I've been reading a new mystery author--new to me, I mean--S.J. Rozan. I'm not very daring, so I usually look for award winners, eyeball the prose, then take a chance on a paperback. I'm rather liking her stuff. It's low-key. A NYC setting, your average MAWM (middle-aged white male) with angst, a private dick partnered with a Chinese-American woman he first yens for and later gets involved with. Not entirely sure when or how, as I'm reading them out of order.
She has some good sentences. I was struck by this one the other night: "The floors were pale wood and the walls were white, the doorways large and the windows wide and numerous." It should be: "The floors were pale wood and the walls were white, the doorways large and the windows numerous." But it isn't, and that's what makes it cool. It's lopsided in an interesting way, and it conveys exactly what it means to. Plus it's just one descriptive element in a larger scene that I really like. It's just well done. It describes this guy's office, and the legal pads and papers, and the dog on the slate floor, and the way the sunlight is falling in the room. It's on page 141 in the paperback version of Concourse if anyone sees it on a bookstore shelf and wants to read more; the beginning of chapter 25.
I don't know what it is that makes me read one series and not another. I mean, yeah, the writing, obviously. But mysteries are largely beige or transparent when it comes to style. Unobtrusive. I like a moody protagonist. I read and reread Lawrence Block--the Scudder books are my favorite series, because I identify with the character. I also like the ones about the hit man, Keller, which are flat in tone and almost existential in their banality--the banality of evil, I guess you could say--a bit like Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels. I don't think Keller is a sociopath, though. He's more like a Nazi, doing a job. A lot of Block's books are about characters who have a relative, off-kilter set of morals or ethics. It's kind of disturbing at times how recognizable they are.
I was reading Rozan at lunch, which is what prompted these thoughts. But I must get back to work and stop distracting myself.