Top positive review
16 people found this helpful
McGrave: All cop. All man. All trouble. All the time.
on February 3, 2012
Jonathan Franzen would hate this book. It was written on a computer, probably with Internet access, and published on the Kindle. According to the Oprah-approved author, that means it's not literature and not meant to last.
He's right. "McGrave" is what you would get if a Hollywood screenwriter rammed together John McClain from "Die Hard" and McBain from "The Simpsons" and played it straight. Imagine the comedy stylings of Leslie Nielsen from "Airplane!" and you get the idea.
(Admission: I've reviewed Lee's books before, and we've exchanged emails. Another admission: I bought this book. Draw your own conclusions. Now back to your regularly scheduled review.)
McGrave is a cop who disaster attaches to like a limpet. He is the ultimate Ugly American. He's direct. He curses. He hates foreign food.
"McGrave" was designed like a high-performance car, intended to go fast and scare hell outta people, and Goldberg's an old-school TV producer and the author of the "Monk" novels, so he knows how to design a story. There's detection scenes and chase scenes and clashes with authority, and McGrave rumbles through it all knowing exactly what to do next. He doesn't hate authority or paperwork or his bosses. What he does hate is crime and criminals with a childlike simplicity that would be endearing except to those who get in his way, especially on the road.
So here's the story: McGrave goes after a ring of thieves, breaks up a home invasion and makes an enemy out of the Kraut ringleader. McGrave tracks the guy to Berlin, and there's more detection and another car chase and lots of action.
That's it. "McGrave" is a novella and designed to be a fast read. The verbs are active and in the present tense:
"Impressive, isn't it?" Russel says.
McGrave squints at it. "What is it?"
"The newest addition to Wallengren's collection. A three-thousand-year-old chamber pot."
"So it's a toilet," McGrave says.
"McGrave" is loud and dumb and brash and I read it on my Kindle over the course of the evening: between sorting and filing papers in the basement office, talking with the wife in the kitchen, at the dinner table (we all read at the table). I finished it in bed, and I felt like a kid again, reading the Hardy Boys and wanting the next book.
So Franzen is right: "McGrave" is not literature. But guess what? Literature doesn't always last. But there's always room in the world for a good story.