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Walla Walla Suite: (A Room with No View) A Novel Paperback – September 18, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hard-boiled, fast-talking Quinn, a Seattle cop turned PI, faces new challenges in her edgy second outing (after Argula's Edgar-nominated 2006 debut, Homicide My Own). Quinn has scored a job with Vincent Ainge, a mitigation investigator who helps keep convicted serial killers off death row. She's also taken on her first case as a PI: finding Eileen Jones, a popular, attractive 18-year-old who vanished from her job in Vincent's office building. Vincent's attraction to Abby Jones, Eileen's mother, interferes more than it helps with Quinn's investigation, but his connections become invaluable when Eileen's body is found, and Roger Merck, a disturbed man with a record of sexual assault, is charged with the murder and due to be executed if convicted. Quinn, suspicious of Merck's sudden confession, digs deeper and learns the shocking, brutally poignant truth. Quinn sometimes comes off too tough and cynical, but Argula takes care to show her emotional side as well, creating an impressively well-rounded and modern heroine. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Picture this. Instead of sprinkling sand in your eyes
the Sandman gives you a shot of liquid fire in the ass. Da
frick.
Lying there in the raw, middle of the night, sticking to
the sheets, my body was self-basting, my skin tingling like
a Christmas goose. Not enough? My head was on a countdown
to blow up because some Indians on the street below
were beating tribal drums and one of them was torturing a
tribal chant. Woi Yesus.
I can’t sleep all that well these days, not since losing the
company of someone else in the house, that someone else
having been my husband, Connors, who finally did what I
long expected he would do: leave me for Esther, his pharmacist’s
assistant. I should care.
When you blow Spokane you can blow it off big, like
for LA or Miami or New York, or you can leave small, like
for Missoula or Seattle. I left small, but that’s mostly because
I wanted to leave fast. Funny, because I had pretty
much made up my mind that I would never leave the place.
Not that I ever liked it that much. In fact, I didn’t like it at
all, but I had settled in, at least for this lifetime. That was
before Connors let his cock run away with his conscience.
So I bitch-slapped the city and took it on the arfy-darfy to
the upper left-hand corner of the map. Discovering that
my husband was bumping uglies with another woman,
younger and well oiled, catapulted me to the nearest place
large enough to lose myself in, Seattle. Never went back,
never going back.
I peeled myself off the bed and moved like a human
heat wave to the living room window. On the way I passed
by the mirrored wall that still can make me jump, thinking
I’ve seen an intruder. Middle of the night, the light, or lack
of it, was in my favor. I couldn’t see the veins in my legs, or
notice the jiggling parts. Not that I looked that bad, for
a woman my age. I sighed. I was taking me as I was becoming.
And the hot flashes were killing me.
Both the drum and the chant stopped abruptly, but I
was this far so I went to the window anyway. By the time I
reached it I was wide awake, and they started up all over
again.
I was living alone in a one-bedroom apartment on the
eighth floor, Pioneer Square. I’d been there for six months,
not all of them good.
The sound of the drum and the chant could have just as
easily been coming from inside the room. From inside my
head, da frick.
I slid open the window. The night was chilly and damp
against my burning face and body, which I was now flashing
to Yesler Way. I should care. This time of night, there
Picture this. Instead of sprinkling sand in your eyes
the Sandman gives you a shot of liquid fire in the ass. Da
frick.
Lying there in the raw, middle of the night, sticking to
the sheets, my body was self-basting, my skin tingling like
a Christmas goose. Not enough? My head was on a countdown
to blow up because some Indians on the street below
were beating tribal drums and one of them was torturing a
tribal chant. Woi Yesus.
I can’t sleep all that well these days, not since losing the
company of someone else in the house, that someone else
having been my husband, Connors, who finally did what I
long expected he would do: leave me for Esther, his pharmacist’s
assistant. I should care.
When you blow Spokane you can blow it off big, like
for LA or Miami or New York, or you can leave small, like
for Missoula or Seattle. I left small, but that’s mostly because
I wanted to leave fast. Funny, because I had pretty
much made up my mind that I would never leave the place.
Not that I ever liked it that much. In fact, I didn’t like it at
all, but I had settled in, at least for this lifetime. That was
before Connors let his cock run away with his conscience.
So I bitch-slapped the city and took it on the arfy-darfy to
the upper left-hand corner of the map. Discovering that
my husband was bumping uglies with another woman,
younger and well oiled, catapulted me to the nearest place
large enough to lose myself in, Seattle. Never went back,
never going back.
I peeled myself off the bed and moved like a human
heat wave to the living room window. On the way I passed
by the mirrored wall that still can make me jump, thinking
I’ve seen an intruder. Middle of the night, the light, or lack
of it, was in my favor. I couldn’t see the veins in my legs, or
notice the jiggling parts. Not that I looked that bad, for
a woman my age. I sighed. I was taking me as I was becoming.
And the hot flashes were killing me.
Both the drum and the chant stopped abruptly, but I
was this far so I went to the window anyway. By the time I
reached it I was wide awake, and they started up all over
again.
I was living alone in a one-bedroom apartment on the
eighth floor, Pioneer Square. I’d been there for six months,
not all of them good.
The sound of the drum and the chant could have just as
easily been coming from inside the room. From inside my
head, da frick.
I slid open the window. The night was chilly and damp
against my burning face and body, which I was now flashing
to Yesler Way. I should care. This time of night, there
was nobody there anyway besides those three drunken Indians
under the pergola, sprawled all over the bench, their
legs splayed this way and that way, gathering themselves
for another run at their fading memories. Have at it, boys.
Nobody sleeps anymore. It’s a national epidemic.
I’d noticed them before, down there, encamping for the
night, unwilling to check into one of the missions, or rejected,
just as likely, and they were never what you’d call
quiet, but this was the first time I heard them singing back
to their roots.
The fat one was beating on an overturned city garbage
can with a stick. The other fat one had a stick, too, and he
beat it against an empty Office Depot box. The skinny
one was the singer, who was most frustrated because he
couldn’t get it right. Empty forties lay scattered at their feet.
“No, that ain’t it,” said the skinny singer. “How the
fuck does it go?”
Their voices carried easily in the still night.
They put their heads together and concentrated, their
baseball caps turned backward, their foreheads almost
touching. They wore sneakers, and jeans, and though it
was cold all they had, the fat ones, were hooded sweatshirts;
the singer, a light Windbreaker.
The three beered-up tribals started again, first the ancient
drumbeat and then the eerie high-pitched chant that
made the hair on the nape of my neck rise up.
Again the singer stumbled. “That ain’t it, goddammit.”
He was hard on himself. Maybe he had moved too far in
one direction ever to go back and retrieve something left
behind as worthless then, now for some reason damn valuable.
The totem pole loomed behind them on the cobblestones
in front of the Pioneer Building, commemorating
the settlement that once thrived on that spot, where the ancestors
of these three lived off the bounty of the bay and
knew how to sing the songs.
The three drunken descendants of those proud and
persevering people swatted one another with their caps to
remember how the song should be sung. They tried again
and this time the singer used his hand to beat the box along
with the fat one, to spook out the rhythm that hid from
them, to hook back the thing that was lost and floating out
there. This time when the singer began to chant, I just
knew he had it at last. It filled me with dread and excitement.
They’ve nailed it! They’ve tapped into their own genetic
memories! They remember!
Shit they did. It all fell apart again, sunk under its own
psychic weight. The singer looked whipped. I could feel his
pain and disappointment all the way up on the eighth floor.
He kicked the garbage can and sent it flying. “Fuck! Fuck
it all!”
They trudged unsteadily up First Avenue, but one of
the drummers staggered back and slung the garbage can
over his shoulder. He hurried to catch up with the other
two. The singer turned to him and yelled, “Whaddafuck?”
“I’m bringin’ the drum.”
“That ain’t no drum. That’s nothin’ but a fuckin’ garbage
can!”
The drum bearer put it down and examined it. The
other two kept on plodding up First Avenue. This lagging
drummer was slow to leave behind his garbage can, if
that’s what it was instead of a drum. For a brief moment
there, for a measure, it was a drum, and he was brave. In
the end, though, he left it overturned in the middle of the
sidewalk.
A solitary figure crossed First Avenue at Marion to
avoid the three drunks.
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 271 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (September 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345498429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345498427
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,151,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Camera-shy Anne Argula published her first Quinn mystery, "Homicide My Own," a story about a cop who solves his own murder from a previous life, with an independent publisher previously known for poetry and literary essays. When the book was nominated for an Edgar Award, she was pulled out of the shadows, reluctantly.

Since then, many have claimed that her three novels (and another in the works) were written by her mentor and sometimes nemesis, author/screenwriter Darryl Ponicsan. An ongoing investigation of the two writers unfolds on the website www.litpair.com, which the author urges her readers to boycott.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
Finally...a new series with promise! Quinn is a 3-dimensional character who practically bounces off the page. I love her combination of cynical wisdom -- product of her experience as a cop and her divorce -- and very human weaknesses. She's very open about her hot flashes but not to the point where we wonder if we've stumbled on a women's magazine by mistake. She's just seedy enough to render homage to the classic PI literature -- living in Pioneer Square, struggling for clients -- but driving a nice car (a "divorce present").

Quinn meets some interesting people: Arnie, who runs a mysterious business with three "angels" helping him; Bernard the ticket scalper; and Vincent, her special buddy who fears he's getting Alzheimers. She gets involved in a plausible way with the murder of a sweet young girl, someone who worked in the same building. And she more or less stumbles on the murderer and brings him to justice, though not without some tragic consequences along the way.

True mystery aficionados will guess the ending because Argula follows the conventions of detective stories. That's not a negative at all. I admire authors who treat their readers fairly.

I also like Argula's writing: enough surprises to avoid standard cliches but not so many that we're forced to stop and notice. Good mystery writing is almost invisible: we're engrossed with the story, as we should be.

Since I live in Seattle, I appreciate the lovingly detailed setting: Eilliott Bay Bookstore, Pioneer Square, rain, and seasons. I must say I haven't noticed the Pacific NW tendency to politely avoid digging into people's backgrounds, but I'll pay more attention next time.

Just two quibbles. Quinn remains the only fully developed character, and easily the only sympathetic character.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on September 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
After her husband Connor dumped her for his younger office assistant, Quinn left Spokane to start over in Seattle. The retired police officer becomes a private investigator though her caseload is slim to none except for what mitigation investigator Vincent Ainge sends her way. In the building where they both work is a poster for a missing eighteen year old woman Eileen Jones who also worked there. Unable to resist and besides needing to cool down from her latest hot flashes, Quinn visits the place where Eileen was working when she vanished, Promotion in Motion. She sees four desks three occupied by young beautiful women. She asks a few questions when the owner Arnie Stimick steps inside and asks who she is. She explains and they chat; he hires her to find Eileen.
Quinn visits Eileen's roommate Darla, but the missing girl's boyfriend Guy is there too. Both say Eileen is a great person with no enemies. Quinn next visits Eileen's divorced mom Abby, whose ex-husband lives in Hawaii. Abby looks like she has not slept in ages, but offers nothing new as she insists her daughter had no enemies. Quinn learns they have found Eileen's corpse. She visits an upset Arnie who retains her to find the killer. Not long afterward police sergeant Beckham announces they caught the killer, Randy Merck who was driving Eileen's car. Arnie says Merck must be properly punished so he forms the Friends of Eileen, whose presence will be seen everyday by the jurors while Public Defender Wendy Maron hires Vincent to serve as the mitigation investigator if they lose and Quinn to investigate as needed.

This is a well-written legal thriller with a fascinating refreshing angle that of the mitigation investigator. His investigation is top rate due to the mighty Quinn struggling to make it as a private investigator. However, it is Vincent Ainge the mitigation expert who steals the show. Anne Argula provides a fresh spin to the sub-genre.

Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Bazzett on September 27, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I knew and admired this author in her "previous life." Argula's hot-flashing - and hard-boiled - PI protagonist, Quinn, intimates early on her belief in reincarnation, which goes back (at least) to her previous adventures in "Homicide My Own." That perfect ear for dead-on real dialogue (from that previous life) is still intact, along with a real feel for the seedy-side-of-Seattle setting, making you feel like that fly on the wall in every scene. Both of Argula's books read like skillfully-wrought screenplays (or perhaps TV scripts). My choice for the role of Quinn? Christine Lahti - a thinking-man's babe, particularly for us older guys. Walla Walla Suite will appeal to all fans of the mystery genre, but particularly to older readers, with its oblique references to the 70s and its wry, careworn heroine. As for the almost love interest, Vincent Ainge? Too beautiful. Write on, Ms. Argula. I expect to soon see Quinn mentioned often in the same breath with PI icons like Robicheaux, Scudder and C.W. Sugrhue. - Tim Bazzett, author of the ReedCityBoy trilogy and Love, War & Polio.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gus on October 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
Walla Walla Suite is an excellent and modern take on detective fiction. It has some hard boiled aspects to it, but really it's more of a three minute egg; the core of the novel is soft under the hard exterior. Maybe that's a better explanation of the main character, Quinn, a woman of a certain age whose tough, ex-cop public persona is tempered by a melancholic wisdom. There is a sense of loss surrounding her that is logical considering her history, but she isn't needy. She's cagey and funny and bright.

I don't want to reveal any more about the plot than has been mention above, but, being a big fan of detective novels, especially Laura Lippman and Sara Paretsky--both of whom endorse this book--I really liked this book. I have already recommended it to most of my friends.
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