Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Dead Do Not Improve by Jay Capsian Kang

On a residential Bay Area block struggling with the collision of gentrifier condos and longtime residents, stymied recent MFA grad Philip Kim is sleeping the night away when bullets fly through a window in his apartment building and end up killing one of his neighbors. Philip only learns about the murder the next day when bored and Googling himself. But when he gets caught up in the investigation and becomes the focus of an elaborate, violent scheme, he will learn far more than he ever wanted to about his former four-eggs-at-a-time borrowing neighbor Dolores Stone, aka “The Grey Beaver,” and her shocking connections to an underworld only a city like this one could create.
Siddhartha “Sid” Finch, a homicide detective bitter about everything except his gorgeous wife, and his phlegmatic, pock-marked partner Jim Kim, land the case. Sid and Jim race after Philip through a menacing, unknowable San Francisco fending off militant surfers, vaguely European cafes, and aggressive Advanced Creative Writing students as they all try to figure out just who’s causing trouble in this city they love to hate.

This was definitely an unusual book. With a mixture of dark comedy and some clever writing, it definitely captured my attention, although I can’t say it’s one of my favorites of the year.

The main problem I had were the characters, especially the protagonist. He’s just not that captivating. He is kind of wishy-washy, which makes his actions sound weak. Maybe this was done on purpose, but, if so, then it wasn’t clear enough for the reader to really pick up on.

This is one of those books that seems to have no real meaning behind it. It has a bunch of wonderful passages, but it’s not cohesive. There’s no question the author knows how to write, but the novel doesn’t hold itself together well under serious scrutiny.

But, then again, these kinds of books never sit too well with me, so it might be a personal matter. If you enjoy books that don’t really go anywhere but have interesting writing, then you might want to give this one a try.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, maybe it is a "if it lands in my lap" I will read it type of book. :) Great review!