Tuesday, August 14, 2012

book review: Don't Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman

The backstory: Don't Ever Get Old, the first mystery novel by Daniel Friedman, was one of my book club's July picks.

The basics: Buck Schatz is 88 and a retired Memphis cop. When one of his old war friends dies, he learns his enemy from the war may have escaped Germany with a significant amount of gold. He and his grandson set off to find the man and steal the gold.

My thoughts: Buck is a unique character. He's getting old, as he tells the reader frequently. He lacks a filter, which made this novel amusing, if sometimes crass.Initially, I appreciated and enjoyed Buck's perspective:
"I’ve been around eighty-eight years, Detective, and I’ve found that it’s always a good time to be a wiseass."
As the novel went on, however, his memory problems, aversion to technology and medical ailments became trite and annoying.

I'm of two minds about this novel, as I did enjoy the experience of reading most of it. Hearing Buck's stories about the war were intriguing. The notion of a Nazi war criminal successfully hiding with a large amount of gold is the perfect blend of possible and unlikely. As Buck tracked him, I could not put the book down. With his history as a cop, this novel didn't initially feel like a cozy. I enjoyed Buck's grandson, who used technology in ways Buck couldn't understand.

For most of the novel, I enjoyed it. The more I read, however, the more the once original characters and ideas became obvious, pedestrian, and, in my opinion, neither realistic nor entertaining.

Favorite passage:  "In their minds, people’s boring, puerile problems always take on Shakespearean proportions."

The verdict: While I enjoyed reading Don't Ever Get Old, ultimately the payoff didn't quite work for me. The mystery is simultaneously dark and comedic, but by the novel's end these two competing moods felt out of balance to me. Overall, it was a quick, amusing read, but it fell short of the novel's premise and my early expectations.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: May 22, 2012 
Source: publisher via NetGalley

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Don't Ever Get Old from the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

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  1. Hm, interesting. Not sure it'll race to the top of my list, but it's kind of interesting sounding...

    1. I enjoyed it while I read it, and it was a fast read (it took me less than a day). If you're in the right mood, it could be just right, but it fell short of great for me.

  2. When character's plights and stories start to feel pedestrian, then there is something wrong with the book, I think. While I think that the foundations of this one sound really solid, it seems obvious that it couldn't withstand the pressure that the author tried to imbue the story with. Very nicely nuanced review today. I got a lot out of it.


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