Dare to Die (Death on Demand Series #19) – Book Review

I have questions

Slick Dungeon here. What are the odds that a person with the last name of Dungeon is trapped in a dungeon? I’d say pretty high since here I am. I’ve slogged through another mystery book this week. While Death on Demand was actually not a bad book exactly, it left me with many questions.

If you like tight little mystery books, seriously you could do worse than this one. It is the 19th in a series though, so at points I was a little lost as I haven’t read the others. But I have questions. So many questions. One of them involves salty snacks and soda fizz. This book led my mind to some strange places.

The story centers on a bookshop owner who runs a little place called Death on Demand, that sells mystery books. Apparently, Annie, the bookstore owner has been involved in solving some crimes in the past, including clearing her own name and later her husband’s name of murder. For this entry in the series, a young woman named Iris comes back to the island everyone in the book lives on, gets invited to a party that Annie is hosting and winds up dead. Annie, her husband and the local police solve the murder. Since this book is a decent enough read I am not going to spoil the plot too much in case anyone wants to read it. But I am going to ask a few questions. If you have answers, let me know in the comments.

Questions:

  1. Does every mystery author have to name drop Agatha Christie?
  2. There’s a pretty funny part with Annie’s mother-in-law who teaches Tai-Chi in the bookshop. How big is this store? Is there really room to do Tai-Chi?
  3. If it weren’t for the deaths I would say this book is full of first world problems, these people drive around in golf carts, have oyster roasts and are moving into this big house. So my question is, who did they kill to get all that money?
  4. Okay, so if Annie was once suspected of murder, and so was her husband, Max, why the heck would cops be so friendly with these people? Cops can be jerks (not all cops but some) when you haven’t done a thing so why be so deferential to two people who keep getting wrapped up in murder cases? Nothing suspicious here!
  5. With all these deaths on the island of Broward’s Rock, why do people freaking live here? I mean the scenery seems nice and all, other than the dead bodies you seem to practically trip over.
  6. If Annie and Max have solved crimes before, and their friends who might be suspects in this murder investigation know it, why would anyone talk to Annie and Max? I mean the killer does try to kill them but why lead them on at all. Hey Annie and Max, – bang your dead, seems like a more effective way of silencing them to me.
  7. More to the point, if Annie and Max have been framed for murder, and presumably almost been killed before why o why would they talk to people who might have murdered someone else? That’s just asking for it.
  8. Okay, so ignoring questions 6 and 7, let’s say it was fine for these people to talk to Annie and Max, they are not police. Whatever evidence they gather wouldn’t really be admissible in court would it? So what’s the point? Let the cops do their jobs in this case guys!
  9. As a way of deluding herself into thinking that she isn’t really getting involved in the case, but helping Iris’ soul to find peace, Annie calls all of Iris’ old friends to get information for a “spirit poster”. Is that a real thing? I mean what is that? I get having nice blow up pictures of the deceased for funerals but seriously, is a spirit poster a thing? Everyone in the book seems to know what that is and I was like, what is a freaking spirit poster?
  10. At one point in the book a character says this, “Of course I can smell. It’s my head that hurts not my nose.” Are noses no longer considered part of the head?
  11. Does this book have to name drop ever mystery book and author that ever lived? Here’s a quote from the book, “She had delighted last week in pointing out to Annie the little-known fact that the office of Charlaine Harris, bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse Southern vampire series was decorated with black-and-white photos of New Orleans grave art. Annie wondered if Charlaine Harris enjoyed Sarah Stewart Taylor’s mysteries that celebrated funerary art.” I wonder if Carolyn Hart had a word count to fulfill and realized paragraphs like the one quoted above would help her with that.
  12. No but seriously, is it every mystery book ever? Here’s another quote,”A poster of Allies Day, May 1917 by Childe Hassam rested on an easel. Annie nodded her approval when she saw the books with their roots in World War I: The Murder Stone by Charles Todd, Angels in the Gloom by Anne Perry, Pardonable Lies by Jaqueline Win-spear, The Mark of the Lion by Suzanne Arruda, and Twenty-Three and a Half Hour’s Leave by Mary Roberts Rineheart.” The book is littered with passages like these. So many mystery novels, so many. Yo Dawg, I heard you like mysteries so I put a mystery in your mystery so you can mystery while you mystery.
  13. An odd quote to me here, “She attracted men from nine to ninety…” Never met a nine year old man myself, but I guess you never know?
  14. This question is my most vital question. I have to know the answer to this. If anyone out there in the internets can answer this, even if you ignore all the rest of my blog post, I will be eternally grateful to you. There is a part in the book where a character asks “You like peanuts in your Coke?” The book seems to indicate this is a southern thing. IS THIS REAL? Like for real, do people do that? If so that utterly blows my mind. Who thought to do that? Where does that come from? Why? Please let me know, my life is incomplete until I have an answer.
  15. Back to the thrust of the book. In one part Annie goes back to the woods where the murder happened and thinks to herself there is no danger now. Why would she think that? Dead bodies, attacks on her life, and the dang crime scene is safe? I don’t think so.
  16. In addition to all the name dropped books, did we have to go into extreme detail about every meal that Annie and Max ate? I get you want to say they are eating dinner but is this necessary? “He deftly served their plates, flounder with mushrooms and sour cream and grilled asparagus for Max, fried oysters on an onion bun and a hot German potato salad for Annie, Two unsweetened iced teas.” I’m no professional writer or script doctor but I think I can safely say, typing out a menu doesn’t drive the plot forward here. Also, Carolyn Hart is totally trying to meet her word count right?
  17. Another quote that struck me as odd, “Nice thing about an island is that everybody’s here unless they’re not.” Isn’t that true of all geographical locations? If I was not in this dungeon, I would not be here. Then again, maybe I’m out. I’ll have to check later. (A few minutes later) Nope, still here.
  18. In the climax of the book, they ask all the suspects to gather at a pavilion. Why would someone smart enough to murder the right people just show up to this?
  19. On that note, just because you know who had motive to kill someone doesn’t mean you have the actual evidence, This happens all the time in mystery novels but you really actually need hard evidence in a murder case and all the motive is just figured out by Annie and Max, I don’t think you’d have to be a good lawyer to get the murderer off. Pretty easy to sow doubt and say, who are these people that got to go interrogate witnesses. What’s the badge number? This is more a criticism of mysteries than this book in particular but it will always bug me.
  20. Are Annie and Max going to start hanging out with Agatha Raisin? I think they could have a nice little serial killers who got away with it brunch together sometime.

Twenty seems like a good round number to end on. Next week I will be back to review A Time to Love (Quilts of Lancaster County Series #1). Is it a quilt with a picture of Lancaster County or just quilts that belong to Lancaster County? Who is Lancaster County anyway? Sounds like a cowboy name to me. Do cowboys like quilts? Why won’t my brain turn off? Anyway.

Despairingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

In Defense of the Awful

Part 2 – Books

Welcome back to the place where the lights are dim, the air is musty, the danger is clear and the media I consume is… awful. Yes, I admit it, by most objective standards the things I watch and read are bad. But I believe they are also, essential.

In my last post in this series (does two count as a series?) I argued why I thought that bad movies were important to exist and even be watched. Today I make my case for bad books.

I’ll admit that I have a harder time defending bad books than I do defending bad movies. Movies have a large structured studio system where in order for any creators to make any real money they have to be a part of it. People can and do produce independent films but it’s a relative term. There are independent films with budgets of ten million dollars. I think we can agree that the majority of us do not have access to that kind of money and unless your film is released by a studio, not that many people are watching.

You might argue that books have something similar. There are large publishing houses and it’s not like just anyone can get published by them. The major authors, people like Stephen King or James Patterson are advertised by companies with serious money to get the word out there. Just like Hollywood can advertise the biggest blockbusters.

Unlike film though, authors can and do write something, put it out there and be published on a large retailer instantly. Don’t believe me? Look at the vast amount of kindle books out there by independent authors. Some of them sell very well. A lot of them are not very good, but due to the subject matter might be purchased frequently.

And with books, unlike films, I think a good story will always rise to the top. Harry Potter isn’t famous due to its advertising budget. Although that certainly helped, that story is flat out brilliant, well written and above all, fun to read.

So who wants there to be bad books around? I do. Why? I ask myself. There are a host of reasons and I will do my best to summarize them all but I may forget a thing or two.

First of all, books cover literally every topic there is. I suppose you might say film does too, but I don’t think film covers as much, otherwise people would not say that certain books are “unfilmable.” Since books cover such a range of experience, books that might be considered bad may actually speak to a person in ways that I wouldn’t relate to. I’d hate for a reader to miss out on that experience.

Some people out there feel like Harry Potter is too tied up in “dark magic” to be okay for children. I obviously think that’s ridiculous but those people will certainly say that Harry Potter is a bad book series. Some of those people want those books to be banned, They want them banned from schools, libraries, bookstores and anywhere else you can pick up reading material. Harry Potter isn’t any kind of hate speech, it isn’t attacking a protected group or assailing an individual in an unfair manner. Yet some people think it deserves to be destroyed.

I flat out disagree with that. We shouldn’t be destroying books, even if we think that they are bad. I know, this is just an argument against censorship, not an argument in favor of badly written books.

Well, here’s one. Sometimes an author can write a bad book and then, write a really good book. I’m not going to name names here but there are authors that I like that had books I could not stand at first, then came out with something that blew me away. If that first book did not exist, then the later book would not have been printed and I would have less joy in my life.

Also, like a bad film, sometimes a bad book can be so bad that it’s good. It’s not so entertaining to read perhaps, but it’s definitely something to talk about. And, personally I like putting my thoughts about these things out there in the world. I can acknowledge how much time and effort it took the author to create something and how much bravery it takes to publish it for all to see. Of course once something is out there in the public sphere, it’s free to be reacted to. My particular reaction happens to be to poke fun at these books.

And, like in film, books that speak to a certain category or group that is underrepresented need to be out there. We need books out there for girls who want to be scientists and boys who want to be ballet dancers. Or books that boys can just relate to and the same for girls.

I guess my argument when it comes to books is that, more is better. The more books we can have out in the world, the more likely someone will have a transformative experience because of it.

Now just because I think Agatha Raisin is a terrible series about a self indulgent woman, whom I simply cannot stand, does not mean anyone else has to think that way. If you love Agatha, love away. I’ll disagree with you but, hey if those books bring you pleasure, entertainment, or make you think, good on you.

It’s hard to know what is bad and what is not in fiction. It’s not something everyone will ever agree on. But don’t you think the right to have what you like and what everyone else likes is important to be protected? Even if the thing being protected is a terrible book? I know I do.

Okay, I am getting off my soap box now. Who left that in here anyway?

Thanks for reading if you got this far. And please, let me know what you think.

Loquaciously yours,

Slick Dungeon