Sunday, December 17, 2006

No first-book-in-the-series jitters here

I recently read a comment from someone who found Stiff, Shane Maloney's first novel about Murray Whelan, a bit disappointing after having first read some later books in the series.
I mention this because my reaction was quite the opposite. If anything, Stiff is slightly more polished than the The Big Ask and Something Fishy, the fourth and fifth in the series (and I liked both, as avid followers of Detectives Beyond Borders may know). The melodramatic aspects are nicely timed, for example, and there are no examples of the one tiny gripe I had with the later books: the whiz-bang, leave-'em-hanging cliffhangers with which Maloney sometimes ends chapters.
I wonder if Maloney's attitude toward his subject has changed as he moved through the Whelan series. In Stiff, he may have been making an earnest and serious attempt to write a funny book. In the later installments in the series, he keeps up the humor, but he sometimes seems not to take his own efforts that seriously, or rather, to poke fun at them. (That self-referentiality can be marvelous fun, especially in The Big Ask.)
In any case, I recomment all three novels highly, and I'll soon read the remaining books in the series. I thank my Australian readers for introducing me to Shane Maloney, one of the highlights of my crime-fiction year.

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