Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Clearer View of "In Plain Sight"

Every story, no matter if it's a book, a play, on TV, in a movie, or told around the campfire, has the elements of plot, characters, and setting. When it's told on television, additional elements such as music, photography, and allowing for commercials are also important.

I don't have any squawks against the plots or settings of "In Plain Sight." The music and photography are fine, also. That leaves the characters.

Considering each of the regulars, I decided that they're all okay except for the lead, Mary Shannon. But, she's the main character! What can possibly be wrong with her?

It's simple. She speaks.

When she's yelling or on the phone in the throes of fake passion, anything where her voice isn't her normal speaking voice, she's fine. However, when actress Mary McCormack's speaking normally or doing the voice-over, the two of which are most of her lines, something in her near-monotone voice clicks on the "BORING" switch in me.

Something similar happened before with the movie, "Hero," starring Jet Li. I like Jet Li and his films aren't boring, yet I kept falling asleep. As many times as I tried to watch the movie were the number of times I conked out. I finally realized that it was always at about the same point and eventually figured out that the problem was the music. The first time, and every time since, that I watched the movie with the sound off, I was able to stay awake the entire time. It's a beautiful movie, too.

So, there I was last week, watching "K-Pax" starring Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges when Mary McCormack comes on portraying the wife of the character Jeff Bridges is playing.

Guess what happened.

It's a good thing she didn't have many lines.

Then yesterday, during the "Law & Order" marathon on the USA Network, there's a man in the witness protection program and U.S. Marshall Mary Shannon is flying into New York from Albuquerque.

So now, not only is it doubly confirmed that McCormack's normal speaking voice drives me to distraction, I also know from where the premise of "In Plain Sight" came.

The mystery is solved.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Motor Mouth"

"Motor Mouth" is an Alexandra Barnaby novel by Janet Evanovitch, © 2006, ISBN: 978-0-06-058405-4, paperback, 376 pages.

I'm still trying to figure out why "In Plain Sight" is so bad. In the meantime, I continue to catch up on my reading.

I'm so stuck on Evanovitch's Stephanie Plum books that it was somewhat difficult for me to stop looking for counterparts to my favorite characters in this one.

I finally got that Barnaby isn't a bounty hunter, she's a NASCAR mechanic, and she doesn't have two hot men panting after her. She has only one. Instead of Stephanie's crazy family in New Jersey, Alexandra is helped by a family of Cuban aunts, cousins, and grandmothers in Florida. Nevertheless, she's compelled by circumstances to go after the bad guys and her hot man is right there with her.

It's fun and sexy with enough twists and intrigue to keep any fan of detective stories entertained to the very end. A great book for summer reading, it's perfect with real NASCAR races running on TV in the background, muted or not.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

"Invisible Prey"

"Invisible Prey" is a Lucas Davenport novel by John Sandford, © 2007, ISBN: 978-0-425-22115-1, paperback, 420 pages.

My boredom with "In Plain Sight" continues. Wondering what in the world the people giving rave reviews can possibly see in it makes me think it might be a taste that takes a long time for me to acquire. I might like Marshall and definitely do like the little boy the second episode's about, but isn't the main character's name Mary Shannon? Why did she tell the judge her name is Sara White? Whatever. "In Plain Sight" is so bad, I reach for another book and happily begin rereading what I read a year or two ago.

But, I'm here to to give you my 2¢ about "Invisible Prey" by John Sandford while my first impression is still fresh.

Sandford is an author who tends to occasionally drift over to the dark side. I like Lucas Davenport and the rest of the good guys & gals that populate the "Prey" books so much, however, that I keep reading them.

Fortunately, "Invisible Prey" doesn't get into the really grisly details. We find out right away that serial killing's the crime, but there's little resemblance in the book to the creep or deeds seen in the movie, "The Silence of the Lambs" based on the book by Thomas Harris.

I highly recommend "Invisible Prey" for the story and the likable characters. The craftiness behind the murders in "Invisible Prey" and the tactics taken by the guilty make for page-turning intrigue. The bonus is what we learn from it about antiques.

One piece of advice: Don't read it immediately after reading "Echo Park" by Michael Connelly as I did because Sandford's style comes across as rough, even jagged, after Connelly's smooth flow. It's not that Sandford's writing actually is rough or unpolished; it's just that Connelly's writing is such a contrast that it seems that way.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

"Echo Park"

"Echo Park" is a Harry Bosch novel by Michael Connelly, © 2006 Hieronymus, Inc., ISBN: 978-0-446-6646-1, paperback, 427 pages. Too many times, it seems to me that novels about serial killers dwell on the grisly details of the murders. I tend to skip over those parts, wondering why people find the macabre so fascinating. "Echo Park" is different in that Connelly concentrated where any good writer should, on plotting and characterizations, writing well to keep the reader engrossed in the story, not sprinkling in crass sensationalism to spur the reader on from one repulsive description to the next. We know from a few brief lines in parts toward the end of the book that the killer did terrible things, but the details are left to our imaginations. Except for a couple of oddly paced phrases at the beginning, the book's flow kept me turning page after page to see what happens next. Connelly is a former journalist who specialized in the crime beat and his weaving in of the details of police procedures and politics shows it. I've never before read anything like this; it was smooth, suspenseful, and completely satisfying. Although I've seen the movie adaptation of his book, "Blood Work," starring Clint Eastwood, this is the first book I've read by this author and I'm impressed enough to put his other works on my list of books to read. If they are as good, Connelly will easily be a favorite.

"In Plain Sight"

One word describes the first show of this new series on USA Network: "Boring." It was so boring that I wanted to read a book. Not turn to another channel, mind you. Read. A. Book. So, I did. I dutifully watched the entire show, then, gagging for something decent, reached for "Echo Park" by Michael Connelly. I'd never before read a book by him, but anything had to be better than that TV show. And it was. Much better.