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I found this book on my bookshelf recently and I have no idea where it came from so I guess thats another mystery, I probably got it from a charity shop somewhere and flung it on the shelf a few years ago.
I haven't read any other books by the author Faye Kellerman but I understand she is quite popular with crime fiction fans so I thought it might be helpful to try some of her short stories first before paying full price for a full length novel. I am certainly glad I took this option as I have been most disappointed with this short story collection.
The first few have some connection with the Decker family who seems to be the main protaganists in some of her novels. The main character is Peter Decker being a typical cop figure, big, athletic and as mentioned more than once with 'a big ginger moustache'! Not sure of the relevance of this but Kellerman doesn't want us to imagine him without it. Perhaps she was hoping for Tom Selleck to play the film version.
After the first few stories the Decker family features less often but sadly that doesn't improve the quality of the stories, in particular is one that is blatently supposed to be Jack the Ripper although he's never mentioned by name. This one was written with Kellermans son, I think my daughter would have been more help and she's only 6 weeks old. 'I'll get ye a pint o gin' didn't strike me as very authentic olde englishe speake I'm afraid.
My main gripe with the stories however is a lack of any real outcome to the stories, they just kind of peter out after a few pages. I like a twist in the tale or at least a clever idea in the earlier narrative but some of these almost feel like discarded plot strands from a longer book. I read a book of short stories by Cory Doctorow before this book and there is no comparison between the two, the writing felt lazy and the plots far fetched. She would do well to read a couple of Jeffrey Archer or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle collections for some pointers on how effective a short story can be.
Needless to say I won't be investing in any of her longer works any time soon which is a shame as I imagine her reputation must be based on better work than this.
If you are still keen after all this Amazon will beg you to take a copy off their hands for a penny plus postage.
NB The full title of this book is The Garden of Eden and Other Criminal Delights - when I suggested the title to dooyoo, there wasn't enough room to put the full title!
I was a little disappointed to get this book home and realise that it was a collection of short stories, rather than the gritty police procedural that I was expecting. The art of writing a short story is a difficult one and few authors stand out for their short stories, with the exception, in my book, of H E Bates. However, I persevered with trepidation and found, to my surprise, that although not flawless, this is a good collection of stories that kept me entertained.
This is an anthology of seventeen short stories. The first few all feature the Decker family - Pete Decker is a detective, frequently aided and abetted by his wife, Rina, and daughter Cindy is also in training to be a detective. Then the stories become more abstract; one is based on the story of Jack the Ripper, another is about a stalker and a couple are clearly mini auto-biographies, based on the author's own life.
The stories start out with the title story - The Garden of Eden. This is the first story for an obvious reason - it is the best of the bunch. Rina has become a plant expert and is filling the house with different varieties, helped by an elderly friend and neighbour, Cecily Eden. When Cecily is found dead, Decker suspects that she may have been murdered - and the suspects include Cecily's strapped for cash daughters, the gardener and Rina herself. What I liked most about this story was the fact that the author hasn't used the short story excuse to cut back on description, and we are given a great introduction into the main characters and the situation in which they exist. The language used is quite flowery in places - a style I generally dislike, but in this case, it fits perfectly because of the subject matter.
There are a couple of stories that I found a bit too holier-than-thou - for example, one story is about a man who buys a dog who specialises in guarding his master and his master's home. This drives the neighbour's mad, because the dog is vicious to their pets and children. The dog owner refuses to get rid of the dog, but then gets his comeuppance when he falls ill and no-one can get near him to treat him because of the dog. This is a rather preachy story with a very clear message - I found it a bit too preachy for my tastes - I prefer messages to be a little more subtle than this.
Crime is a common theme throughout the book and there are very few stories that don't involve one kind of crime or another. However, Kellerman doesn't tell stories just from the point of view of the crime-fighters. One story, called bonding, is told from the point of view of a fifteen year old girl who turns to prostitution and ends up servicing her adopted father. This is quite a disturbing story, without being too obvious and I thought it was very well written. It is certainly one of the stories, along with The Garden of Eden, that stands out for me.
Two of the stories have been written in conjunction with Kellerman's children. The first is based on the story of Jack the Ripper and is written with Jesse Kellerman, Faye's son. Although the premise of the story is good, I didn't like the way it was written - it seemed childish and naive. What made it worse was the speaking language used - it is clear that neither writers have any idea of how to transpose English as it is spoken in England. For example, 'I am goin' to bring some spirits. I'll bring y'back a pint...oh would ye...thankee...' This really annoyed me and I found it most off-putting. The second story is written with daugthers, Rachel and Ilana. About a couple who win money in the lottery, the story is told from all the family member's points of view. Rachel and Ilana obviously write quite well for their age, but to add this story to an anthology aimed at adults smacks a little of proud mother syndrome and I didn't think it added anything of worth to the book at all.
What I liked most about the stories were that none of them were too long - The Garden of Eden at 40 pages is the longest. This made them perfect for reading in the bath or on public transport, leading to quick gratification. Few of the stories are masterpieces and with the exception of The Garden of Eden, none of them are strong enough to be fleshed out to novel length, but they were still entertaining and I got through the book very quickly.
I haven't read any of Faye Kellerman's full length novels, so I cannot compare her standard of writing in her short stories to that of her longer ones. Based on what I know of her work though, I would be surprised if these short stories are a good example of her work. However, they do show promise and I am impressed enough to want to go back to the library and pick up some more of her work. Recommended, so long as you are not going to be disappointed to find this is not a novel in which to sink your teeth.
The book is available from play.com for £3.33. Published by Headline Publishing Group, it has 352 pages. ISBN: 9780747265603
A must-have book for Faye Kellerman's many fans, the collection contains: one never-before-published short mystery, The Garden of Eden, featuring Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus, who investigate the death of a next-door neighbour; two Decker-Lazarus short mysteries: Bull's Eye, the debut of Cindy Decker; and A Woman of Mystery, in which Rina Lazarus, aided by Peter Decker, solves the mystery of a student with missing memory; nine crime/mystery short stories, including Mummy and Jack, which Faye co-wrote with her son, Jesse; and, several bonus short works including two stories about family relationships and two essays drawn from Faye's personal life.