Resnick, Laura: (01) Disappearing Nightly

On New Year’s Day, Chad and I were in Barnes & Noble looking to spend some gift cards. I was browsing the shelves and spotted a new book by Laura Resnick, Disappearing Nightly. Pretty much all I needed to know was this quote on the back from Jennifer Crusie: “A paranormal screwball comedy adventure. Light, happy, fantastically funny!” Well, that and my prior knowledge of Resnick’s work; I used to read her category romances under a different name, and I recalled that she did comedy well (she’s also written some more recent romances and some Big Fat Fantasies, which I haven’t read yet). I read the first couple of pages, bought it, and stayed up too late to finish it.

This is just fun, pure and simple. The first person narrator, Esther Diamond, is a chorus nymph in the off-Broadway musical Sorceror! and the understudy for the lead female role. The musical is built around a magic act, and one night the Disappearing Lady act works far too well. Esther is warned off taking the missing actress’s place by Max, a member of the Magnum Collegium:

“The Great College?” I guessed. “What was that?”

“It is . . . ” He shrugged. “A varied group of individuals united by a common interest.” . . . 

“But what is it? What is the group’s common interest?”

“We confront Evil.”

“Well,” I said. “Hmm. Uh-huh. I see.” If someone ever tells you he’s a member of a worldwide club whose mission is to confront Evil, I defy you to come up with a pithy reply on the spot.

It turns out that there have been multiple disappearances, all during the vanishing part of magic acts. Max contacts the performers, an affectionately motley bunch, and Esther organizes their attempts at figuring out what’s happening and why. There’s skulking, red herrings, disguises, booby-traps, a cute cop who really don’t want to have to arrest Esther, and, of course, confronting Evil. I should note that the book teeters on the edge of a tone-content mismatch during the confrontation with Evil; on reflection, I think it gets away with it, but I did have to stop and think about it, which is sub-optimal. That’s my only quibble with the book, though.

This is the first book in a series, though it entirely stands on its own, and I definitely will be snapping up the next as soon as it’s out in December.

ObDisclaimer: Yes, this is published by Luna, but it’s not a romance; the relationship with the cute cop is a definite subplot and if you ignore the spine, you’ll never know it was published by *gasp* a subsidary of Harlequin. Girl cooties at a minimum, honest, so don’t let that stop you from reading it.


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  1. So, I pick up this book, and in the very first sentence there’s a comma splice.
    No point, really. I just needed to get that off my chest. On to the second sentence.

  2. Ouch. I hate it when that happens.
    In truth, even given the Death of Editing, it’s surprising how many books have some serious (unintentional) error of grammar, usage, or style in the opening paragraph. You would think that someone would be more concerned with first impressions…

  3. Aw, come on–first person narration, it’s allowed. Aaron, Jo Walton’s books must’ve driven you nuts . . .

  4. #define pedant_mode 1
    First person narration forgives any usage or style that might reasonably be attributed to the character of the narrator as s/he tells the story. Comma splices, though, are not part of the telling — they’re just incorrect transcription of what the narrator said. Unless the story specifically proposes that it is a record set down by an unreliable scribe (e.g. the opening chapter of _Baudolino_, or Don Marquis), the choice of punctuation is the author’s, not the narrator’s, and should be standard.
    #define pedant_mode 0

  5. I gotta agree with David. Change that comma to a semi-colon and life is so much happier. But the book is amusing so far, nonetheless.

  6. I know people who talk in comma splices. Seriously.
    Aaron, glad the book is amusing you so far.

  7. I know people who talk in comma splices. Seriously.
    You lost me there. What does a comma sound like? (Insert Victor Borge impersonation here.)
    Are you saying there’s an audible difference between “My cat likes fish; I give him some every day.” and (*)”My cat likes fish, I give him some every day.”?
    I can maybe agree that the former might potentially be audibly different from “My cat likes fish. I give him some every day.”, but I’d say that the comma in the second one is just an incorrect[1] way of writing down the same utterance that the first one records.
    [1] Extreme descriptivists may substitute the phrase “nonstandard and widely deprecated” for “incorrect”, without loss of borrowing privileges.

  8. David, all I can say is that after an hour of talking with Jo Walton, I am speaking, thinking, and writing in comma splices for several days after. *shrug* Believe me or not as you like.

  9. Also? “I’m not a heroine, I just play heroines.” is really not that objectionable a comma splice.
    (Only got around to loooking that up now.)

  10. Not to belabor this (it’s certainly not a big deal), but if that’s not a comma splice, then what is? That sentence is pretty much what the semi-colon exists for.

  11. are you david tate from canby,oregon?

  12. are you david tate from canby,oregon?
    Alas, that it were so. I’m a much more eastern/midwestern subspecies. Much harder to find good cheap pinot gris out here.

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