Wind Takes Centre Stage, P.I. Feels Replaced, and the Mystery of the Missing Quality
There is a difference between a bad book and a book that is not good. Gilded Latten Bones – the thirteenth book in Glen Cook’s Garrett, P.I. fantasy noir series – is the latter. That is not to say, by any means, that it is good. It’s just that competency in writing setting, minor characters, and technical word use keep it from falling all the way into the bad category (there is also a ‘terrible’ category, but that is reserved for genuine affronts to the written word, like the 50 Shades series and the later Earth’s Children novels).
Since Whispering Nickel Idols (book 11), the Garrett series has been slowly but steadily building up a collection of lost plot threads which really should have had consequences by now, inexplicably character passiveness, badly divided competence (most to Singe and Windwalker, next to nothing – save the end of Cruel Zinc Melodies [#12] – for the title character).
The start of Gilded Latten Bones was actually reasonable – it showed Garrett had been well and truly out of the game for a while, so his skills had rusted, and he was feeling out of place in his own home. But he never gets back into it. He was passive during his attempt to settle down with his girlfriend (whose obsessive behaviour has spiralled dramatically from the previous book, almost like an excuse to get her out of the way for the new love interest introduced) and instead of returning to his normal, active personality he just …stays passive. Mopes about how old he’s getting (in his early thirties!) and flirts with the Windwalker …who has been steadily taking up more plot importance since last time and spends an awful lot of time being described. In the previous book her involvement made sense: her child was a suspect. Now? Now she’s just sort of there (worried her child might be up to something again, is the excuse, but then she sticks around once the girl is cleared and – whoopsie do – looks like other members of her family might be involved! Doesn’t that just conveniently make this all about her again?).
Then there’s the plot. Yes, we eventually get an explanation for why long-time side character Morely was attacked. No, the terrible threat that is built up is never SHOWN doing anything that bad. Yes, I am counting the destruction of one property and the siege on Garrett’s house as “not that bad”. Not only are they easily beaten off, but those events happen LONG after everyone starts treating the almost none-existent mess like it’s the worst threat ever to come to TunFaire, when in Garrett’s books alone there are dozens of examples of more dangerous, more noticeable, and more destructive incidents – during which no one ran around like chickens with their heads cut off.
Finally, we have the mystery. It’s true that hardboiled detectives don’t need to do the big Christie style explanio at the end. That doesn’t mean the mystery gets to make no sense or that explanations can be left out for major issues …like exactly who the bad guys were, how they were stopped, and why they were stupid enough to make undead minions and crazy noticeable costumes when they were trying to keep their activities secret.
It feels like everyone in this book is holding the idiot ball. Except Singe, who seems to have more of a personality transplant than a new confidence to her.
This book is not good. It isn’t a bad book …but only barely.
A book shouldn’t hold up purely on the merit of its background characters.