Thursday, December 15, 2011

Too much... something

Too Much Stuff
by Don Bruns

I had been looking forward to reading Too Much Stuff, my introduction to Don Bruns' work. I love both comic novels and treasure hunts, so I thought this would be a sure-fire winner. Ever the optimist, in this case I was mistaken.

Too Much Stuff is, I believe, the fifth sixth novel in Bruns' Stuff series. While it's true that I have not entered this series with the characters' full back stories and histories, I have a very difficult time imagining it would have made a difference in my enjoyment of the novel. The protagonists at the center of the series are 20-somethings Skip Moore and James Lessor. They're high school grads that have been bumbling their way through a series of menial jobs. Now they've decided they're going to be private detectives. They got the licenses and placed the yellow pages ad. This leads to their improbable first job, helping track down a fortune in lost gold in the Florida Keys.

The blurb from Mystery Scene Magazine promised me "witty dialogue and likeable, wacky characters." Well, I suppose that first person narrator Skip was ok, but violent, cop-hating, married woman-chasing James left me rather cold. As for the dialogue, it was about as far from witty as I can imagine. Sophomoric is more like it. In fact, that's really the best description for these two characters. They are so unbelievably unsophisticated (emphasis on the unbelievable) that the prospect of valet parking throws them completely for a loop. I get it that these are working class characters, but, what? They've never seen a movie? I simply don't find stupidity, ignorance, and a lack of sophistication to be a recipe for hilarity. What it is is tiresome.

And perhaps I could have gotten past the cast of not very interesting or likable characters, and the decidedly unfunny comedy, if only there had been a great mystery plot. But the simple truth is, I was bored. The pages plodded, the dénouement was telegraphed, and surprises were rare. It was a short novel, but it was work to get through it.

The publisher recently offered the first novel in this series as a Kindle freebie and I downloaded it, but somehow I doubt I'll be revisiting this series. I'm glad others have enjoyed the novels, and goodness knows that humor is subjective. This stuff, it seems, is not for me.

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