantly getting bullied on his way home from school. Not to mention the fact that his mom is missing and his father doesn’t seem to notice. Dazed by this whirlwind of chaos, Eric finds an ad in a phone book that seems to be tailored just for him, a service for kids who are in trouble. He calls the number, but if he thought things were weird before, they were nothing compared to what’s about to happen when Mr. Trouble and the Trouble family arrive to help him.

PCN: I want to read that and I’m wayyy past being a YA. You’ve gone the traditional publishing route and now doing some e-publishing. How do you compare the two experiences?

BB: Well, I’m still very new to the whole e-publishing world, but probably the biggest difference is that instead of having to wait a year to a year and a half for my books to come out after I finish writing them, there is only a month or two, which is spent copy editing, getting a cover made, etc. I enjoy being in control of the cover design. When you’re with a publisher, they often just present you with a cover and say, “Don’t you love it?” and you’re expected to say yes.

The big thing legacy publishing has going for it is the distribution of printed books, but with fewer and fewer bookstores, and more and more people buying e-readers, that’s becoming less important. Oh, and before, if I wrote a book my agent or publisher didn’t want to bring out, I’d have to stuff it in a drawer. Now I can write what I want, throw it out there, and if it finds an audience, great! If not, no problem either.

PCN: The Romantic Times Booklovers Convention comes to L.A. next month. After narrowly losing the Mr. Romance title last year despite running around with no pants, how do you plan to campaign for it this year?

BB: I’ve made a special DVD that will be in each of the attendees’ bags. Inside five of the DVD sleeves there will be a golden ticket. Those five lucky winners will get…well, best not go into it here.

PCN: I agree. Based on what I saw on the DVD, what you have planned has been illegal in the U.S. and Mexico since 1973. Looks fun, though. Thanks for chatting, Brett!

L.A. folks, the Book Soup launch is 4 p.m. this Saturday; click here for more info about the store. Hope to see you there!

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Book Review + Giveaway: Kate Atkinson’s STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG

Though Started Early, Took My Dog is Kate Atkinson’s fourth book featuring private eye Jackson Brodie, it’s the first one I’ve read so I actually started late. But late is better than never and I’m happy to have finally met the investigator introduced in Case Histories.

Brodie is only one of the main characters in Started Early, with the others being a retired policewoman named Tracy Waterhouse who instinctively buys a four-year-old child from a woman she believes is abusing the little girl, and an older soap actress named Tilly who’s slowly losing her memory. The story moves between their separate points of view and different time frames—it begins in 1975 and alternates between then and the present—until the characters’ paths finally converge. The buildup is a little slow—Tracy’s backstory is important while Tilly’s past could have been abbreviated—but the pace accelerates once their storylines finally intersect.

Brodie, tracking down the biological roots of a client who had been adopted, is an immensely likable companion as he takes the reader through the countryside with him and his dog, which Brodie rescues from an abusive owner. How can you resist a dog described thusly?

[Jackson] spent some time drilling his new recruit on the beach—sit, stay, heel, come. The dog was pretty good. At sit its haunches dropped as if its back legs had been taken from beneath it. When Jackson said stay and walked away the dog might as well have been glued to the sand, its whole body quivering with the effort of not hurtling after Jackson. And when Jackson found a stick of driftwood and held it above the dog’s head, the dog not only stood on its hind legs but even walked a few steps. What next? Talking?

Atkinson’s wit is matched by her ability to squeeze the reader’s heart with observations like the following, as Tracy warns the little girl to watch out for people who might want to snatch her back:

“Keep an eye out for a gray car,” [Tracy] said to Courtney. Did kids her age know all the colors? Could the kid sing the whole rainbow? “Do you know what color gray is?”

“It’s the color of the sky,” Courtney offered.

Tracy sighed. Therapist would have a field day with this kid.

And Courtney’s not the only child in peril in this book. “Started early” isn’t just part of the title, it could be a comment on how early we can encounter misery in life, or how far back into the past we have to delve in order to understand our present. Though Atkinson leaves a few questions unanswered, this is a novel full of sharp observations about human nature and how it’s never too late to do the right thing.

I’m definitely going to read the other Brodie books now and you can, too,* since the generous folks at Hachette are letting me give away five sets of the Brodie titles. Each prize package will include:

  • Case Histories (Trade)
  • One Good Turn (Trade)
  • When Will There be Good News (Trade)
  • Started Early, Took my Dog (Hardcover)

How cool is that? To enter:

  • leave a comment telling me what habit you started at an early age (mine is reading)
  • be a U.S./Canada resident (no P.O. boxes, per Hachette’s request)

Giveaway ends next Wednesday, March 30 at 5 p.m. PST. Five winners will be randomly selected via random.org then announced here, on Twitter and Facebook. Winners will have 48 hours to claim prizes before alternate name(s) are chosen so make sure you check back!

* I never felt lost reading this book but have a feeling it contains minor spoilers from previous cases.

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First Look at the New Wonder Woman

Entertainment Weekly ran this picture today of Adrianne Palicki in costume for the Wonder Woman pilot written by David E. Kelley. Having read this Daily Beast article by someone who’d seen the script, the photo makes me even less hopeful about the show being something I’d like to watch despite my being a gigantic fan of the Amazonian princess. The costume and her garish makeup make her look cheap, like someone working Hollywood Boulevard and I don’t mean as a character for tourists to take photos with. I do like those bracelets, though.

What do you think? (UPDATE: Click here to read Lynda Carter’s comments on Palicki playing WW.)

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Book Review: Don Winslow’s SATORI

If I hadn’t already been a huge Don Winslow fan before I read Satori, I think this review would be different. But since I revere his other books, my opinions are, fairly or not, weighted by the expectations I brought to this one, which he wrote “in the tradition” of another author.

Satori is the prequel to 1979’s Shibumi (which I haven’t read), an international sensation written by Rodney Whitaker under the pseudonym of Trevanian. Both are about the singular assassin Nicholai Hel, the son of a Russian mother and German father but raised in the Far East. It’s 1951 in Tokyo and Nicholai is twenty-six when we meet him in Satori as he’s being released from an American-run prison after committing an honor killing. His freedom has a price—he must impersonate a French arms dealer and assassinate a Soviet commissioner in Beijing, an almost certain suicide mission. The assignment and its fallout take him to Laos and then Saigon, where he in turn becomes the target for assassination.

The international elements and narrative style of this book remind me of old-school thrillers like Leslie Charteris’s The Saint series and Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels. Which is fine, except I’ve become hooked on Winslow’s lean, blistering prose (e.g. his famous two-word first chapter in Savages) and wanted to see some of that here, despite realizing that Nicholai is a period character who is much more internal than, say, Boone from The Dawn Patrol, and requires the more meditative style. I just had to get used to this different voice coming from one of my favorite authors.

Winslow transports readers to exotic places with his sumptuous details, immersing us in different cultural traditions. We get to experience a Japanese tea ceremony and a Beijing opera, learn about the Zen notion of sudden awakening called satori, we’re instructed deadly fighting methods such as the leopard paw and hoda korosu, and taught how to play a strategic board game called Go, whose concept Nicholai relies on for survival. Seeing how Go helps Nicholai always stay one step ahead of his opponents made me want to try playing it myself.

Winslow’s descriptions of Saigon also made me long for the place I once called home. The city in the early ’50s is different from the one I knew twenty years later, but some things remained the same—Cholon, the Notre Dame Cathedral, and the following scene:

Vietnamese police, in their distinctive white uniforms, stoically struggled to manage the swirling Citroën and Renault autos, cyclo-pousses, Vespa scooters, and swarms of bicycles that competed for the right-of-way in a chaos that was a true mixture of the French and Asian styles of driving. Honking horns, jingling bells, and shouts of good-natured abuse in French, Vietnamese, and Chinese contributed to an urban cacophony.

Child street vendors darted and dodged through the traffic to sell newspapers, bottles of orange soda, or cigarettes to customers momentarily stuck in a jam, or sitting at a café table, or just walking down the busy sidewalks.

Winslow has clearly done meticulous research but made one mistake regarding Vietnamese cuisine. A cook makes something called nouc mom, described as “the Vietnamese fish soup that was a staple of the peasant diet.” This soup is mentioned several times and sounds delicious but there’s no such thing as nuoc mom. There is something called nuoc mam but it’s just fish sauce, a condiment like soy sauce. I think Winslow is referring instead to the soup called cháo cá.

My Vietnamese nitpickiness aside, Satori is something to experience, with Nicholai an intriguing guide to take us through it all. At the end, I had a flash of sudden awareness that told me I now have to read Shibumi.

Nerd verdict: Culturally rich Satori

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Book Review: Harlan Coben’s LIVE WIRE

It has never taken me more than two days to finish a Harlan Coben book and it was no different with his latest, Live Wire (Dutton, March 22). Myron and Win are back in another fast-paced tale that starts with a pregnant client of Myron’s, former tennis ace Suzze T, receiving an anonymous Facebook comment claiming that her husband, Lex, isn’t her baby’s father. Lex, the less famous half of a rock duo, has disappeared and Suzze wants Myron to find him and the person who posted the comment. In doing so, Myron runs into his sister-in-law Kitty, whom he hasn’t seen for fifteen years, since she and Myron’s brother Brad cut off contact with the Bolitar family after a nasty altercation. Kitty turns out to be a key figure in a complicated case that ends up with several people dead and Myron’s world turned upside down.

One of the things I like about the Bolitar series is that the characters evolve. Over the last few books, Myron has been dealing with his parents getting older and in this book the issue comes to the forefront. It’s a realistic and heartfelt exploration of what it means to face the inevitable, to have what you thought was far off arrive on your doorstep and ring the bell. Myron and Win are aging, too, with Win wearing reading glasses now, though he’s still deadly enough—if not more than ever—to bail Myron out of tough spots.

Live Wire reveals a Bolitar family history that readers had never known, introducing family members we—and even Myron, in one instance—had never met. We learn that Myron contributed to the estrangement of his brother and his sister-in-law Kitty wasn’t always the despicable person she’s become. Coben makes a bold move by drastically altering Myron’s (and Win’s and Esperanza’s) life by the end of the book, leaving our hero headed in a new direction. This change is welcome because as engrossing as Coben’s novels are, there’s a pattern developing (in his standalones, too): The protagonist receives a video/call/e-mail and now Facebook comment from someone who hasn’t been seen/heard from in years/long thought dead, which sends Myron/protagonist on a dangerous mission. Hopefully, as Myron and his friends tackle new personal challenges, they and the series will continue to age gracefully.

Nerd verdict: Strong Live

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Book Review: Téa Obreht’s THE TIGER’S WIFE

Though this is Téa Obreht’s debut novel, it arrives with loud fanfare after the author landed on The New Yorker‘s “Best 20 Under 40” list—she’s the youngest at 25—and the National Book Foundation named her one of the “Best 5 Under 35.” In addition, The Tiger’s Wife has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist and the Library Journal. Does the book live up to the hype? Yes and no, depending on how much you like narration vs. dialogue.

The narrator is a young doctor named Natalia who’s traveling in an unnamed Balkan country with her friend Zóra to deliver medical aid to an orphanage. On the way, Natalia receives news that her beloved grandfather has died under mysterious circumstances away from home. She sets out to bring back his belongings and in the process recalls the stories he had told her since childhood. These include tales of “the deathless man” her grandfather met as a young man, a tiger who came to live (and be feared as the devil) in her grandfather’s village when he was a boy, and the deaf-mute girl who became known as the tiger’s wife.

Obreht is undeniably a gifted writer, able to conjure vivid imagery in her descriptions of a country ravaged by war. Her understanding of history lends depth and maturity to her storytelling. The problem is there’s too much of a good thing. The author’s omniscient voice is everywhere so she tends to describe everything, even getting inside a tiger’s head to describe his feelings. She often writes up to a dozen pages of narrative without any dialogue. This style left me feeling a little removed from the proceedings. Dialogue draws me into scenes in an immediate way, making me feel like someone eavesdropping on conversations. Too much narration renders me passive as a reader, as if I’m only getting a summary of characters’ actions after the fact. I often missed the insight that can be gleaned from what people say to each other, whether or not they’re telling the truth. Some readers may have no problem sitting back and being told a good story; I like to feel as if I’m inside it.

Obreht’s cast of characters is uneven, with some much more interesting than others. The grandfather is the strongest link; every scene he’s in is riveting. The deathless man with his mysterious coffee cup is also quite a creation; someone who possibly works for Death should be creepy but is instead charming and well-mannered. The deaf-mute girl is a heart-rending figure elevated to mystical status and the tiger at times seems more human than the men who engage in animalistic violence.

Because these stories are captivating, I got impatient with the chapters about the less intriguing characters, including Natalia. She’s chasing the truth about her grandfather while remaining somewhat of a blank slate. Obreht also digresses into the histories of the butcher and the apothecary from the grandfather’s village. The backstories do have emotional resonance but are disproportionately long for such tangential characters, pulling focus away from the central ones. Ultimately, Tiger’s Wife has much to be admired even if it’s not quite as magical as some of the legends it tells.

Nerd verdict: A tame Tiger’s

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Book Review: Michael Robertson’s THE BROTHERS OF BAKER STREET

Wow. It feels like I haven’t written a post in a month but it’s only been six days. I’m doing a play which opened last Thursday (if you’re in L.A. and like theater, come on down!) and the days leading up to opening night were busy with tech and dress rehearsals. During downtime backstage, I did manage to read a few books and here’s a review of one, with more to follow this week.

The Brothers of Baker Street by Michael Robertson

Reggie Heath is back in London after traveling to Los Angeles in the charming The Baker Street Letters (first in this series). The previous adventure has left him broke and no longer in a relationship with actress Laura Rankin. But he still has his law office at 221B Baker Street—Sherlock Holmes’s address—as long as he maintains his agreement with management that he answers letters that arrive on a regular basis addressed to the famous detective.

But Reggie doesn’t have time for the letters. In a bid to rebuild his career, he takes on the case of a Black Cab driver accused of murdering two American tourists. Then an important clue turns up in a letter from someone claiming to be a descendant of Professor Moriarty. The letter writer also believes Reggie is Sherlock Holmes brought back to life through cryogenics and promises to avenge the professor’s death.

Though Brothers has its moments, it’s not as enjoyable as Letters partly because Reggie’s lawyer brother, Nigel, is missing for nearly half the book (he’s in L.A. with his lady friend until he’s called home to help Reggie). The dynamic between the two is part of the draw for me. Responsible Reggie is not as much fun without his eccentric brother around to frustrate him.

Laura’s relationship with the boorish Lord Buxton is also problematic. He publishes trashy tabloids, the two have zero chemistry, and she seems to prefer Reggie’s company over Buxton’s. I don’t need to see her back with Reggie—they had some problems in the last book—but if she’s only with Buxton because he has money and Reggie doesn’t, then she has become a shallow character undeserving of Reggie’s devotion.

Another issue is the lack of mystery surrounding the letter writer claiming to be Moriarty’s descendant. The identity of this person becomes quite obvious about halfway through the book, with giant clues pointing to the culprit like neon signs flashing “Villain alert!” The denouement, however, is a fitting homage to the Holmes-and-Moriarty legend. This book may be underwhelming but the brothers remain engaging characters and their connection to Holmes will have me on board when their next game is afoot.

Nerd verdict: Brothers has issues

What have you been reading?

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