[These comments are taken from a mailing list discussion and as such contain spoilers....]
[on the characters]
I've been looking forward to reading this book for yonks and was
expecting to love it and I wasn't disappointed. I was surprised that
Mace had a bigger role than Munch as I hadn't heard about him and
having read the book I'm surprised to find that Mace doesn't come back
again straight away in the next book. If I hadn't known that this was
Munch's series before reading the book then I would have expected it
to be Mace's series.
Most of the characterisations in the book were great, I loved both
Munch and Mace. The various mechanics, Ruby and Digger were the other
characters who made an impression on me. Some of the characters with
less redeeming characteristics seemed a bit thin and stereotyped. In
particular I thought Potts wasn't fleshed out enough. I got a vague
idea that Mace didn't get on with him but he didn't make enough of a
mark on me that the resolution seemed believable.
[on the setting]
The setting felt vaguely out of place to me but this has been resolved
by reading the discussion. I had absolutely no idea that this was set
in the 70s. In the bit about bicentennial coasters in the bar I
thought that either the landlord had stocked up enough coasters to
last 20 odd years or my recall of dates in American history was rather
wonky; the latter was quite feasible and the former was hilarious!
Knowing that the book is in the 70s makes it feel less out of joint
and explains the lack of worries about AIDS, condoms, dirty needles
etc. which was festering in the back of my head as a little
incongruous as I read. As well as why a suspect could mistake a
photocopier for a lie detector which bugged me a bit too.
The physical setting didn't envelope the book as it does in some
others but I got a good feel of a big city where Munch had just about
never seen countryside and I liked the little details of settings like
the filled in canals around Digger's house.
[on the plot]
I didn't feel that this book was a great mystery, it wasn't really
about the plot and was far more character based. The Bellona Creek
Butcher murders were interesting but seemed to fizzle out a bit to me
the mystery of who killed Flower George didn't really grab me as I
knew it wasn't Munch; I was far more concerned with how Munch was
coping really. The resolution was good from Munch's point of view but
Potts didn't really work as a killer for me.
[on the pacing, scenes]
The pacing seemed fine to me, I didn't feel that there were any dull
lulls or filler (and the pacing would have been better if I hadn't had
to put the book down every ten minutes but I can't blame the author
for that!) The only thing in the book that really didn't work for me
now I've got the time of the book right was the unmasking of the
killer but I may just have not been paying enough attention to those
bits of the story in my worries about Munch. The bits I find most
memorable in the book were little details like Munch stealing syringes
from the hospital and then chucking them away, the kid on the street
helping Digger out, and Munch using brains rather than brawn to take
engines to pieces.
[on this being a first book]
As I said at the top it wasn't clear to me from reading this book what
the "concept for the series" was, if I hadn't already known that Munch
was to star then I would have expected Mace but probably because
having the detective as the central character is what I'm used to.
Whilst I like Mace a lot I think Munch is going to make a great
central character and I'm really looking forward to the next book.
This book didn't feel like a first book to me, if I had to pick on
something as not seeming fully polished it would be that some of the
mystery elements could have been stronger without destroying the great
character parts of the book, and that the time period wasn't clear
enough to me. Mostly this book was great stuff and I'd read the next
one even if it wasn't for a discussion and I doubt I'll stop until the
series is over.
Purchased on 15th January 2002.