Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Gold Solution + Deadline

Alexander and Norma Gold are asked to help prove their friend Pearl's niece's fiance innocent after he was found bent over his employer's dying body with the bloody knife in his hands. The victim is Roger Talbott, one of America's most famous Architects, and the crime scene is his studio floor atop his brownstone mansion, which was as securely guarded as a fortress by various devices. With the date of the trial getting closer, Alexander is forced to solve this puzzle quickly, which isn't exactly the most appropriate activity while recovering from a heart attack...
Alexander and Norma are invited by billionaire Max Baron to join him and his family during a performance of the Boguslav Ballet. Baron suspects someone "reading his mind", or simply put the leakage of information, and the request for Alexander to solve that issue is the original purpose for the invitation, However Alec and Norma are soon hired for something entirely different, when Viktor Boguslav is stabbed in the theatre box adjoining the Barons and the Golds, only parted by a curtain and with Baron's son Jeffrey as Boguslav's assistant sleeping right behind his employer in the cloakroom in front of a locked door! The Golds have a mere deadline of less than three days to prove someone else than Jeffrey could do it.

If you want to know something about Herbert Resnicow in general first, I refer to TomCat's efforts at spreading the enthusiasm for anglophone Neo-GAD writers. I will just sum up my thoughts on the two first books in the Gold Series that I read consecutively right way, which should already be a good thing.

And mostly it is. I do have to say though, that The Gold Solution sadly is an overall flawed effort in comparison to Deadline. But let's focus on the good aspects that can be found in both books first. What Resnicow was already good at in his first novel are the characters and the dialogue. It's all just really readable, quite witty and makes for a page-turner right away. Resnicow's depiction of the world behind the architecture industry is made interesting even to any reader with no connection to that field and more importantly, while many authors tend to leave the victim at the status of simply being a piece in the puzzle, we get his whole background and actually almost get to know him better than the rest of the living persons, even though we never read a spoken word by him. I found that to be a rather refreshing technique in the form of gathered research by Pearl and Norma, the latter being an ex-librarian and the narrator of the Gold novels, and a very entertaining one at that.

So we have an intriguing puzzle and interesting characters. What's the negative part? Well, the solution wasn't exactly golden (sorry I just had to say it!)... You except a lot more after that exciting setting of the murder and not a cheap way around the situation, which basically was how I felt about the explanation in the end. It's certainly a workable method, but totally uninspired and in fact boring, which is the last thing a solution to an impossible crime situation should be. I'd even prefer something improbable and fantastic since it's at least surprising and gets a reaction out of the reader. It's not like the novel isn't worth a read as the characters and dialogue are already somewhat satisfying, but this is supposed to resemble or emulate a classical detective novel after all. The only remotely remarkable aspect might be Talbott's dying message, which is interpreted in many ways and fits any of the suspects, but is ultimately explained in the most reasonable way, which was a tad more hidden from the reader but just as well hinted as the rest.

While I'm used to Japanese authors and critics considering debut novels as most important for a writer's career, I did not want to judge Resnicow's first effort too harshly, so I immediately gave The Gold Deadline a chance as well. And I'm so glad I did! Not only did the good aspects of the first novel also transcend into this one, they were also even more entertaining. You just feel Resnicow's love for the ballet overflowing from the pages and you feel a lot more passion he must have crafted this work with. It felt like a very solid Japanese neo-orthodox detective novel, just that the characters, their relations and the topics addressed are a bit more forthrightly daring at times. With a devious, pansexual, complex-ridden manager of a ballet company and his unique background story, the other persons involved are bound to be quirky in their own ways. 

And Boguslav's background and personality are even important for the solution! In fact every little detail from any direction can become a decisive factor for the solution, which I fortunately loved this time. Generally there's a lot more focus on the mystery in Deadline and after all those attempts at explaining the whole thing you really ask yourself what's left. And then Resnicow comes around with a totally logical solution that has been hinted by so many things in so many places. Depending on the reader the method might feel slightly improbable, but I thought it was totally imaginable with that kind of setting and characters and everything was foreshadowed properly. Plus there's a rather unique reason for the culprit to use this method, which only works in this exact novel so if, like me, you like one-of-a-kind locked room tricks that feature a high degree of originality, I guess you should find yourself a copy right away.

It's a shame that these two novels differ so significantly. Deadline is such an inspired and original accomplishment, while Solution really just serves as an introduction to the characters. It's considerably shorter than its following volume though, so if you want to be a bit more familiar with the Golds already while reading Deadline, I guess you should read both novels since it doesn't really take any effort. Deadline as a stand-alone book is highly recommended by any means, so decide for yourself how to tackle it.

I already ordered and received Resnicow's The Gold Frame, but I'm still pondering whether to continue the series right now or finally read Paul Halter's The Fourth Door which was staring at me from my imaginary list since I first saw Halter mentioned by Japanese authors. And while I'm already exploring (considerably) contemporary Western works, this might be a good opportunity before raiding Japanese Book-Offs...


  1. He, he, I made a convert! I'm so glad you liked The Gold Deadline, which I rated as the best in the series and it's one of my favorite post-GAD detectives/locked room mysteries, and feel very confident now that you will be writing with the same glowing enthusiasm about The Dead Room.

    I’m afraid I don't have the time to post an entire wall of text, but let me say that I have come across some surprisingly good Anglophone neo-GAD writers (who also wrote some very fine locked rooms) over the past two years and they're not inferior in any way to those penned by their predecessors. I reviewed a Bill Pronzini novel last week that had no less than three impossible crimes! :)

  2. Well, let's see whether you made a convert after I've read Gold Frame and Dead Room, but I tremendously enjoyed Deadline, so you can pat yourself on the back for your achievement ;) Right now I'm relatively immersed in Halter's debut novel though.