Friday, June 13, 2014
Review of Briarpatch by Ross Thomas (Orion, 1984)
Briarpatch won an Edgar Award and was re-printed as part of the Orion Crime Masterworks series. It’s certainly a well crafted book with a strong sense of place (despite the city name never being revealed) and a nicely worked plot. Thomas’ style is one of relatively thick description providing detailed portraits of each character and the geography and history of the place. Usually it’s pretty wearisome to know the precise looks and fashions of each character, or the vista of each street, but Thomas manages to make the narrative informative rather than dull. That said, the characterisation is a little skin deep, and throughout I had the sense that the dead sister would have been a more interesting lead character than her barely grieving brother. The twin plots of the death of the sister and obtaining the disposition of his former best friend also lull a little in the middle before picking back up again with some nice twists. Overall, this is an entertaining read that blends crime, corruption and politics into an intriguing mix.