Scattershot by Bill Pronzini

Scattershot by Bill Pronzini Scattershot by Bill Pronzini
Series: Nameless Detective #8
Published by PaperJacks on May 1987 (first published 1982)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 172
Format: Paperback
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Business is booming for Nameless; he's started in on three new cases in one week. But every single one of them turns bad some way. In the first, a husband disappears from a car that Nameless has been following. In the second, a woman is mysteriously murdered while Nameless stands outside her bungalow. In the third, a valuable ring disappears from a locked room that Nameless has been guarding. The papers are full of bad publicity. After being at the scene of two homicides, everyone is suspicious of him. He is at risk of losing his PI license. At the same time, he recently proposed to the woman of his dreams and she is becoming more distant from him every day.

Nameless is having a really bad week. Three cases, all of which should be quick, easy money, go awry, landing him in the hot seat. And, to top it off, thing are not going great with his girlfriend.

I don’t really have much to say about the book, even though I definitely enjoyed it. It’s a quick story and I love how Nameless manages to solve the crimes. All three are basically locked room mysteries and getting to the answers take both seeing the clues and having that flash of insight. I also appreciated that even though we do have three mysteries, they’re actually unrelated. Too often in mysteries, everything conveniently ties together; here they don’t, which feels  more realistic to me.

I could have done without the moping about the girlfriend. I’m pretty sure that his pressuring her was not helping their relationship. This is the first full-length Nameless story I’ve read, so I’m not sure how it compares to others, but I’m adding it to the list of series I pick up when I see them at used bookstores.

About Bill Pronzini

Bill Pronzini (born April 13, 1943) is an American writer of detective fiction. He is also an active anthologist, having compiled more than 100 collections, most of which focus on mystery, western, and science fiction short stories.
He is married to Marcia Muller with whom he has collaborated on several novels.

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Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
Published by Orbit on January 31, 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 364
Format: Paperback
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A space adventure set on a lone ship where the clones of a murdered crew must find their murderer -- before they kill again.

It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood.

At least, Maria Arena had never experienced it. She had no memory of how she died.

That was also new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone, her first memory was of how she died.Maria's vat was in the front of six vats, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Dormire, each clone waiting for its previous incarnation to die so it could awaken. And Maria wasn't the only one to die recently...

Six Wakes is one I picked up based on the blurb – a locked-room mystery in space, a sci-fi mystery.

The sci-fi hook this time around was cloning. The laws around cloning are strict, but basically, we have figured out how to make mindmaps, putting all of a person’s memories, thoughts, personalities into a code that can be transferred into that person’s cloned body, making an individual practically immortal and able to inherit their own belongings/money. There’s some philosophical discussion about what makes a person a person, what is a soul, etc., but it’s not really dealt with in depth.

The mystery set up is great. Six people wake up in fresh clone bodies, with the clear evidence that their previous bodies had been murdered, obviously by one of them, since everyone else on the generational ship is in “storage.” One or more of them is the killer, but no one knows who – their memories from the last 25 years have disappeared and the ship’s AI is down.

I loved the mix of solving the current puzzle and giving us the characters’ backgrounds; a couple of them had particularly fascinating backstories. The each have their reasons for being on the ship, for needing a fresh start, and how those motivations clash adds to the tension. Even though each has lost 25 years, they do have the mindmap from just after they first boarded the ship, and most of them have lived several lives, done things good and bad. I was a little disappointed with the big reveal, but overall it was a solid book.

About Mur Lafferty

Mur Lafferty is the author of Six Wakes and The Shambling Guides series from Orbit books, as well as several self pubbed novels and novellas, including the award winning Afterlife series. She is the host of podcasts I Should Be Writing and Ditch Diggers. She is the recipient of the John Campbell Award for best new writer, the Manly Wade Wellman Award, and joined the Podcast Hall of Fame in its inaugural year.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Published by Borders Classics on January 1, 2006 (first published June 20, 1890)
Source: On shelves
Genres: Classic, Fiction
Pages: 194
Format: Paperback
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Dorian Gray, a handsome and narcissistic young man, lives thoughtlessly for his own pleasure - an attitude encouraged by the company he keeps. One day, after having his portrait painted, Dorian makes a frivolous Faustian wish: that he should always remain as young and beautiful as he is in that painting, while the portrait grows old in his stead.

The wish comes true, and Dorian soon finds that none of his wicked actions have visible consequences. Realizing that he will appear fresh and unspoiled no matter what kind of life he lives, Dorian becomes increasingly corrupt, unchecked by public opinion. Only the portrait grows degenerate and ugly, a powerful symbol of Dorian's internal ruin.

Yeah, so I’m not a fan of The Picture of Dorian Gray. I’m sorry, but it was kind of boring and I knew how it was going to end. The idea itself is interesting; Dorian doesn’t age, but his portrait does and it shows all the signs of his downfall instead of him. Of course, it takes almost half the book to get to that part. it’s a much more philosophical book than I though it would be. It touches on the nature of art and on society’s adoration of youth and beauty. Sin is obviously important to the story  and what a person will do if they are free from consequences, but I think even more important is the dangers of truly influential people. Dorian wasn’t the star for me, his “friend” Henry was. It’s Henry who leads him down the hedonistic path. Henry is charming and witty, he theorizes and shocks people. He encourages Dorian, even though he himself seems to lead a pretty unremarkable life.

Dorian starts off as a beautiful young man, who eventually does whatever he wants whenever. Really, though, we don’t see much of what makes him a terrible person. Two events, breaking a young woman’s heart, leading her to commit suicide, and committing murder himself are clearly reprehensible; but we have 18 years where his friends eventually mostly turn against him, where it becomes increasingly obvious that people know he is immoral, but we don’t know really what he does. We can guess and assume, but I expected to read more of his actual actions. Of course, given the time period this was written, that was probably an unrealistic expectation.

About Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish playwright, poet and author of numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, and a plentitude of aphorisms, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being Earnest.

As the result of a widely covered series of trials, Wilde suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned for two years hard labour after being convicted of “gross indecency” with other men. After Wilde was released from prison he set sail for Dieppe, France by the night ferry. He never returned to Ireland or Britain, and died in poverty.

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