Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Deadly Cliché

There are some books you just want to live in; books that take you away for awhile. I read Ellery Adams' new novel, A Deadly Cliché, while recovering from a cold and as nature here in Michigan laughed at the calendar's insistence that it should be warming up. But Adams had me on a North Carolina beach, watching a club-clawed hermit crab digging a hole in the sand.

Oh, and there's a murdered naked guy buried in that sand. Good times. The murder comes in the midst of a series of cliché-themed burglaries. Add in a hurricane about to strike and some personal upheaval for tough-cookie protagonist Olivia Limoges, and the residents of Oyster Bay are having a hell of a summer!

The characters are real and fun, both intuitively familiar enough to be accessible and complex enough to satisfy. What I mean is that I didn't feel like an alien, as I have in small towns both in real life and in books. Oyster Bay is a tourist town, and you don't have to be initiated to fit right in. This was important to me, because I haven't yet read this novel's predecessor, A Killer Plot (I know, why must I do these things out of order?), but didn't feel lost at all with these characters. I think the only place they'd kick me out of is Olivia's five-star restaurant, and that'd be for asking for ketchup. There's some good foodie stuff in here; even the poodle, Captain Haviland, eats gourmet.

The pace compliments and serves the story well. Pacing is like clothing, you can just tell if it fits and seems right, and it does here. The investigation and other events unfold in a faithful manner, without leaps or lags. The narration lets you breathe the salty ocean breeze but never lets you forget there are things amiss in the idyllic town. There's menace, but beauty, too (occasionally at the same time like before and during the storm, which are some of my favorite pages in the book).

Without giving anything away, of course, I can say that Adams wraps things up nicely. Not into a neat bow, because people don't form neat bows, but in a way that was satisfying by itself and also sets the stage for the next book in the Books by the Bay series.

Before that, though, I've got to read the first one. Judging by A Deadly Cliché, it's going to be a pleasure.

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