My favorite author in the world can write clunkers, or so it seems. How else to explain why it took 11 days to finish a novel that barely cracks 200 pages?
On a dark and stormy night (literally — that’s how the novel opens), circa 1960, Constance Rattigan bursts through the door of our narrator’s rustic beach house — panicked, incoherent, completely rattled — and tosses two phone books at him. Ominously, some of the names in the phone books are scratched through, and some are circled. Those scratched-through names are already dead. Those circled, our narrator surmises, soon will be. But Constance is gone too quickly to be questioned, and thus our narrator sets off on his quest to (a) solve the mystery of the circled and scratched-through names and (b) find Constance. This quest takes him from his peaceful retreat in Venice Beach to the rattletrap Grauman’s Chinese Theater projection room, to the depths of the storm drains running beneath the City of Angels, and many odd points between.
Along the way, our narrator picks up various cohorts, including a police officer, a film producer, and a blind man, and involves each of them in his quixotic search. Copious quantities of alcoholic beverages are consumed, clues are gathered, and Exclamation! Points! That! Don’t! Make! Sense! Pepper! All! Dialogue! (Admittedly, as much as I usually admire the man’s writing, this is a Bradbury trademark that I’ve never liked.) All is revealed in an homage to Agatha Christie locked room mystery, with our narrator as Hercule Poirot and all the players gathered in one room for the dénouement.
The pacing is breathless and breakneck, and much of the story seems to rely on a subtext that I just couldn’t get. I will give The Great Man this much credit: flashes of his customary brilliance shine through here and there, in character descriptions, in some of our narrator’s internal musings, and especially in the “locked-room” bit near the end of the story. Mostly though, I was thoroughly confused.
Thus only two stars for “It was OK.” And I can’t tell you how much it pains me to give my beloved Bradbury only two stars.
P.S. In reading through some of the other reviews of Let’s All Kill Constance, it appears this is the third book in a series, which may explain why I was left scratching my head at times.