A very astute acquaintance of mine had an interesting reflection the films of David Lynch. Feeling that Lynch’s earlier movies were better than his later ones, said person claimed that what had happened was that Lynch had originally made films that were like puzzles. Lynch heard this compliment, and then went to far, making films that were puzzles. M. Night Shyamalan is pretty much guilty of the same shit. He made a singular good movie with a twist ending, and then spent the rest of his career making movies that were little more than twist endings with a narrative stapled on to it. There is a book equivalent to this as well, stories where the author clearly had a cool twist in mind and crafted a narrative around it.
I moaned about this very thing some times back. I have now encountered it again.
Andrea Camillieri is an Italian writer of whodunits who wrote a wildly popular series of detective novels involving a detective living in a fictional Sicilian town. The series was ultimately adopted to the small screen. Km. 123 is not a novel in the series, but a stand alone piece about a mysterious car accident where thankfully no one was hurt, but later devolves into a plot of intrigue regarding the victim of this accident, his wife and two lovers. The charm of the novel comes from the telling, as it is a narrative driven almost entirely through modern mediums – SMS chat, emails, newspapers, etc. To memory, there is not a stitch of prose in this whole thing that isn’t dialogue.
I did not find it so charming. I like description.
But what is worse is what happens within the story itself, and so consider this a spoiler warning of sorts, thought I will attempt to be vague. Perhaps a quarter of the way through the novel a tertiary character goes from Rome to Milan, and shortly there after a quaternary character dies in mysterious circumstances, really being the book’s first actual murder. I read that, looked up from the book to the person who had recommended it to me and said ‘Oh, so this whole dumb thing was orchestrated by these to minor characters who are barely in the book?’
The story moved on, and for the rest of the reading I thought I was wrong about my prediction. I thought so because the two characters who I thought had orchestrated the whole ordeal where pretty much never present in the whole damn book. Except I wasn’t wrong. Those characters had orchestrated everything, even though their total time in the novel itself may be less than this damned review. Unmerited twist endings are bad enough, but a mystery book that gives no clues to how to solve the mystery may be worse. The one pitiful clue I was given likely wouldn’t be enough. I think I guessed it on a fluke.