Top of the Heap

Ever since I’ve gotten my Sony 505, I’ve been doing some mad reading. I’ve also been doing some mad neglecting, most namely in the Hard Case Crime (HCC) series.

So I made myself a promise, for every book I read on the 505, I read a HCC book until I’m all caught up. I don’t know how long I’ll keep at it, but since I tend to not like reading back-to-back-to-back HCC novels, this is doable. In addition, I’m starting from the first HCC release and reading them order (those I haven’t read yet).

So, first one up is Top of the Heap, which is book three in the series.

The book follows detective Donald Lam as he provides what at first seems to be a harmless alibi for John Carver Billings II, but as things unravel, Lam finds that he has been played. Of course that doesn’t sit too well with Lam, and he goes on a mission to figure out why Billings set him up.

Top of the Heap is bittersweet. It starts off grand, with that pulp fiction prose that I love so much, but by the third act, when the mystery is coming unraveled, it’s nothing but exposition. In these types of books, it seems that exposition is to be expected at some point or another, but here it seems to go on and on and on. First Lam explains to one person what exactly happened. Then the coppers pull him in, and he explains the entire thing again, this time adding a little bit more. Then a third party is notified and it starts all over again. By the time the third (or was it the fourth?) explanation came around, I was weary of the whole damn thing.

Best known for his “Perry Mason” novels, Gardner certainly does have the snap and wit for the dime novel, but this first introduction for me was pretty underwhelming. Yet I like his style enough to give him another chance, I just hope I’m not spoon fed the entire mystery next time.