Tag Archives: Copper Bracelet

Roo Morgue

It's Robin Meade!Is there such a thing as Couvade Syndrome for travelling? Madame NiceWork did the globetrotting, not me, and yet I’m the one whose internal clock needs to be set back nine hours. Had it been me and not her who endured the long flight from Berlin (A highly classified mission. Don’t ask.) I could hardly feel woozier or more whacked in the Circadians than I do at the moment. The wooz puts the kibosh on any chance of writing a coherent post for NiceWork, and yet…

…and yet, I must post something, anything, if only to push that montage of thriller authors — the collaborators on The Copper Bracelet — down a couple of screens. I can no longer bear to look at them. Especially I can longer bear the baleful stare of Jeffrey Deaver. You know, I’ve seen Mr Deaver at a book signing in Naperville, IL. He’s a jolly, happy, jokey guy, full of stories and amiable chat. But you wouldn’t know it from that evil photo: There he glares malevolently like one of the psychoperps who keep his fictional detectives employed.

So, look: Here’s a novel that had me in stitches during my foot-soaking downtime between sightseeing bouts in NYC recently. It’s the first novel by Jonatham Lethem, from fifteen fraught years ago: Gun, with Occasional Music.

Now, understand, I normally look with cold disdain on the private eye pastiche — into which catergory Gun, with Occasional Music falls in a loopy sci-fi, Neal Stephensonish sort of way — and certainly a blurb from the wretched Newsweek, if not exactly a deal-killer, is no recommendation for this reader — and if that blurb compares Lethem favorably to Philip K. Dick with whose drug-soaked deleriums I am out of sympathy, well, then you may reasonably ask why I didn’t hurriedly put the volume back on the shelf and continue to rummage through the Flatiron District Barnes and Noble?

I’ll tell you why: the epigraph. The epigraph reads thus:

There was nothing to it. The Super Chief was on time, as it almost always is, and the subject was as easy to spot as a kangaroo in a dinner jacket.
—Raymond Chandler

But not just the epigraph qua epigraph. I delved a bit and saw that Lethem had written a book in which Chandler’s metaphor was taken literally. There really is a kangaroo, maybe not in a dinner jacket, but cast in the part of the tough-guy wannabee gunsel, like Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon (the part played by Elisha Cook, Jr.). Other key characters are also animals, “evolved animals,” in this alternate reality novel, or dystopic future, or satire, or spoof, or jape or whatever it is. Anyhow, I was hooked, and the novel did not disappoint. Far from it. Many laughs, as when our “private inquisitor” (i.e. detective) hero answers the doorbell and…

A neatly dressed woman in her late twenties or early thirties stood in the doorway, and behind her a young guy in a suit and tie was walking up the steps. “Hello,” she said.

I said hello back.

“We’re students of psychology. If you’re not too busy, we’d like to read you a few selections from Freud’s Civilization and it Its Discontents.

They’re “Freud nuts.” It’s that kind of book, except in addition to all the absurd invention there actually is a murder mystery to solve and the private inquisitor solves it using clues peculiar to the world Lethem has created.

I would tell you all about that world — the government supplied “forgetol” drugs, the evolved “babyheads,” the musical news reports (no words, just mood music) — but as I said, I’m too woozy and I’ve just remembered the tuna salad in the fridge so I’ll answer the only question pertinent when recommending a novel. Will you enjoy Gun, with Occasional Music? Yes, absolutely. No doubt. Guaranteed. You will thank me.

Oh, and there really is a gun that, when brandished, plays appropriately ominous background music.

Gun, with Occasional Music
by Jonathan Lethem
(Harvest Books, Paperback, 269pp.)

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The Copper MacGuffin

Penzey's Spices -- http://www.penzeys.com

So enthralled was I by the exciting conclusion of The Copper Bracelet — an audiobook thriller of 17 chapters written by 16 different authors — that I misjudged the distance to the spice rack (after having added some zip to my Manwich Samwich) and dropped a jar of precious Penzey’s ground cloves. But did I cry over spilled spices? Not a bit. For one thing, it made the kitchen redolent of the mysterious East in which the concluding action is set. For another… well, as I said at the beginning of the paragraph, I was enthralled.

The final chapter of the novelty novel was written by the same thriller writer who got the ball rolling in chapter one, Jeffrey Deaver. His job in the beginning is to set up enough story-stuff — characters, hint of a plot, mysterious clues (e.g., the eponymous jewelry), and a bit of rousing loss-of-head-and-appendages action — to give the rest of the writers (each taking a chapter) something to build on. One by one, the other authors elaborate on his suggestions, adding villains, exploding villains, advancing (sometimes) the story, and wrongfooting (oftentimes) each other.

At last, the virtual stack of coffee-stained manuscripts is shoved back into the hands of the aghast first author. It is then his bounden duty to tie up all the loose ends, and dole appropriate rewards to whichever heroes and bad guys have miraculously survived the gauntlet of his extraordinarily bloodthirsty colleagues. Clever Mr. Deaver does so with the adroitness we’ve all come to expect from him.

The roster of authors, pictured above covered in Penzey’s ground cloves, includes — besides Mr. Deaver — David Hewson, John Gilstrap, Lisa Scottoline (who gets the prize for the most unexpected scene change: a chicken farm in which the hens are named after Gilbert and Sullivan heroines), David Corbett, Jenny Siler, P.J. Parrish (well, that’s two writers actually), Jon Land, Gayle Lynds, Jim Fusilli (also the editor), Joseph Finder, Lee Child, Linda Barnes, David Liss, Brett Battles and James Phelan.

The Copper Bracelet is read to perfection by the awesomely skilled actor Alfred Molina. You may remember him as the love-struck Russian sailor in the movie Letter to Brezhnev (1985), though you don’t.

The protagonist of The Copper Bracelet is the same fellow who did the heavy lifting in the last multiple-author audio-thriller, The Chopin Manuscript: a musicoligist turned hunter of war criminals, Harold Middleton. This time Middleton and his NGO gang of terror-stoppers dash without a pause for breath from the Riviera, to London, to Tampa, to Paris, to Moscow, to Kashmir and to a chicken farm, all the while uncovering a dastardly plot. A plot (and here I’m a bit hazy) either to produce “heavy water” for production of weapons grade plutonium, or to blow up a damn in Kashmir, or to kill Middleton and his pals, or to kill Hillary Clinton, or maybe even kill her boss, or possibly to start a world war, or, alternately, to free Kashmir, or, on the other hand, to put Kashmir in the control of the Chinese, or the Russians, or none of these or all of them. Or something else. Sorry; I was distracted while sweeping up Penzey’s ground cloves during the scene in which the penultimate bad-person delivers his or her explanatory peroration.

Maybe you will pay closer attention and can straighten me out. Go ahead, if you’re so smart: You can obtain the audiobook through iTunes or through Audible.com for a pittance.

Look: an elephant!