Girls' Night In, by Jim Smiley @ 04:33 pm
I met Jim in Portland at the HPLFF. I was intrigued by a horror-tinged mystery novel with the action set at a girls' school. Dr. Pookie and I both love a couple such, written by female authors -- Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers & Miss Pym Disposes, by Josephine Tey. It was too much to hope that Smiley's first novel would live up to those. And it doesn't, though it's really of a different genre -- more hard-boiled pulp detective. He has some good, snappy dialogue and character interaction, but there's a lot to be desired. Ostensibly set in Prohibition-era Los Angeles, there are very few details that set the scene in either time or place. Of course, as an Angeleno, one of my favorite things is reading a story set in my town that feels like my town. And it's a consequent bugaboo if it's not done well. As a feminist, another one of my favorite things is female characters that have more than one dimension. And it's a consequent bugaboo if it's not done well. Most of the students at the school may actually have zero dimensions; they are shuttled from a dorm to another place to keep them safe, but I'll be damned if anyone actually ever talks to them, or asks them questions about the murder in their midst.