Tuesday, October 9, 2007

In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead

Isn't that a great title? This is a mystery of the type I don't usually read because police procedurals tend to have too much gore and sex and everything else you can think of but the title hooked me and I didn't know that author.
And yep, it had too much of what I don't like but was a very well written book. The detective has glimpses of Civil War ghosts that comment on the current case and make him doubt his sanity. A new item in the old "quirky detective" category. The funniest comment I've ever read on the conventions of detective fiction was in The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde who has his characters discussing which plot device they will use next, "Number 26 or Number 37? Isn't that the one where I get suspended then solve the case on my own, discovering it was my superior officer all along?"
The conventions are observed in many cases in this novel, but the writing is so good it gets away with things that are simply annoying or boring in a lesser writer. I don't think I will be reading any more of this author's books because I don't like the graphic crime in this style of books but he is very good.
And I do know about the conventions. I did my senior thesis on the changing styles of police procedurals over the years, using Ed McBain as an example. He died recently but wrote police/detective novels for close to forty years and you could definitely see society's downward trend in them.
In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead. James Lee Burke. Hyperion Books. 1993

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