Monday, March 21, 2011


Deja vu all over again. Mike Befeler's Living With Your Kids Is Murder is the same thing all over again.  His main character Paul Jacobson is now living with his children in Boulder, Colorado, but otherwise, this book is very similar to the first book in the series.

The police accuse Paul of two murders.  Paul stumbles around and becomes involved in several other crimes.  And it all comes out well, even with a marriage in the end.  (Let's see.  Does that fit the classic definition of comedy?)

This time, Paul's granddaughter Jennifer (a fun character) is the helping hand.  She is young, smart, modern, and square (to use a dated word). 
But the story is essentially the same as the story in the first book.

To me as a writer, this points out how hard it is to write humor.  An old hand like Janet Evanovich couldn't maintain the humor for more than eight or ten books.  After that, her books about a bunch of crazy women working in a bail bond office started to fall apart.  Even Grandma Mazur couldn't keep it going.

The Befeler book is written smoothly, first-person-point-of-view all the way, very Spenser (for many Spensers), if you will. 

And Befeler's people are a saving grace.  Paul meets a man who accuses Paul of cutting down his prized trees.  He and Paul become friends.  Paul even sets him up with an interesting woman Paul has met at the Senior Center. 

So the details around the core story may be interesting, but, for me, the whole book was deja vu all over again.

PS   As I put this on the blog I noticed one other odd thing.  The cover of this book has little to do with what is happening inside.  No one I remember sites in on Paul with a rifle. 


Naomi Johnson said...

Yes, indeedy, I think it is very hard to write comedy. And much, much harder to write a comedy series that does not constantly repeat itself. This points out why Donald Westlake was so great with comedy in his Dortmunder series. Although the characters maintained their personalities and quirks throughout the series, Westlake was an ingenious plotter who never repeated a plot and found new situations to make the character quirks fresh.

Joe Barone said...

I came to Donald Westlake after I started this blog. Talk about being behind! He is a wonderful writer.

Naomi Johnson said...

I only discovered Westlake a few years ago myself. Fortunately, there is still much of his oeuvre I have yet to read, although I did finish the Dortmunder series.

Anonymous said...

Have you read Snowbird's Blood? It's great. Too bad it was the last book he wrote.

Joe Barone said...

No, I have not read this. I looked it up. It is about senior citizens in Florida. It sounds very different. I may read it.