These were the detectives in the books I read over the past two weeks for the History of Mystery class I am attending. The Mike Hammer book is I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane. The Goldy Bear title is The Cereal Murders by Diane Mott Davidson.
The writing style in I, the Jury is terse and gritty as befits the personality of Mr. Hammer. (At first I found it entertaining but after a hundred pages, it began to wear thin.) He charges around the city chasing down clues and suspects in the murder of a friend who at one time saved his life. He has sex or thinks about having sex with just about every woman he meets. He falls in love at the drop of his felt hat. A bottle of beer (more like a 12-pack) and many smokes help him think about the case. The story, set against the background of human trafficking, prostitution, and heroin addiction, not to mention multiple murders, seems oddly modern and is reflected in today's headlines.
On the other hand, the writing style in The Cereal Murders, the third in a series starring caterer Goldy Bear, is almost florid. Way too many adjectives and adverbs to my taste. There were a couple of witty lines but not enough to keep me reading this 335-page mystery. I didn't particularly care for any of the characters - living or dead - and after a hundred pages jumped to the end to see who the murderer was. Even then I didn't care. For me, the whole thing fell as flat as one of Goldy's failed souffles.
It seems that the cozy mystery with its amateur detective, usually a woman with an interesting but not too stressful job or avocation that allows her to eavesdrop, is a genre that has exploded in the past 30 years or so. Perhaps as an antidote to the earlier hard-boiled, violent mysteries. Or, it was noted, as perhaps an updating of the Golden Age mysteries.
Unlike the up close and personal murder in the hard-boiled detective story, in the cozy mysteries, the violence is usually off-stage, there is little profanity and no graphic sex, and no harm ever comes to a cat.
The discussions about these two books was lively. The class was especially divided over the Diane Mott Davidson book - some found it frustrating and others loved it and raved about the entire series (of which there are to this date seventeen.)
I would like to read or reread some of the classic hard-boiled detective stories of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. And there are many, many cozy mysteries on the bookstore shelves that probably would appeal to me if I can only find them. Some of the ones I have started are way to cute.
Next week's discussion will be on the Dark and Dangerous genre typified by Elizabeth George, Val McDermid, Tana French, and others. I read long ago the book suggested for the class written by Ms. George, A Great Deliverance, and dark and dangerous it is. I stopped at this first book in the series that introduced her Inspector Lynley.
So where do you fall in your reading tastes? Are you a Mike Hammer or a Goldy Bear? Or maybe somewhere in between?