Tuesday, August 7, 2007

An abrupt U-turn off "Damnation Street"

I don't know; maybe I'm really not such an aficionado of crime fiction. Occasionally, a well-reviewed book just hits me the wrong way, and I toss it aside about 40 pages in.

Such is the case with "Damnation Street" by Andrew Klavan. I picked it up at the library a couple of days ago, on the strength of his excellent 1997 thriller "True Crime."

Where do I start with this book? First of all, the dopey conceit that this is a true story, starting with an author's note that he personally knew both of the hardboiled protagonists, but will be inserting himself into the tale "only at those moments when I become and integral part of the narrative." So right off, something I hate: a narrator who makes himself part of the story but also claims an omniscient point of view when it suits him. Must be nice to have it both ways. But it sure doesn't do much for a reader's suspension of disbelief.

Secondly, the characters. I understand Klavan has used them before, including "the Shadowman," who is supposed to be the embodiment of evil -- "the man has the eyes of a ghost" -- but emerges as a plain-vanilla serial killer from central casting, distinguished only by an imaginative method of concealing a backup piece. The protagonists aren't much better, two investigators supposed to represent yin and yang, the cerebral and the brutal, but neither displays more depth than one of those Roy Rogers cutouts.

And finally, the fulcrum of the plot: a hooker "with the face of angel." You don't see many of those in real life, and when you do they usually have the voice of Nancy Grace. I now call for a moratorium on the use of lovely prostitutes in crime fiction.

When I start a book I usually finish it, but this one outmatched my attention span early on. If anyone else has finished it and liked it, I'd be happy to entertain opposing views.

1 comment:

Jessie Knadler said...

Thank you! I am SOO tired of the hooker/angel cliche. Wishful thinking on the part of male writers. If you're going to go with the hooker angle, at least make her a brutal, shameless killer (of women not of men...just for something different); or make her so desensitized that she kills purely for kicks. An extracurricular activity between Johns.