Tinsel and Freaks

>> Friday, June 13, 2014

TITLE: Tinsel My Heart
AUTHOR: Christi Barth

Becca Huntley is the producer of a celebrated, huge Christmas show in Minneapolis. This year the show is crucial for the Lyndale Park Players' financial viability, so of course, something goes massively wrong. Tyler, a school friend of Becca's who has become a famous Hollywood director and has been lending a hand and directing the show, has gone into rehab. Disaster! But then Jack Whittaker, the third in their trio of drama nerds in school, who's also Tyler's directing partner in Hollywood, saves the day. He always hated the town and promised he'd never come back, but he feels he needs to make amends for Tyler's behaviour.

I really liked the sound of this short story. The amateur theatre setting sounded like fun, and there's also the fact that Jack was crazy about Becca in high school, but she got together with Tyler. I like that sort of setup. Unfortunately, I had issues with the execution. It's something that I'm finding to be a problem more and more, especially in contemporaries: people who don't act like recognisable human beings. All the reactions here were completely over-the-top and unbelievable. When I'm going "Seriously? Who does that?" in my mind three times a page, it's not a book that's going to work for me. It's only some 80 pages, but I abandoned it after reading about half.


TITLE: Freaks
AUTHOR: Tess Gerritsen

Freaks is a short story, part of the Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles series. It's really short, about 15-20 pages, but it covers a whole case. Two teens havee convinced themselves they are vampires and are living in a church. One of them dies and the other is accused of her murder. Jane and Maura come in a do their thing. There's a surprise discovery by Maura and Jane gets an action scene.

The story was just meh, but more interesting is the stuff around it. It was originally put up on the website of the network that broadcasts the TV series "Rizzoli and Isles" in the US as promo for the books, and Gerritsen then put it up as a kindle freebie. She writes in her website about her disappointment with the results: all she got were complaints from people who didn't like it. Two quotes stood out for me: "...for some, “free” wasn’t cheap enough; they complained that the offer wasn’t “worth it.”" (you might want to look up the concept of 'opportunity cost', Ms Gerritsen) and "Do people really expect a short story to be as good as a book?" (er... well, they can be!). She calls the short story experiment "if not a failure, a disappointment."

I'd agree with that, actually, but not for the same reasons. What stories like this are meant to do is give new readers a feel for what the books are, and this one just didn't cut it. The characters in it are called Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles, but we get absolutely no sense of who they are. And what I love about the mysteries in the books is the complexity of the cases and the twisty, puzzle-like feel of the investigations. The case here told us none of that. To be fair, it does tell us that forensic science will play a role and come up with unexpected discoveries, but that's it. So yeah, if this story was my first experience of a Gerritsen mystery, then I wouldn't be in any particular hurry to read the books. Mind you, it wouldn't put me off. It's not bad. It's just very bland and mediocre.



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