Friday, June 26, 2015

Little God Blues - Jeffrey M. Anderson

    2014; 280 pages.  Full title : Little God Blues (The Jim Shalabon Playlist) (Volume 1).  New Author? : Yes  Genre : Murder Mystery; Intrigue.  Overall Rating : 7*/10.

    It was a tragedy, really.  Jim Shalabon’s ex-bandmate, Kirk Howell, found dead in London from a lethal drug overdose combination of cocaine and amphetamines.  But OD-ing is a common occurrence for rock stars, right?  So it’s just a matter of whether it was suicide or an accident.

    Except for one small thing.  Being in the same band, Jim knows that Kirk never did drugs.  He’d even gone as far as to chide his “user” bandmates (including Jim) about the perils of drugs.

    Then there’s the odd fact the Kirk was clutching a book of Russian poems in his hands when he died.  It may seem incidental what a victim was carrying at the time of his demise.  But those poems were written by Jim’s father.

What’s To Like...
      If you like your Murder-Mysteries heavy on the Intrigue, Little God Blues is for you.  There’s not a lot of action, but gobs of suspects.  It’s not so much a matter of choosing from a bunch of motives; it’s more about finding a plausible motive at all.

    The “Little God” concept (see first excerpt below) is quite innovative, and frankly, if you focus in that aspect while reading this book, I think you’ll enjoy it more.  Our protagonist becomes an agent for said “little god”, albeit unwittingly, and a number of lives get straightened out (or at least, re-aligned) through him.

     The book is (mostly) written from the First Person POV.  Blood-wise, the book borders on being a cozy.  Kirk is already dead and buried by page one, and the ‘removal’ of other characters occurs offstage.  But there’s a lot of cussing and a little sex, so prudes should probably avoid this one.  The two basic mysteries – Kirk’s demise and Jim’s father’s book of poems – are resolved by the end.  But other threads remain, and it is obvious that there will be a sequel.

    The story is set in 2001-2002 London.  Jeffrey M. Anderson reportedly lives there; and he does a great job of “painting” the setting.  I’ve been lucky enough to have visited England several times, and this book brought back great memories.

    The pacing in the first third of the book felt slow.  Jim spends a lot of time mooning over the loss of his ex-bandmate, and the song lyrics at the start of the chapters didn’t factor into the storyline, and frankly were a distraction for me.  But after a while both disappear, and the story picks up the pace nicely.

   FWIW, my favorite parts of the book were a couple of “tangents”.  The NE1 role-playing scene was both fascinating and funny.  And the Siege of Leningrad sideline was positively riveting.

Kewlest New Word...
Recrudescent (adj.) : breaking out again, renewing disease after abatement, suppression, or cessation.

    To choose from among the infinite and keep such choice in balance, second by second, so that the entire universe moves seamlessly, must be a gargantuan task.  The mother desperately praying for her child to live is asking God to reconfigure the universe, reconcile to a new storyline an entire unwinding of events out to infinity.  Can death be that shortcut?  A simplifying maneuver so that this overtaxed deity does not have to reconcile all lives out to infinity then back again?
    Rhythm of the dice implies randomness, and randomness subverts Belief.  The thought of that overworked god, Little God, helped.  (loc. 1074)

    “I am talking about taste.  You taste to me quite good.  This is what kissing is for on biological level. It is a test to see if man and woman are optimum for children.”  She stopped for a moment.  “You see, I had to know.”
    (. . .)
    “It tells me of great difficulty to be friends.  It is like we are in the same bed but for sleep only.  To say this to each other, oh, we will only sleep, we are fooling ourselves.”
    “Sula, have you considered the possibility that you think too much?”  (loc. 2367)

“The hardest thing to do is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat..”  (loc. 1534)
    My two main problems with this novel were the protagonist and the murder-mystery itself.

    Jim Shalabon has a good heart (something an agent of the Little God ought to have), but is otherwise unremarkable.  He’s financially well-off, and can play guitar, but asking the reader to believe that he can solve crimes that Scotland Yard can’t is quite the stretch of believability.  Indeed, when the investigators come to Jim for direction, I had to go “WTF”?

    Then there’s a crime-mystery itself.  In the end, its motivation is rather anti-climactic, and Jim’s investigative method – “bluffing” his way by postulating theories to suspects, and having them then implicate themselves for no discernible reason – again strained my logical sensibilities.

    So read this as a “Little God” story:  the Universe is quietly straightening Itself out after a small hiccup, and you’ll not be disappointed.  And if you come to a WTF in the Crime-Solving, just chalk that up to Cosmic Tweaking.

    7 Stars.  Add 1 star if you’ve ever played in a band; and another 1 star if you find Jim Shalabon fascinating.  After all, Sula did.

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