Thursday, 18 November 2010

‘Gilded Latten Bones’ – Glen Cook (Roc)

I’ve read more than my fair share of Glen Cook’s work and have had a great time doing so (and there’s more to read yet...). One area that I haven’t delved too deeply into though, as yet, is his ‘Garrett PI’ series; the ongoing tales of a private detective trying to make a living on the mean streets on Tunfaire. I had a very brief look with ‘Whispering Nickel Idols’ but found that the setting didn’t work me that time round. To be fair though, I was diving in right at the (then) most current book in the series so will quite happily admit that I was perhaps missing out on a lot of stuff that I could have picked up earlier on.
Also, I’ve got a real soft spot for the way that Cook just tells it how it is. None of that flowery stuff, this is the way it happened and if you don’t like it... well, you know where the door is. I’ve been missing that just recently so ‘Gilded Latten Bones’ seemed like the ideal way to get a good dose as well as seeing if maybe I was a little harsh on the series first time round...

Garrett is living the good life these days, swapping private eye work for regular security work in the Tate factory, although he’s wondering if there’s more to life than this. His girlfriend, Tinnie Tate, wouldn’t agree as she’s got her man just where she wants him. At least, this is all the case until his rooms are broken into by thugs paid to kidnap Tinnie (they’re not sure who hired them though...)
And then one of Garrett’s oldest friends is found full of knife wounds and not so far away from death’s door. Are the two cases related? Will Garrett survive to find out the answer to this question? One thing is for certain, Garrett is back on the streets and doing what he does best; fumbling blindly for clues until everything falls into place...

I don’t know if it was a case of ‘Whispering Nickel Idols’ not being the best place to start or if it was the way that this particular story panned out. It might have even been the fact that I’m a little more used to the setting now after having read Alex Bledsoe’s ‘Eddie LaCrosse’ books (do check them out by the way). Whatever it was, something just clicked for me while I was reading ‘Gilded Latten Bones’. The book isn’t without its flaws but I couldn’t get enough of it while I was reading. I’d say that fans of Garrett are going to lap this one up; it has certainly encouraged me to start seeking out the rest of the series.

‘Gilded Latten Bones’ is one of those rare books where both established fans and newcomers will get a lot out of the story. The book hearkens back to events in prior books but this is done in such a way that it doesn’t detract from the story itself and is accessible for newer readers such as myself.  If this wasn’t enough, the nature of the case lends a real ‘stand alone’ feel to the book. If you’ve read earlier books in the series then you will get more out of ‘Gilded Latten Bones’; don’t let that put you off though if you haven’t.

As the story progressed, the main draw for me was the character of Garrett himself. Not only ins Garrett an interesting character to follow in his own right (more on that in a bit) but, for one reason and another, Cook doesn’t have Garrett do a lot of the actual investigating; preferring instead to keep him cooped up in the house where all the information gradually flows back to. It’s an interesting approach whereby a lot of the story seems to pass Garrett by and he’s constantly trying to catch up with what is going on. The upshot is a story that is in equal parts as fascinating as it is infuriating.

The fascination comes in seeing how Garrett’s character stands up to returning to his old life; Garrett’s enforced inactivity gives him a lot of time to reflect on this. It turns out that our Garrett is one to duck responsibility wherever he can but he now has no choice but to face up to the consequences that his actions have had on old friends. This makes for some very interesting moments where Garrett’s character is laid bare and he has nowhere to hide and a surprising upshot of this is Garrett’s realisation that he can have exactly the life he wants if he’s prepared to work at it. I really got into this progression, it was a lot of fun to see those wheels turn over in Garrett’s mind and there are a few poignant moments to be had on the way.

The downside is that you’re basically reading a story where the main character (the guy it’s all focussed on) is sidelined while the largest chunk of the action happens offstage. There are a couple of moments where the magic starts flying, in the best way, but these are the exception rather than the rule. As a result, the book settles into a routine where Garrett hears a knocking on the door and then talks to the person who enters. While you’ll be surprised at just how much this moves the plot forward, it does get repetitive very quickly and slows the pace down when perhaps things really wanted to get going. I didn’t mind it as such because it meant I got to hang out with characters that I really grew fond of; you might want to bear it in mind though.

The story itself is pretty much what you would expect from any novel involving a private eye thrown in at the deep end. There are a lot of twists and turns to the plot and Cook had me wanting to sift through all the clues and dead ends in order to find out what happened next (or even what was happening at all). I wasn’t so keen on what the ‘big cover up’ eventually turned out to be (there was a lot of build up for something that ended up being quite simple) but I had fun getting there and it does open up some interesting possibilities for future books.

‘Gilded Latten Bones’ was a stodgy read at times but a read that never earned anything less than my full attention throughout. Not only will I be reading Garrett’s future adventures but now I find myself in the position of having to catch up with those that he has already had...

Eight and Three Quarters out of Ten


noothergods said...

This sounds interesting, though maybe not quite up my alley. I've never read much Glen Cook though the name is familiar, does anyone know what else he's written?

Anonymous said...

noothergods: in addition to garret P.I. he's also written the black company series, the dread empire series (both now collected in omnibuses) and his more recent instrumentalities of the night. if you like either smart detective stories (in a fantasy enviroment) or grim and gritty fantasy (cook was an inspiration behind steven erikson's malazan series), I would suggest starting off with an earlier book in the garret P.I. series (they all read as stand-alones) or the black company books (excellent stuff, by the way).

noothergods said...

I just picked up the first three books in the Black Company series. After trying to make it through the Dresden Files I don't think I can handle another PI series.

Craig D Roth said...

I've been a fan of Cook for quite awhile - read the Black Company Series and the whole Garrett catalog with total enjoyment. Cannot recommend the author highly enough. I am, however, very much afraid that "Gilded Latten Bones" has brought us to the conclusion of the Garrett adventures. The worrisome clue? "He had gotten his boy all grown up." If Glen reads this I'd like to know, as an older guy, if I need to say goodbye to another friend.

Paul said...

Whispering Nickel Idols was definitely not the best place to begin this series. It required too much back story to appreciate it fully. Love this series and thoroughly enjoy almost all of Glen Cook's work.

Paul J

Paul said...

Black Company truly was an epic series. @Nethergoods I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Garrett PI has been great as well. A little bit if a pallet cleanser between heavier sci-fi for me.

I think your thought is correct that Whispering Nickel Idols was not the best place to start the series. You would not necessarily need to begin at the beginning but there is so much back story understanding needed on that one that it would be hard to get into it as much.

Just beginning "Gilded Latten Bones" and I am also lamenting the possible resolve to this series.

Glen Cook has become one of my preferred writers overall.