by Shane Maloney

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Featured image for Stiff

[I read this for a mailing list discussion and my comments will get cut’n’pasted here when the discussion begins. Warning, these comments contain spoilers]

[on the characters and setting]

Hmm, hard to answer since I found it a hard book to read to start with though it got a lot easier by the end. I thought it was going to be a quick and easy short read but I feel like it’s taken me a million years to read it.

I don’t think the characterisation was great; I got to quite like Murray after a while but it took a long time to get a good picture of him and few of the other characters really came to life for me. In a way I think the characters with smaller parts (such as the Turkish cleaner Memo who thought he killed Ekram) were better drawn than characters with bigger roles (Angelo Agnelli never jumped off the page for me), though Maloney has got more books to make decent characters out of the recurring characters.

I think Red was probably the most interesting character and I look forward to seeing what he gets up to in future books (and I hope he is in the future books and doesn’t get carted off permanently by Wendy).

The setting was ok, not brilliant either though. Australia did seep through the pages, mostly in the language. The political setting and the meat packing plant were both things that I felt could have been made a lot more real to me than they actually were though.

[on the plot]

The plotting is, I think, plausible “within the context of the story” rather than realistic. It wasn’t fantasyland stuff but neither did it all make sense to me as something that could really happen. I confess I got lost rather a lot with why the heck Murray was investigating to start with. I gather that Agnelli needed a report on it but as to why this was Murray’s job I didn’t have a clue. After a while I think figuring out what had actually happened jut got to bug Murray and he needed to find out for himself and that’s a good enough reason to chase up loose ends for me.

The resolution was ok, nothing brilliant and I don’t think I understood it all any more than I did for the rest of the book. The scene with Murray getting caught in the freezer with Gardiner bugged me a bit, it seemed to be typical “investigator puts himself in jeopardy” fare - it’s more usually “herself” but it’s the same thing. Murray knew Gardiner was the culprit by that point and he was only half with it after the car crash so he shouldn’t have gone over to the meat plant to put himself in more danger. I suppose being out of it after the car crash is a bit of an excuse for behaving like that though.

The entire book wasn’t quite satisfactory to me but I am looking forward to seeing how the second in the series goes. Quite often a second book is an easier and more coherent read because both the author and the reader have more clue what to expect.