Sunday, 2 June 2013

Review: Henry Wood Detective Agency

Henry Wood Detective Agency
Henry Wood Detective Agency by Brian Meeks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up because it happened to be on free promotion at the same time as my book. I thought it was a straight detective story, but in fact there's a mysterious closet that dispenses woodworking equipment and advice from the future. It was a rewarding read, and I'm now reading the sequel, which I bought.

One of the best things about noir for me is the language, and this book has some lovely turns of phrase. "She wore a Dior dress that would make an hourglass self-conscious", "Henry's flash of genius was looking more like a flash of imbecile" and "The falling snow painted a layer of clean on the city" were three that I highlighted. I wish there had been a lot more of these. On the downside, there are a number of small language errors, few very major, and the dialogue is stiff (mostly without contractions) and doesn't always fit the speaker very well. The Frenchman doesn't sound French, and the Italian gangsters don't sound like Italian gangsters. The author doesn't always put his commas where they belong, either, especially around names. It's pretty much a wash between that and the wonderful phrases for me, so three stars for language.

The characters, apart from their dialogue, are good. The main character, Henry, has more depth than the average private dick, with his woodworking hobby and his love of books, and he also, apparently, makes good money at it, since he has an office, an apartment and a house. The secondary characters also seem like real people with emotions and motivations and concerns, and aren't just cliches out of Cental Casting. Four stars for characters.

The plot is adequately mysterious and suspenseful, and the detective makes steady progress on solving the puzzle, which is important got me in a detective story. Four stars.

The setting is 1950s New York. It somehow doesn't give me that strong a 50s vibe, though it's certainly New Yorkish. The science-fictional element is neither explained in the book nor, really, essential to the resolution, but I assume it becomes more important later in the series. Three stars for setting.

The cover doesn't do the book justice, and needs improvement. Almost anything would improve it.

Overall, I liked this book and will be following the series, so it gets an overall four stars from me.

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