Where Honesty Never Ends.
The Charmed Life by John Miles
Genre: Historical mystery
Note: Copies of this work were provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Hello everyone! Welcome to The Review Board. Today we discuss The Charmed Life by John Miles. Before going any further, let’s take a look at the blurb.
Blurb: Marysville, California in 1948 has most anything you want: booze, dames, gambling. But as private eye Gene Harlow and his new pal, Police Lieutenant Pinkton Finkelstein soon learn there is a lot more to the story such as: a serial killer on the loose, a lady who is sure that her husband is about to kill her and even a suspected soviet spy. They are all on a collision course and in the end who will live and who will die?
Poor, poor Gene Harlow…
“The Charmed Life” by John Miles is a story about Private Eye Gene Harlow, a hard-luck kind of gent in 1950’s Marysville, California. He is the type of guy who seems to have a knack for getting bopped in the mouth.
Whether chasing a perpetrator or in a car accident, his mouth felt the brunt of every end result.
We start our story with Gene and his adventures at the dentist. His teeth are not in the best shape, and needs a lot of work. There seems to be a comedic recurring theme: Gene Harlow gets dental work, only to get molly-wopped on the EXACT spot when the dental work occurred.
These 3 cases and more, as well as Gene’s penchant for getting beat down on the mouth at the MOST inopportune time, keeps our private eye busy throughout Mr. John Miles’ story.
This book has its serious tones as well as its comedic tones. Serious tones, for example, when it came to the case of the missing daughter. Some items were discussed in this particular case, and they are not meant for a young audience (hopefully, none were involved in things of that nature).
Comedics coming in with his interactions with his dentist who thinks Gene swallows or swallowed his crowns, an unfriendly nurse at the hospital who would much rather be elsewhere with her less than pleasant bedside manner, and Gene’s idea to use his secretary to do a bit of recon possibly with a bulky tape recorder as he asked “When would they make those things smaller?”.
The balance is pretty good with these two spectrums in play. Gene’s fist-to-mouth action along with his smart-ass attitude compliments his compassion.
Page 70 use the word “day” twice in a row:
“She hesitated and said that his schedule was full for the next day day.“
In addition to this, “The Charmed Life” is campy as in predictable. No true twists, turns, or surprises. I read the scenarios, and I see the end result before I end the sentence. That is heartbreaking to see.
Survey Says: 8 out of 10 stars.
Small hiccups aside, “The Charmed Life” is a fun read. Following the adventures of our private eye as he sorts through not only the cases placed in front of him, but throat/swallowed crowns and lacking love life as well, it is a decent read to have on hand.
Admittedly, it is going to be a struggle to get all of my thoughts together on The Charmed Life, yet I will do my best without making this review too long.
Let me start with what the author did right in this work.
(1) I appreciated the small town like visual of the cover—it embodied a bit of a mysterious air.
(2) It was nice how the historical feel was implemented, although it was more present in dialog than narrative.
Okay, now for what could have used improvement.
(1) Whose speak is this anyway?
In The Charmed Life, the story begins with Gene being the primary narrator but as the tale goes on, it soon has different narrators—from the suspected Soviet spy, to the Soviet group, to the serial killer, to the old couple selling the house, and many more. The later part of the novel caused confusion because there was no smooth transition between when one person was talking and the next person. If this was to be a work where numerous characters were talking, then the very first portion of the book should have been that way as well. Or, if Gene was going to be the main person speaking, let him be the main one throughout, as opposed to intermingling narrative style.
(2) Mystery or satire?
For me, a good mystery is one that gets the mind going: where the reader is playing the guessing game as to the who, what’s happening, and the why. Sure, there can be some silly moments here and there, but not so many where one is wondering if he picked up a dark comedy instead of a mystery read. I mean, how many times can one be hit on the same side of the mouth and consequently, where one had dental work? Even though the absurdity of Gene’s assaults began to wane halfway through the book, I found myself more engaged in if Gene was going to get injured again, as opposed to the major events outlined in The Charmed Life.
(3) Speaking of mystery, where is it?
Remember the whole guessing game thing I mentioned? How can one play along as an investigator if all of the information is told to the reader? I could not understand why it was necessary for the serial killer to have a voice? What would have been the crime in letting our imaginations go wild? Every portion where the action should have been “shown” it was “told”, which took the mystery out of the read.
(4) Less words, same story
The key to figuring out if you have too much filler, “or unnecessary portions”, is this: If x amounts of words are eliminated, would you still have the same story? If the answer to that is “yes”, then one should decide if blow-by-blow detail is needed for every single portion, for every single person. In The Charmed Life, there was an overkill of filler information. Over half of the content could have been removed and the major conflict would have still been addressed.
(5) Where complexity is predictable
I admit, that it could be just me, but I found some of the “bad guys” in The Charmed Life to be quite commonplace and it was way too easy for me to figure out what happened next. The serial killer I found to be a complete joke. I felt like sending that guy to take some lessons from Dexter Morgan … that is just how much amusement he generated. Even the twist at the end with a certain female didn’t surprise me, although the author took entirely too long to circle back to her.
(6) Editing misses (at least in my copy)
In the copy which I received, there were several errors, such as (a) missing words, (b) misspelled words, (c) using one homonym when one meant another. Although it didn’t weigh heavily in my rating, there were enough of them in the work to be noticeable.
**Reminder: It is the responsibility of the author to present us with an updated copy. If not, then we can only go by what is provided to us.**
(7) Lots of repetition
There were lots of repetition in dialog and phrases in The Charmed Life. I’ve read enough “uh” and “fat bastard” to last me for this year, at least. In addition, the thinking segments of certain characters went on for extended periods, slowing down the pace. How many times must one go back and forth on what to do, what to say, and how to act? Not as much as these detectives and bad guys were doing, to be honest.
(8) The ending
For me, the ending felt a bit too rushed as well as convenient. It was almost as if the author forgot he had some conflict opened at the beginning of the book and tied them up in a mad dash towards the end.
Could he have used the lingering spots for a book two? It is possible.
Did the author discover that too much drama had been presented on but decided to push on? Maybe. It sure felt like there was too much to deal with. The serial killer angle would have definitely been more than enough, if executed properly.
Unleashed Verdict: 4 out of 10 Stars
The Charmed Life had the potential to be a great historical mystery, but there was a lack of definite style, character development, and transitional coherence which kept the novel from getting there.
Thank you Mr. Controversy and Ms. No Labels. Let’s go ahead and add up these scores to see our final results.
It looks like “The Charmed Life” has acquired a total sum of 6 TRB Stars. Thank you for visiting. Don’t forget to share, follow and like. Have a wonderful day.