Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Review: The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover by Kinky Friedman




I'm a newcomer to mystery in general (other than a brief fling through the Sherlock Holmes stories in high school), so I'm never really sure how to judge a mystery. My fallback is: did it entertain me? This is a broad enough category (I think) that it leaves lots of wiggle room for the author in terms of balance between plot, narrative, character development, and, well, everything else and lots more wiggle room for me as a reader.
So that being said, I think this book is a solid 3.5 stars. Friedman tells a good story in the sense that the plot moves along quite nicely, his descriptions are surprisingly clear (usually, sometimes things get lost in the lingo), and he does manage to successfully pull off a few surprises here and there. His humor is really where the book sometimes lags not so much because it isn't funny at times, but because it isn't funny consistently. Sometimes I found myself laughing out loud, and sometimes the jokes just fell flat (possibly because they haven't aged all that well- 1996 until now is a long time for humor to survive, so maybe he should get credit for being so readable after so long?).

The plot is (loosely) that Kinky is hired to find the missing husband of a beautiful woman, just like every other mystery ever. Unlike every other mystery ever, he keeps getting distracted by his Irish friend, who is being harassed by aliens. And, well, that's all that can be said without spoilers.

Overall, a worthwhile read, if you like mysteries and mid-90s humor (which I do). A sample passage:
On this day in 1953 Hank Williams had died somewhere along the way to a show in Canton, Ohio. Whether death is indeed preferable to doing a show in Canton, Ohio, has been a much disputed philosophical question ever since. (1)
Perhaps a more representative passage:
It is a rather tedious fact of life that most of us who are confined to the human condition spend a great deal of time wishing to be something we're not. Or someone we're not. The proctologist, scrupulously washing his hands before and after each patient, dreams of being Dr. Albert Schweitzer. The rock star, as he worries whether to leave the Porsche with valet parking, dreams of saving the rain forest. The bank teller dreams of embezzling a million dollars and moving to Costa Rica. the average Costa Rican dreams of moving to Akron, Ohio, and becoming a bank teller. The many people who lead anonymous little lives long for fame. The handful of people who've become truly trapped in the thing that fame is, invariably long for anonymity. As far as the rest of us go, we have to deal with so many a****les every day, we figure we probably should've been proctologists and at least get paid for it. (136)
A final benefit of reading this book: Friedman clearly loves him some mystery. He references Holmes, Marple, Whimsey, Wolfe, and numerous other great fictional detectives, throwing out references and lining plot points along with the action of the referenced works. So while Friedman may not be a great place to start reading mystery (some of the references went over my head), he will undoubtedly be a delight to those who know who most of those detectives are.

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