Par Four

by Elizabeth Gunn

Friday, October 12, 2001

Featured image for Par Four

If it was just down to my opinion of Triple Play I’d never have read this book. But I love the group of people I get to discuss these books with so I’m reading on in the series. So far this is a better book than the first and Gunn seems to have addressed some of the issues that I had problems with in the last book. Jake seems more personally involved in the cases we’ve seen so far and this book has more of a real feeling to it as well.

[the rest of my comments are taken from the discussion and contain spoilers]

[On the characters]

I’m with the others whose replies I’ve read in that I found this a better and more interesting book than Triple Play. If this hadn’t have been a group discussion I don’t think I’d have bothered reading Par Four after reading the first book.

One of my major complaints about Triple Play was that there was little interaction between the characters and the plot. I thought that this area was much improved in Par Four.

Jake seemed more real here. He annoyed me in some places, mainly when he got onto rambling about his love life, but most of the time I liked him a lot more than before. His interaction with Babe at the beginning of the book and his previous relationship with working for her gave him a reason to care when she turned up dead. Also we saw the victims here before they became murder victims and I thought that gave the plot more depth than if they had just turned up as dead bodies.

Jake also had other things going on that were personal to him that tied into the plot. His efforts to get his apartment sorted out weren’t just a sub plot. Neither was his golf game. I like the way he’s now in charge of the investigating department so we get to see him sorting out what his staff should be doing too.

Other police people were also involved more closely with the plot. Schultz had her daughter kidnapped so we saw her as a mother as well as a despatcher. We learnt about Bo’s family and why the drugs job was so important to him.

I thought Gunn fleshed out many of the characters a lot more fully in this book. For example, the addition of the outspoken Meg to Jimmy’s team was a good move that added life to Jimmy.

The only real flaw that I found in the characterisations in this book was with the still paper thin Trudy. I was disappointed when she decided not to go to San Francisco. Somebody tell me every book in this series doesn’t end with a lovey dovey moment…

[On the plot]

I thought the plot was quite reasonable when I was reading the book. There were lots of believable seeming crimes: kidnapping, robbery, drug dealing, murder, money laundering etc. It didn’t seem unreasonable to me that all these could be going on in one town at the same time.

I felt that the ending was far too neat though. The way everything tied up together was too good to be true. Mainly it was the fact that there was only one person behing everything that rang false. I could have believed that all the crimes were related to one another but Doris as criminal mastermind didn’t work particularly well for me. I could sort of see how she got into it and why she did it but it still seemed a bit too neatly contrived.

The point of the kidnapping passed me by. I completely missed the fact that it was a diversion. And now I can’t remember why Babe was killed by her son either but I might just have a premature case of CRS. I liked the fact that the spoons reappeared. I was just beginning to find the repetition of them really annoying when Gunn tied them into the main plot. That was a nice touch. I thought the golf tie in was a bit silly. I couldn’t really believe that everyone around had managed to miss his golf bag as a possible hiding place.

Mainly I felt this was a better book before the plot was resolved.

[On the setting, pacing, point of view etc]

I thought the setting was, again, pretty anonymous. It’s not a problem when one aspect of a book in uninteresting, it only becomes a problem when several aspects of a book are equally bland. I thought this book had more interesting stuff in it than Triple Play did but still not quite enough for me really.

The pacing of this book seemed much better than the first. The story seemed to have the traditional beginning, middle and end and I didn’t get bored waiting for the plot to get interesting at any point.

I think Jake’s point of view was more individual this time around. I can’t say I like him that much though. He seems like a good and caring policeman but I don’t like him in his private life much. I think it would probably help if one or both of Trudy and his ex wife got fleshed out into a real character. What we see of him outside work is more one sided that what we see of him at work.

[On comparisons to the rest of the series]

I thought this book was stronger than Triple Play but still quite shaky in some areas. Mainly I don’t think very much of Jake as narrator and I’m beginning to think Gunn might have been better writing the stories in the third person. I think the other characters are portrayed far better than Jake who is a regular cardboard cut out when he’s not at work. That’s with the exception of the even less animate Trudy of course.

I thought this book was better plotted and deeper than Triple Play whilst still being pretty consistent with it. To me the author showed a definite improvement upon the first book.


Overall I’m glad I thought it was better than Triple Play and I’m hoping that the next two books continue to get better. I’m not too optimistic of that happening though.

I forgot to mention in another answer that I thought there was just enough of Pokey in this book. I found him annoying in Triple Play and thought the brief glimpses we had of him in Par Four was just enough to keep him comedic without making him wearing.

Nothing about this book really excelled itself to me but only the parts about Jake’s private life really caused me to yawn. I’m not loving this series but I’m not hating it either.