Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book Review: The Way of All Fish: A Novel by Martha Grimes

When I read that this book was set in the world of NYC publishing, I couldn't wait to read it! And when I also saw one of the book's blurbs describe it as a lampoon, even better!

I had never read Martha Grimes before, and I'd say that this book isn't a mystery precisely, although it is twisty turny. Cindy is a bestselling novelist, whose latest novel is at a dead end, partly due to her preoccupation with a lawsuit. Her previous agent, Bass Hess, is suing her for his 15% on her most recent book, even though she fired him and it was sold by a different agent. A couple of hit men take a shine to Cindy and decide to look into her situation, pro bono. They are the type of hit men who always meet their mark first and decide if he's worth killing. Hess is not, but they still want him out of Cindy's life and really, away from any authors he can harass. So along with the help of a motley crew of misfits, they scheme to convince Hess to leave the business and leave New York.

This book was good fun, particularly if you know anything about the publishing business. Someone asked if I recognized any characters that were specifically being made fun of and I did not. I think it's more fictional than that (I don't think there are any hit men involved in the industry, although I certainly could be wrong about that.) But I did enjoy the talk of contracts and advances and options and other industry-speak. The hit men were fun and the running bit about fish was creative. I particularly liked Lena bint Musah, a woman who can play any role in a situation that you'd like, convincingly. She was a pretty unique character.

But there were a lot of characters. I was frequently having to pause for a minute and think, now who is that again? One of the hit men was named Candy which was a little confusing alongside Cindy. And just generally there were too many characters for me to easily keep track of. That may have been partly my fault as, due to a pressing assignment, I did have to put the book down for a week when I was 100 pages in. If I'd just read it straight through, I might not have had as much trouble placing characters when they entered scenes. But I don't know. Still, overall I enjoyed it. It was a fun and occasionally silly farce of my industry and we all should laugh at ourselves from time to time. And now I kind of want to get a clown fish.

I got this book as a gift. It was bought at Murder on the Beach in Delray Beach, Florida, an independent bookstore.

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