Thursday, February 07, 2008

one more Theresa Schwegel


I started reading Theresa Schwegel's cop novels because I read a newspaper review of her most recent one, Person of Interest, that sang its praises to the heavens, saying it succeeded both as a crime novel and as fiction. That comment should have been fair warning, since I'm always suspicious of claims that a crime novel is somehow of "literary" quality. But partly because Schwegel's books are set in Chicago, on the north side (where I lived for a while) I started her first book, Officer Down, which I thought was pretty good, so I got the second one, Probable Cause, which I didn't like quite as well, but it was still OK. The third book, though, the one I had read about in the first place, fulfills all my worst fears about books that claims are made about, to the tune that they to "rise above" the genre. Person of Interest seems, indeed, to be one of those contemporary "difficult marriage" books as well as a police procedural type of thriller. But it succeeds as neither and covers warmed over territory in both areas. It's difficult to care what happens to characters who are seem to be digging themselves deeper into their misery mainly to keep the plot going, plus if you back up from the plot and look at it as a whole, there are a couple of whopper coincidences. By the time the story reaches its violent phases, well into the story, they seem flat and contrived (one incident, pouring black widow spiders down somebody's shirt, is prepared for in the logic of a Chinese gang plot but still seems to be merely reaching for an exotic plot device). Krimileser, the author of the excellent German crime blog Internationale Krimis, reached the conclusion, in response to my earlier positive comments about Schwegel, posted a reply that my post had persuaded him to read her books, and that he found her second book, Probably Cause, disappointing, an "awkward book full of clich├ęs and skewed plot constructions." I have to say that now I've reached the same conclusion about her third novel, though I still might recommend Officer Down as an interesting take on cops, Chicago, and crime fiction.

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