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Crime & Beyond met on Monday the 26th to discuss Iron House by John Hart. I have said in the past that the discussion is always better when we have vastly differing opinions on the book, but Monday’s meeting changed my mind. On the whole, the book got ratings mostly in the 8-9 range. Yet we had a lively and animated discussion about the plot and characters. Add a huge dose of sarcasm in there, and it was a pretty good meeting.

Some of the praise for the book involved the great characters and the twists and turns of the plot. The author managed to wind us through the backgrounds and lives of some very troubled people with very disturbing pasts. It didn’t seem like anyone guessed that Michael and Julian were Abigail’s brothers. We all took the red herring and went with mother rather than sister. We were glad that Michael didn’t kill old whats her name up in the hills. We wanted her to rot to death for what she did to them all.

I was surprised that not that many people were overly disturbed by the torture scenes in the barn. They were mentioned, but as Kim said, he’s no Jo Nesbo. I think some people probably skimmed through the scenes in the book (or if you were listening like me, cringed as you heard it all). Dave pointed out that Elena trying to get away and getting caught by Jimmy was a bit of a Daisy. If you don’t know what that means, you’ll have to read through some of the old Meeting Notes on our wiki sight for details. Elena had to run, so that Jimmy could catch her, so that there could be a shoot out at the farm, so that they could link the killings to the senator. So you could kind of say it was a Daisy situation, or you could look at it as necessary plot points to further the story. Getting Daisy from the vet so she could sniff out her owner was much weaker, though, you have to admit.

Some of the criticism for the book involved the same 2 things that the praise dealt with: characters and plot. For the characters, some people weren’t able to buy Michael’s whole “killer gone upstanding citizen & soon to be Dad” thing. It smelled more of cliché than possibility. Others were able to ride right along with the author (me included) and were able to suspend belief and could see Michael as a different person. Mostly because he became a killer out of a need for survival rather than any sociopathic tendencies (yeah, I’m talkin’ ‘bout you Jimmy).

A lot of us had issues with Elena’s character. I think the words “whiney” and “weak” came up several times. Lorraine hated the whole cliché of the femjep scene (that’s feminine jeopardy) at the barn. Elena broke away from Jimmy only to run for like 10 yards before she hurt her ankle and fell. I think that scene is right up there with the women who go into the woods alone with a dying cell phone battery. Not cool Mr. Hart, not cool.

A few people didn’t like the whole mob involvement. Chris B couldn’t get into the book until Michael and Elena arrived at Julian’s because he just wasn’t sure where it was going. I definitely think it picked up at that point. Sharon K gave the book its lowest score of 6 and it just didn’t do it for her. I think she’s going to try another by the same author, though.

The use of schizophrenia for Julian and Abigail was also criticized. Judy and Raj weighed in on that issue and gave their opinions on whether or not schizophrenia is hereditary. It seems that it does have a genetic component, but we agreed that what Julian and Abigail were experiencing was more multiple personality disorder rather than schizophrenia. Especially Abigail when she became Serena. Think Sybil rather than that TNT show Perception.

Another thing we all agreed on was that John Hart is an excellent writer. We’re glad he quit his job as a lawyer to spend time entertaining us with his stories. We only wish he wrote more books for us to read. Some of you may know that Sharon L’s favorite John Hart book is King of Lies (if you don’t know that, you NEVER come to club). Because she loves that book so much, and liked this one a bit less, she gave Iron House an 8. I think it’s a testament to any author’s skill to hear that this one wasn’t a favorite but still got a score of 8 out of 10. Since Sharon L. is our designated author liaison, she has promised to email John Hart to tell him how much we liked the book and possibly see when his next one will be coming out. He needs to know how impatient we all are.

Lastly, the slap vote goes to Elena. I think the above paragraph containing the words “whiney” and “weak” says it all.

Amy brought some excellent mini cannolis and mozzarella/tomato/basil/salami skewers. It all really hit the spot. Especially since I hadn’t eaten dinner! Thanks Amy. Next month we meet on Sept. 23rd to discus Six Years by Harlan Coben. Janice will lead and Sharon L. will bring snacks. See you then.

Kerry

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