Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Walla Walla Suite: (A Room with No View) A NovelWalla Walla Suite: (A Room with No View) A Novel by Anne Argula
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Reading Anne Argula's "Walla Walla Suite: A Room With No View" immediately after a novel by J.M. Coetzee felt like chewing a piece of dirty cardboard for dessert after a sumptuous and superbly tasty dinner. To be fair to Mr. Ponicsan (who uses Anne Argula as his pen name), even the very best mystery writers, like Nicholas Freeling, Denise Mina or Karin Fossum, would not stand a chance in comparison with Mr. Coetzee. Thus, in this short review, I am judging Ms. Argula's/Mr. Ponicsan's book on the "mystery novel scale" rather than on "literary masterpiece scale".

"Walla Walla Suite" has a good story. Quinn, a female ex-cop and now a P.I., works for Vincent Ainge, a Washington state mitigation investigator, who is trying to spare a confessed murderer from the death sentence. The engrossing plot is marred by the author's inability to write realistic dialogues. The dialogues between the two main characters sound like quotes from a TV sitcom, where instead of talking, the characters deliver "zingers", albeit without the canned laugh track. Real people, in the actual, real life do not talk like: "Small world.", "Yeah, but I wouldn't want to rake its leaves." This is pure TV crap. Ms. Argula/Mr. Ponicsan can write non-dialogue passages quite well. In fact, the author was nominated for an Edgar Award for the previous novel in the series. But since the dialogues constitute a substantial portion of the text, the reader is subject to sitcom torture rather than enjoying this skillfully set mystery.

Moreover, for some unfathomable reason, Quinn is enamored with the phrase "Da frick" This is funny the first time when it is used, and is tolerable for first five or ten times. However, when one reads the phrase uttered by Quinn for the fortieth time, one has to wonder whether the author has some sort of mental impairment, maybe an obsessive mania or something. Da frick?

I found an interesting observation in the book: "Everything in American life has taken the game as a central metaphor [...] except for games themselves, which are serious business." The Indians thread is quite funny. On the other hand, the description of an Alzheimer-afflicted person's behavior and the presentation of one of the crucial scenes happening in the Walla Walla State Penitentiary are quite superficial. The final scene is much too theatrical for my taste.

Two stars.

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