Ted Korsmo,
(CreateSpace, 2014)

Set in the 1930s, in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, this story in Ted Korsmo's Wayzata can accurately be described as both hard-boiled and noir. Korsmo made considerable efforts to keep the locales and the language historically correct, as far as I could tell; having grown up in the area 60 years later, I enjoyed getting an idea of what various areas like North Oaks, Uptown and the titular Wayzata were like back then.

Unfortunately, these were this book's strongest points.

I like noir (though I prefer it with some black humor thrown in), and I enjoy following the twists and turns when everyone is gaming everyone else. For this to work, though, the plotting and characterizations both need to be very strong indeed ... and here neither were. Therefore the plot seemed utterly arbitrary, and character actions and interactions that drove the plot were baffling. It is not good when a sudden relation of, perhaps, a hitherto-unknown connection between major characters is met with "Huh???" rather than "Man! I should have guessed!" In such complex scenarios, some foreshadowing can be a big help in making a plot plausible.

As can coherent, consistent characters. I expect Korsmo himself can picture them all with all their individual nuances, but he did not succeed in communicating such, even when situations were ripe to do so. Thus, everything anyone did felt arbitrary, and rather than continuing to reveal aspects of character, every surprising turn made me feel slapped by a dead fish.

The language was also an issue. While I give Korsmo great credit for incorporating so much period slang and wordings into the text, he rather overdoes it, sometimes to the point of incomprehension. Call cigarettes "nails" if you will -- but please make the context clear the first couple of times you call them such, and do not substitute pretty much every other possible slang name and never, ever call them "cigarettes"! I've read books written when this was set, and they used slang more judiciously.

Most of the novel is first-person by our hard-boiled detective. He is not one for introspection, though, so we see pretty much nothing of his inner life. Maybe that's the point? He does seem to have an excessively fine opinion of himself, particularly his physical handsomeness, which he himself tells us all about. Neither he nor the author seem to notice his obsessiveness, or play at all with how a job to shadow someone is similar to stalking.

In short -- while I like the idea, I do not think this novel has sufficient charms to make it worth reading despite its numerous flaws.

book review by
Amanda Fisher

14 November 2015

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new