|Posted by Vladimir Mortsgna on October 16, 2019 at 10:30 PM|
I mentioned in the previous posting that there is another blog covering the Edgars, at criminalelement.com. These are published weekly with a changing series of authors, and so far are spoiler-free. As noted, the authors have sometimes been able to dig up some facts about the authors and books that I did not succeed at finding. I was curious if we tended to agree on our judgment of the winners, so I read three of the reviews of books I have already covered, two that I judged great (Beat not the Bones and The Spy who came in from the Cold), and one that I judged to be disappointing (Promised Land). criminalelement.com agreed that the first two were great but also thought Promised Land was great. Wondering if they ever give a negative review, I skipped ahead to an Edgar winner I have already read but haven’t written about yet, which I shall not yet name. criminalelement.com agreed that this second one was a problem, though they tended to emphasize the sheer wackiness of this upcoming winner (which is indeed wacky) but they did not seem to realize its deep offensiveness and misogyny.
To recap, in our current subject, The Rheingold Route, a shady attorney named Garwood hires a “troubled” smuggler named John Cochrane to get his nephew’s inheritance to Geneva, away from British taxes, before the person who owns the money actually dies. Garwood also hires a psychopathic creep named O’Rourke to stop Cochrane. We learn (and most readers won’t be very surprised) that Garwood has done this to basically get his paws on the money himself, and he doesn’t give a damn who needs to suffer for that to happen. O’Rourke ends up murdering both the nephew and Garwood, but then is apprehended by the authorities before he can get the money himself. Maling nicely plants the seed of O’Rourke’s failure in his character flaws – a murder O’Rourke has committed because of an ignorant misunderstanding gets the authorities after him who would scarcely have cared what he did to Cochrane.
The cat and mouse chase by O’Rourke of Cochrane is the best part of what is an underwhelming novel, and in a sense both O’Rourke and Cochrane are successful. O’Rourke successfully mugs Cochrane, leaving him in grave danger, and escapes with the suitcase that is believed to have the money. But Cochrane had a second suitcase and the one with a money is safely (but inaccessibly) ensconced in a locker at the station. So Cochrane’s overall strategy was successful, but even though he is the last man alive, he can’t keep the money for himself because he is convinced that the locker is under surveillance and if he is questioned by authorities his kidnapping of his daughter will come to light. But proving he is above all that and that he is a man of character (which Maling has let us doubt for four minutes before getting nervous about whether we will get it), he is happy to live without these resources and make a new life with his new love (who wasn’t in love with him for at least a half a page).
So the mystery isn’t very mysterious, the character growth is minimal and overdramatized, and the characters are cartoonish. The plot is a bit of paint-by-numbers caper. The scenery and the technicalities of the chase work very well within these unpromising borders. Is that enough to make a novel of the year? Well, maybe it was a lean year – in the next post we will again ask the question, should it have won?
Categories: Edgar Winner Reviews (Spoilers)