A review of Notorious Nineteen, by Janet Evanovich
@@@ (3 out of 5)
Dear Janet (if I may be so bold),
Maybe it’s me, but I doubt that. After you’ve written — what is it? 50? 51? — novels all told, I think you’re losing steam. Notorious Nineteen is, of course, the 19th in your Stephanie Plum series, and it shows. Here are a few of the most prominent signs:
- Not one but two cars Stephanie is driving are blown up;
- Lula consumes at least 8,000 calories of junk food in a single day;
- Ranger rescues Stephanie from imminent death not once but twice;
- A really bad guy gets blown up trying to kill Stephanie; and
- Morelli and Stephanie still aren’t ready to get married after talking about it for 10 years.
Truth to tell, some of this is funny as it happens, which is why I kept reading this series of comic novels so long. But the humor is fast fading, and so is the guilty pleasure I’ve taken so long in this series.
I don’t know about you, Janet, but I’m ready to put Stephanie out to pasture at last. Appearances notwithstanding, she’s really pushing 60 now, right? Isn’t it time to lay off the staff on that assembly-line writing factory of yours and see what you can do on your own again?
Think about it. You may not be able to write anything original, but you won’t know unless you try, no?
Your erstwhile fan,
A review of Skios, by Michael Frayn
@@@ (3 out of 5)
You may have heard of Michael Frayn without remembering his name. The successful British playwright and novelist is best known for the stage plays Noises Off, a frequently produced farce of mistaken identities, and Copenhagen, which portrays a meeting in 1941 between two of the giants of 20th Century physics, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, at a time when Heisenberg was thought to be working on an atomic bomb for the Nazi regime.
In Skios, Frayn develops two intersecting stories based on the premise that one protagonist — a philandering nutcase who lives by impulse alone — inhabits the identity of the other, an internationally renowned author and lecturer on the subject of the scientific management of science. The expert is scheduled to deliver a lecture on a Greek island, Skios, to an exclusive audience assembled by a foundation dedicated to the preservation of the highest aspirations of European culture. Need I say that monumental complications ensue both for the expert and for the imposter, not to mention the foundation, its staff, and its guests? Might I add that, by the end of this little book, the body count numbers more than a dozen — and that no reader is likely to miss any of the deceased?
Skios is much closer in character to Noises Off than to Frayn’s more thoughtful work but is much less successful. Frayn’s humor comes through loud and clear — the story is frequently hilarious — but the utter absurdity of the plot unravels at the end, where Frayn lays out not one but two possible endings for the book. (One of them, perhaps the author’s original conclusion, is presented as conjectural. The other is presented as “real.”)
I loved Noises Off. I laughed until I was hoarse. And as a child I read Frayn’s first novel, The Tin Men, and loved that, too. Though I enjoyed Skios enough to finish it, I was disappointed.