Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

Lost Echoes

EchoesLost Echoes by Joe R. Lansdale

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I discovered Joe Lansdale when I was looking for new horror writers.  As a horror writer, Lansdale is OK; his stuff crosses more into the bizarre and weird, a la John Shirley or Rob Hardin, and I prefer something with a little more of the ordinary with a touch of menace, like Bentley Little.  As a mystery writer, though, Lansdale shines.  When he’s capturing the period of the early twentieth Century in East Texas (Sunset and Sawdust), he really finds his voice, and when he reinvents the buddy-mystery with Hap and Leonard, he turns cliches on their heads and gives you something unexpected.

Lost Echoes, though, isn’t a Hap and Leonard novel, nor is it one of his period mysteries.  This is a mystery/horror novel set in modern times, with some standard characters that you would find in other novels on the best-sellers list.  The main character has the ability to detect the violent past through sounds, and he’s recruited by a childhood friend to discover the truth behind her father’s murder.  He’s also a recovering alcoholic, taking some lessons in Zen and martial arts from another recovering alcoholic.  It’s all a little strange, and not a little bit mundane, for Lansdale.

The story moved along well enough, and kept me interested throughout the novel.  The characters were likable enough,  and the antagonists were appropriately nasty.  It just didn’t have anything special, like I’ve seen in previous Lansdale novels.  Where was the sharp, witty dialogue?  Where were the unique, oddball characters?  Where was the East Texas landscape that is as much a character to the story as the people solving the mystery?  For a novel in general, it’s only mediocre, and for a Lansdale novel, it’s a tremendous disappointment.

I was watching one of those movie review shows yesterday, and one of the commentators mentioned that it’s unfair to judge an artist based off of his previous works, and that we should only judge the work on its own merits.  If that were the case with Lost Echoes, though, I’d likely tell everyone I know to not read this book, or anything else by the author.  As it is, Lansdale is a gifted storyteller with a unique voice; unfortunately, this isn’t the book to showcase his talents.  Look to A Fine Dark Line or Sunset and Sawdust for a better understanding of Joe Lansdale’s abilities.

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April 23, 2007 - Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews

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