Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Poet's Funeral: Review

The Poet's Funeral (2005) by John M. Daniel is a somewhat odd little book. It is narrated by Guy Mallon, one-time used bookstore owner and now indie publisher of poetry books. But each chapter begins with a eulogy given by one of the characters about the titular poet, Heidi Yamada. Heidi's book was the first Guy ever published--and the last one he ever published of hers. She was also his lover at one time. She, Guy, several of her other lovers--past and present, many of her rivals and fans, and several hundred other book-related people have all gathered in Las Vegas for the annual American Booksellers Association Convention. And everyone of them, except Heidi, will make it safely home.

Heidi has managed, throughout her sometimes stormy rocket ride to the pinnacle of poetry fame, to tick off an large number of people. And most of them are at the convention. When she is found dead in the late Elvis Presley's king-sized bed at the site of one of the many parties associated with the convention, the police (who don't want no trouble in their town) quickly sweep the incident under the carpet as an accident--a drug overdose. But Guy is convinced it's murder and goes to some trouble to find out who did it. He's threatened several times and there's someone out there willing to kill to get their hands on a certain packet of pictures that make their way into Guy's possession. But his inexperience and small stature non-withstanding, Guy is ready to take on the bad guys in order to get to the truth. And he turns one of them into a cactus pincushion when push comes to shove in the final showdown.

This book had quite a lot of potential. Guy is a likeable character. I enjoyed his interactions with his current business partner and love of his life, Carol. I thought the way he worked his way through his unresolved feelings for Heidi and negotiated his relationship with Carol was realistic. I liked him as an amateur detective. The tension between watching the characters actually interact with Heidi and then reading their eulogies (full of fake feelings and a false sense of loss) was interesting. But in the end, it didn't really come together. There weren't a heck of a lot of clues to go on--so no fair play in the mystery plot--and I didn't particularly care for the cops attitude of "nothing happened," "move along," "nothing to see here" which resulted in no tangible consequences for the murderer. Guy seems to think he'll be able to dole out a punishment of sorts through the publishing world, but it's not really justice. A fairly disappointing book with a few bright spots. ★★


J F Norris said...

Geez, with such an ugly cover I would have avoided it like the plague. I dislike that amoral aspect you allude to from the police and the ending of the book. So what if it reflects reality? If I want reality I look out my front window or watch the news. Not interested in it when reading fiction. Poisoned Pen Press published this? Hard to believe.

Bev Hankins said...

John--yeah, the cover was kind of blah. But, the blurb was interesting (and it was a cheap buy from the Friends of the Library used bookstore--so at least I was supporting a good cause)...and I trust Poisoned Pen Press. I guess I better qualify that with "usually" now.

And--what you said on the reality thing. That's why I stay away from so much modern stuff--what I call "trauma drama."

fredamans said...

I took it for a funny mystery, at least when I saw that cover. Not surprised it was a let down though.