I just read another subway book, one that I started on the subway to work and finished over my morning bagel at my desk—it was a very short book. It also wins my prize this year for “Most Misleading Cover Copy.” The book is No Score by Lawrence Block, the first in the Chip Harrison series. Now, Block is a well-known mystery writer; I’ve been reading his Bernie Rhodenbarr mysteries all summer and enjoying them greatly. (The made-up Sue Grafton titles are a hoot.) Block does first-person smartass narration really well, and after having exhausted the Bernie books, I decided to try some of his other stuff. (Light stuff. Apparently some of his other books are very dark.)
The Chip Harrison books looked pretty promising, at least according to that back cover copy I mentioned. To quote: “IT IS A MYSTERY why a big man with a big gun turns Chip’s dream of desire into a nightmare of danger . . . IT IS A MYSTERY that Chip has to solve fast and furiously in a sizzling and suspenseful adventure . . .”
Well, no, it’s not. Chip’s an inch away from getting laid in Chapter One (which is not what I was expecting, as Bernie always draws a discreet curtain over his own affairs, but then, this isn’t Bernie), the guy with the gun bursts in, and then we get most of a book’s worth of backstory on how he got there. And when we get back to the guy with the gun—there’s absolutely no mystery about it.
To be fair, I’ve just gone to Block’s website and he admits that the first two Chip Harrison books “are not mysteries at all (although you couldn’t tell that from the packaging of the Signet paperbacks). They’re erotic coming-of-age novels.” (I’d link right to the page, but it’s annoyingly framed, so I can’t. The original version of this post had a link that skipped the Flash intro, but there’s some odd things going on with the URLs, so rather than have you get a 404 . . . ) The third apparently turns into a mystery novel.
No Score is a very fast, light read. Just don’t expect a mystery out of it.