Just finished Robert B Parker’s novel featuring private investigator Sunny Randall called “Melancholy Baby.” I wanted a fast-paced and engaging read without much heavy intellectual input on my part, and I got just that. The story opens with Sunny Randall, and attractive and young PI, mourning the fact that her ex-husband is marrying again. To help put aside her personal problems, she takes on the case of a college student, Sarah Markham, who is convinced that her parents are lying to her and are not her birth parents. Once Sunny starts looking into her case, thugs attack Sarah to scare her off and the bodies start piling up. Although the main attraction of this novel, like all Parker’s works, is the witty and razor sharp banter between characters (think Gilmore Girls with an R rating), the more subtle strength of the story was some real insights into the human condition. Alternating chapters deal with Sunny’s visit to her shrink to discover why she is having such a difficult time with her ex’s re-marriage, and not surprisingly, these visits reveal a complicated relationship with her own parents. It isn’t Freud, but the characterization of the therapist was engaging and the way the layers of her memory and self-realizations were unfolded were quite skillful. As a murder-mystery, cop procedural, thriller or whatever, it is a little weak. As a story about the relationships between parents and children, it is much more interesting.
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I started reading the classic gothic tale “The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins. The story is always referenced as one of first of its genre and certainly enjoys a special place in literature. I was dismayed, however, to find that I could not drag myself through the long and excruciatingly detailed descriptions, the painfully stiff dialog, and the dragging pace. I am ashamed of and disappointed in myself. Have I become that type of reader? Someone who has to have snappy dialogue or an act of sex or violence on every page, and who cannot read a description which exceeds two lines? Have I indulged in too regular a diet of commercial fiction that I can no longer enjoy the slower pace of a 19th century work? I was a Russian literature major, for goodness sake! I was weened on long, long novels wherein absolutely nothing happened and that was sort of the point. Ultimately, I have not given up entirely on the Woman in White, despite its massive bulk…(I put it aside at about page 50 of its more than 500+ pages.) I haven’t quite given up on myself, either, and promise to get back to some more challenging reading this year (alert: sounds like a new year resolution). In the meantime, I’m indulging in the guilty pleasure of reading Robert Parker’s “Melancholy Baby.” Don’t judge me!