Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Bughouse Affair - Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini? Each of them is an accomplished and award winning mystery author, but they also happen to be husband and wife.

The Bughouse Affair is the first novel they've written together in over twenty years.

1890's San Francisco. Sabina Carpenter, a former Pinkerton Detective Agency operative and  ex-Secret Service agent John Quincannon have joined forces and opened a successful detective agency of their own. Sabina is hunting for a female pickpocket who does more than nick wallets. John is on the lookout for a break and enter thief who is targeting the wealthy residents of San Fran.

This is a definitely a light hearted series. There's lots of  banter between the two lead characters as well as some romantic tension. But, I felt I was just getting to know this pair, when another character was introduced - a man claiming to be Sherlock Holmes. He swears he survived his last encounter with Moriarty, is laying low in America and would like to observe the Carpenter/Quincannon Agency in action. As this is the first book featuring this duo, I thought the introduction of such a well known name and character a bit distracting. Although Quincannon swears this character is a 'bughouse' impostor, readers will recognize mannerisms, language and sleuthing abilities as written by Doyle.

The mysteries are not overly complicated but are 'cozy' in tone. I did enjoy the period descriptions and settings, including slang of this time period.

I chose to listen to The Bughouse Affair. There were two readers - Nick Sullivan and Meredith Mitchell. Sullivan has one of the most precise and clearest voices I've heard in a long time. His diction is excellent - every syllable of each word is easily distinguished. He did an admirable job bringing Quincannon to life, with lots of expression in his reading. He also did a good job with his reading of Holmes, including the accent.  Mitchell's voice, although pleasant enough and well modulated, was too monotone for me. She is the more level headed of the two partners and perhaps a calming, even toned reader was chosen for this reason. She just never matched her partner for expression.

The book is written in opposite chapters - one for John, then Sabina. What I found puzzling was that each reader only read their character's chapter. So, when John is speaking to Sabina in one of 'her' chapters it is the female narrator reading all the parts. So, in effect you have two interpretations of each character. I think it would have been much better all round to have each reader do all of their character's lines, regardless of whose chapter it was.

Listen to an excerpt of The Bughouse Affair.      Read an excerpt of The Bughouse Affair.

This was an light listen for the drive back and forth to work.  

(And this is a minor quibble, but I dislike having actual faces on the cover of a book. I prefer to paint my own mental images from the author's words, rather than a marketing department's idea of what the characters should look like.)


The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

I like that cover!

Luanne said...

Isn't it funny how a cover can influence us before we even open the cover?