Thursday, April 12, 2007

So Help Me God

by Joyce Carol Oates

Yeesh! A "New Yorker Dreadful." This was a relentlessly down-beat story with compelling writing, but I've really had it with this kind of, "it all sucks, it's all pointless, people are dirt" theme. Messrs. Penzler and Turow admit, right at the front of the book, that "mystery" is a very inclusive term. They use it to include any story with, or about, a crime.

Gentlemen, that's wrong! I read mysteries to solve whodunnits, follow the procedures of investigators, get inside the criminal mind, and generally experience something interesting about a crime. Merely watching a crime as it relentlessly slogs towards me is not what it means to read a mystery. There are many markets for this kind of thing, so why are you opening yours up to it?

I found this story depressing, rambly, slow, and uninstructive for the writer I want to be. Because it's about an abused woman, I'm sure it has its champions. But I am judging these things on the quality of the work, not my sympathy for the subject matter. This one, I judge a dud.

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