|Lawrence Block: Small Town|
(Hardcover) ISBN 006001904
Filled to overflowing with long-winded character descriptions; meandering details that briefly connect to the plot; and a murder suspect, a writer, who fills chapters dedicated to his writing experiences -- this book reflects more about what Block wants to write than what the reader longs to read. Topping the list of self-indulgence: a titillating thread of sexual experimentation runs parallel to the main story connected by less than a G-string. OK, readers will probably read these sections more than once with great pleasure, but not necessarily for their literary merit.
Yet they don't call Block a grand master just for giggles. No matter how self indulgent, the author demonstrates an agile word-wrangling ability and produces a book that among other things describes art. The art Small Town describes includes folk-art, fetish art, sex as art and the art of writing, and develops murder as a form of artistic self-expression.
Marilyn Fairchild (not to be confused with Morgan Fairchild) lies dead in her bed while her gay cleaning man blithely tidies up the crime scene. In his defense, the cleaning man found the body only after he stowed all evidence in the garbage or washed it down the sink. Outside of her apartment building, a lone figure merges with the shadows and slips away.
The murder lands at the door of mystery writer John Blair Creighton, (not to be confused with Michael Crichton). He foolishly let Marilyn pick him up at a local bar and take him home for some frivolous sex. He departs for his own apartment and she departs for the great beyond. Did he kill the fair Marilyn? We may never know. But this murder kicks off a string of murders that continue to the book's end.
The cast of characters read like a six-degrees-of-separation list. Readers meet Susan Pomerance who found her apartment through Marilyn Fairchild. Pomerance stars in the novel's sexual experimentation thread. Ex-police commissioner Francis J. Buckram knows a friend of Susan's who provides legal representation for Creighton and ultimately introduces Francis and Susan. The mystery of Marilyn Fairchild's death reminds Francis how much he misses investigating crimes as he wallows in mid-career crisis.
The Carpenter, a murderer with a tortured past tied to 9-11, flits in and out of the book. His string of grisly crimes lead to a suspenseful climax.
Lawrence Block fans assure me Small Town departs from Block's less erotic and more cohesive Matthew Scudder series and Bernie Rhodenbarr mysteries. But, even as departures go, this Small Town deserves a visit.
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