Bob Forward's "The Owl" detective series.

Robert Forward, "Scarlet Serenade"

2005-02-22 · in Books, The Owl · 147 words

The second book in Bob Forward's Owl series, about a Los Angeles private detective with a fearsome (and carefully-maintained) reputation and a medical condition that prevents him from sleeping. This time, Alexander L'Hiboux foils a kidnapping almost by accident, and finds himself caught in an intricate tangle as he tries to protect the girl he's rescued and work out what's going on.

Overall, not as good as the first book. There's a lot more "action-movie" stuff in this one that's rather less believeable than the first was; L'Hiboux's a lot more interesting when he's being stealthy (or not doing anything at all, or more generally in control of the situation), and this time it feels like he's running from one firefight to the next. It's not an especially bad book, but I found myself mentally rolling my eyes rather more often that I'd have liked.

Robert Forward, "The Owl"

2005-01-27 · in Books, The Owl · 289 words

It was, of course, a moment fraught with opportunity for a cool and casual remark on my part. Then, of course, would come the whirling, the gaping, and the attempt to simultaneously fire and sound the alarm. All of which would be foiled by the hero's well-placed punch. Mike Hammer would have done it. James Bond would have done it. John Wayne would have done it.

The Owl just slugged the man down from behind.

Extraordinary private detective Alexander "The Owl" L'Hiboux, unable to sleep owing to a medical condition and living on the streets of Los Angeles, is called in when a successful businessman's daughter is brutally attacked. A modern-day hard-boiled detective story, we watch from L'Hiboux's perspective as he solves the case.

Forward has clearly put some effort into making his hero a believable character. L'Hiboux is a survivor, but that's because he's protected by body armour, a fibreglass hat, bulletproof sunglasses and a healthy paranoia — and, as he says, Mercy's not one of my strong points. It's entertaining to see that L'Hiboux puts a lot of effort into constructing The Owl's reputation: there's a great scene where he's reading in a university library, arguing with himself over whether to head out into the rain to continue his investigation (he does, of course).

Only a couple of minor complaints: so much effort's put into L'Hiboux's character that everyone else in the story feels somewhat flat in comparison, and some of the action's a bit darker than I'd like. That aside, this is an entertaining and well-written mystery with a very strong main character; recommended, and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel.

(The book's sadly out of print; my copy came second-hand via Amazon Marketplace.)