The little blue house with white trim tells a story. The builders paid for fancy window trim and an ornate cornice, so it was probably built after the Silver Rush of 1859, which brought San Francisco even more wealth than the Gold Rush of 1849. All that wealth allowed people to build more impressive homes and custom wood-working shops opened to supply the need.
But the original owners did not pay for bay windows. Maybe that's because so much of the front is glass. Bay windows might have looked like they were crowding each other. Plus it's a small house, as you can see from that side wall. It's only a little deeper than it is wide. And the cornice is a false front. It makes the house look bigger than it really is.
The new white house next door is taller, wider and deeper than its little neighbor from the days of the Wild West. It's possible two little old houses like the blue on were torn down to make room for it. It really is as big as it looks.
In Before the Fall, Scott Burroughs survives the crash of a small airplane in the waters off Martha's Vineyard and saves another passenger. Noah Hawley creates a thrilling account of his survival and all he faces afterward: investigations by government agencies, pursuit by reporters, and interference from friends and family members. Scott turns out to be that rare person who can beat bureaucrats, bullies, and demagogues at their own games. I was in suspense right through the last page.
Hawley tells this story in 223 pages, but there are 390 pages in the book. The other 167 pages are devoted to chapters on the seven people who died in the plane crash. I skipped them all the first time through and thoroughly enjoyed the story.
When I was done, I went back and read the other chapters. They tell a bit about each of the people who died, who they were, what they did, how they came to be on that flight. They are character sketches. Each chapter confirmed the impression I had of a person in the first chapter when they all board the plane together. None of this changed my view of the main plot, Scott's triumph over those in power.
By itself's Scott's story is about the same length of those wonderful suspense novels from the era of paperback originals. The addition of the character sketches is one more example of how to make a book as long as publishers want them to be these days.
False Tongues by Kate Charles is not the kind of novel I usually read, but I enjoyed it. And it's helping me understand the kind of book I want to write.
Callie, the principal character, is a curate in the Church of England. Her boyfriend, Marco, is a police officer who supports families who are victims of crimes. Marco is assigned to a family whose teenage son has been murdered. DI Neville Stewart is assigned to find the murderer.
So Callie is not directly involved in solving the crime. Neither are her vicar and his wife, her friends from theological college who gather for a reunion, nor the principal of the college, who falls in love with a visiting priest during the reunion, but we spend a lot of time with all of them.
It's fair to say the structure of this novel is similar to that of the film, Love Actually (2003): lots of people, lots of stories, surprising connections among them. I enjoyed both that film and this book
If someone removed all the scenes and characters who do not contribute to solving the mystery, the book would probably be less than 200 pages instead of 339. I suspect the author spun out the loosely connected subplots in order to make the book as long as publishers want books to be these days.
Almost three years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled Why did books get longer?". I had just read Michael Connelly's Two Kinds of Truth, a big book divided into Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. Since each part tells a separate story, the book is really two novellas and a short story, put into one book and called "a novel."
I have read that books of 80,000 words (240 pages) sell best on Amazon, and that a book must be 100,000 words (330 pages) in order to be commercial. Some authors make a mystery longer by making the plot more complicated to solve; some do it by including more description of scenery; some bundle more stories together.
Promising Young Woman has been described as a rape revenge thriller. But is the hero, Cassie (Carey Milligan), seeking revenge? Or is she seeking justice?
To begin with she is not out to settle a score for harm done to her. Rather, she is settling the score for harm done to someone else. In this, the film resembles Unforgiven, the great western in which William Munny (Clint Eastwood), a bounty hunter, sets out to get justice for someone overlooked by the justice system.
Also, she is not out to demand an eye for an eye from the men who raped her friend. She does no violence, despite the near constant threats she creates. She is not out to punish the men who pick her up in bars, the medical school dean who dismissed her friend's accusation, or any of the others she hoodwinks. Instead, she wants to force them to recognize and admit what they did.
This is a film about a woman seeking justice, not revenge. This is a significant variation on the revenge thriller. And it is thrilling.
QUASI-SPOILER: Much made of having to explain the ending, but it is completely consistent with the film. In one way Cassie loses. She becomes a victim of the clueless guys who treat women as objects. In another way, she succeeds by guaranteeing their cruelty will become known and they will have to face the consequences.