Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Knockout Mouse, James Calder

Knockout Mouse
James Calder

I know I've confessed to not being a mystery reader several times now. And yet, here I go again, reviewing another murder mystery. Why do I do this to myself?

In this case there are extenuating circumstances. Knockout Mouse takes place in the Bay Area, my home turf. For that reason I thought it might be more interesting than some random mystery novel.

And to some degree I was right. This was more interesting than most mysteries I've read. Partly that was setting. Partly it was that the characters were interacting with high tech in some ways, and I've lived in that stuff here in Silicon Valley. And partly it was just a reasonably well written story.

But there are still problems with these things that I don't like, the single biggest of which is that the person who winds up doing all the investigating inevitably has to have some convoluted reason for being unable to go to the cops. In the real world, at the first hint of something strange going on, I'm going straight to the police and dumping it in their hands. And if something else happens after that, I'll go straight back to them and dump that in their hands too. And so on until they lock me into a cell to keep me out of trouble. No way will Joe Streetperson ever get access to all the information needed to solve a murder before the cops do, and if he gets some juicy tidbit he'd bloody well better take it all to the cops straight off.

And beyond that, I just don't buy the whole "lay investigator out does professionals" thing as a premise. I'm not smart enough to out-do a professional in that field, and while I don't mean to toot my own horn, I'm not exactly stupid.

Anyway, if you can swallow a couple of things like that - and most mystery readers seem to do so quite willingly - then this may be a book you'll enjoy. It's fairly realistic in it's presentation of post dot-bomb Silicon Valley. It's portrayal of the biotech field is a bit harder for me to assess, but it's probably not too bad. I don't buy that every person running a company out here is a piece of slime, but some are, and maybe I've got my rose colored glasses on by accident.

So, if you read mysteries, you might enjoy it. I probably won't race out and get another book by Calder simply because I have better things to do than read yet another mystery by another author I've never met.