Friday, October 28, 2011
Let's All Kill Constance: Review
Well....you might find Ray Bradbury's Let's All Kill Constance shelved at your local library or bookstore under "mystery" but let me tell you, this ain't your usual detective novel. This is Bradbury channeling Faulkner or some other stream-of-consciousness writer and throwing all his lovely language and metaphors into a mixer and spewing out craziness. Seriously.
As if it's not crazy enough that our unnamed hero has an aging, has-been Hollywood star, Constance Rattigan (Is that a glamorous, star-studded name or what....makes me think of Disney's The Great Mouse Detective. Sorry, got distracted there for a minute.)...where was I? Oh, yeah. An aging, has-been Hollywood star, Constance Rattigan, pounding on his door one "dark and stormy night" swearing that Death is following her. Literally. He's left his calling card on her doorstep in the form of two "books of death": an old phone book where everyone she knows is dead (except her) and her old, discarded "little black book" where nearly everyone is dead and the ones who aren't (including her) seem to be marked for the grave. She begs for his help, dumps the books, and vanishes. He spends the rest of the book hunting down ghosts. Ghosts of Hollywood past. Ghosts of Contance's past. Ghosts that seem to be dogging his footsteps. With his sidekick, Crumley, he takes off in a dilapidated old car and visits characters from Tinseltown's glory days. Each one leading him further on the trail of secrets. Is everyone really out to kill Constance or is she the one leaving a path of destruction in her wake?
And this doesn't even touch the strangeness that passes for dialogue in this novel. I'm quite sure there are all sorts of in-jokes and references that have gone right over my head. But I was so lost in the stream that I'm not sure I would have recognized any that I did know. Bradbury can write. You'll get no argument from me on that one. But I like it a lot better when I feel like I've got solid ground under my feet. I spent most of the book feeling like I was in one of those Fun Houses at the Carnival where the floor suddenly tips or bounces or slides or you-name-it. I couldn't get a grip on any of it.
When I read his mystery Death Is a Lonely Business, I said:
"The plot line is a bit shaky...disappearing in the mist at times like the shadowy character of Death's friend, but his descriptions are solid and the clues are there if the reader is quick enough to spot them. His characters are real and you feel the unnamed hero's frustration and fear as he tries to figure out who is next on Death's list and unmask the killer before he claims all his victims."
This time I had no clue whatsoever what was going on. Two stars (sortof) out of five.