Book #9: A Long Time Coming by Aaron Elkins

I haven’t read a mystery in a while, but A Long Time Coming by Aaron Elkins reminds me of some genre truisms: a fast not unpleasant read, the bad guy is someone you know you’ve be previously been introduced to, and a likable protagonist who just happens to be in the right places at the right times to conveniently piece the “whodunnit” together. The protagonist, art curator Val Caruso, manages the start to finish in something like 13 days to take on a personal favor that leads him to uncover an art theft/forgery conspiracy involving a friend, figure out a murder and get himself in personal danger. There really isn’t a lot too it once it’s all laid out.

Which is why it’s a little surprising (to me) that apparently A Long Time Coming is a standalone novel and not part of a series. Elkins certainly could have taken the time to develop the characters and flesh out the world a bit more. I certainly would have liked to have gotten to know more, for example, about the motorcycle-riding trailer park-owning fashion designer in Italy, as well as the nominal love interest lawyer who failed the bar exam.

This is the only book by Aaron Elkins that I can remember reading. He clearly knows the world, just as he clearly knows his way around the page. It does feel a little bit like he’s (albeit competently) going through the motions. (I’ve gotten this kind of feeling more than once from James Patterson.) One of the Amazon reviews, which I glanced at after the fact, called the it “ smoothly and stylishly written, mildly pleasant to read, totally forgettable once you close the book.” I would agree with this assessment. I think I will have to seek out one of Elkins’ more celebrated novels to try to get a better sense of him as a writer.