Monday, August 04, 2008

Working Stiff by Tori Carrington

Book Review (Advance Uncorrected Proof) by Zinta Aistars

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Forge Books (September 2, 2008)
Price: $24.95
ISBN-10: 0765317443
ISBN-13: 978-0765317445

As soon as I opened the covers of my advanced review copy of Working Stiff, fourth in the Sofie Metropolis detective series by husband and wife writing team, Lori and Tony Karayianni as the combo name Tori Carrington, I was reminded of those long ago days of reading Nancy Drew mysteries by Carolyne Keene. I was, fair to say, obsessed with sharp and sassy girl-detective Nancy Drew as a young girl. Gee, that was long ago. I'm not sure why, but I have steered clear of mysteries ever since. Go figure. Why avoid a genre that I liked so much as an avid adolescent reader?

Because I am no longer an adolescent? I'd be hard pressed to explain why there are two genres of writing that I avoid in the bookstore: mysteries and science fiction. If I have read a spotty few in either genre over my adult years, it is usually because there is some overriding personal reason to do so. Perhaps I know the author. Perhaps a fellow reader whose literary opinions I respect has given a particular title a high recommendation. Those few times that I have crossed the line and dipped a reluctant toe into the detective and/or science fiction waters, well, it wasn't too bad a dip. Sometimes even enjoyable. And yet. Next time I am in a bookstore? You got it. I avoid those sections.

I could be very wrong, but I would guess that women, who dominate today's book buying clientele, tend away from the hard-boiled detective tome, and may not be the keenest sci fi fans, either. (That said, I have met some women who would argue that they love these types of books, so consider this my personal observation only, completely unscientific.)

Okay, so what all that means is that when I sat down to read my first Sofie Metropolis book, the decks were stacked against the authors. And it stayed that way through several of the first few chapters. Sofie's voice, in my mind, was too distinctly male. She spoke, moved, behaved, thought, too much like those by now cliche Bogey types, the Mike Hammer PIs, the fedora-wearing, minus the hat, cool dudes who were tough and cool and impossibly (annoyingly) sauve. Yeah, now I remember why I bypass the mysteries. The main characters make me cringe. Sofie even has a version of her own girl Friday, the sidekick who is ever faithful and efficient, voluptuously shaped, with seemingly little to no life outside of the PI office. And, Sofie even expressed what smacked of a male perspective of sleeping habits. The nice guy in one bed, the bad cowboy in the other, meenie minie mo. Huh. Not working for me.

But then, page by page, a metamorphosis started to happen. I realized a few hours had gone by and I had yet to put the book down. Each chapter tended to end on a teaser, and it worked to keep me reading. And, I had to admit, Sofie was kind of growing on me. She could be fun. She could have a bit of that wacky Bridget Jones quality that made chic lit big. A little goofy. More than somewhat confused about her bed partners. Vulnerable and a little bruised. Even her cranky pup, Muffy, was winning me over.

Two days later, I had finished the book. I read through it like I used to read through those Nancy Drew mysteries. Couple of big bites and done. Not exactly the literary tomes I love, the type of writing that moves me to tears or shakes up the ground I stand on, but a bit of good, lighthanded fun. I liked her ethnic background (and the Greek recipes at book's end are a nice touch). The dialogue between characters was strong and convincing.

Yeah, so the murder mystery was a bit weak in its construction, and the revelation of what happened to the stolen corpse made me wince aloud. (The adolescent reader in me would say, eeuuww! gross!) And I had to wonder, with this duo of authors writing, which author set up the scene where Sofie lingers too long to watch her girl Friday getting ready to shower, admiring her perfect nude breasts ... and which author remarked with disdain, "Dogs, I was coming to understand, were a lot like men. In the heat of the moment, they didn't have two brain cells to rub together." Who knows. I might be surprised.

But here's the thing. I had a lot of fun spending a couple days with Sofie Metro. Not a bad break between my more serious reading. I realized I'd kind of missed ol' Nancy Drew and the fun of watching her solve another light mystery. I could even be convinced to read the previous three Sofie books ...

~ for The Smoking Poet, summer 2008 issue

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