ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



January 2024



Death of a Bookseller by Alice Slater

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People who don’t need to like … any of the characters in the book?

In a nutshell:
Roach is a true-crime-loving bookseller. Laura is also a bookseller, new to the same shop. She writes poetry somewhat related to true crime.

Worth quoting:

Why I chose it:
Strong ratings online in this genre.

This book is entertaining, but I found the character development lacking. Not that the characters weren’t developed, it’s just the direction they went in. Let me explain.

This book is told from both Roach and Laura’s perspectives. We start off from Roach’s perspective, and she’s waiting in line for entry to a live taping of a true crime podcast. Two women hosting, so something modeled after My Favorite Murder or perhaps Wine and Crime. Roach is sort of a walking caricature. She uses this absurd phrase – ‘normies’ – to refer to people who are different from her. Do people really speak like that? Are they so insecure in their own originality that they have to label people who are different from them? Seems bizarre. (Especially after I looked up the etymology and apparently it used to be what disabled people used to refer to people without disabilities, which actually makes sense to me.) She is described a few times as not having washed hair, of smelling unclean, of putting on dirty clothes. I understand there probably are people out there like this, but it all feels a bit like an exercise in a creative writing class to create the most stereotypical ‘alternative’ person out there.

Then there is Laura. Laura is basically the polar opposite of Roach. She is a poet, a writer, wears matching tights and berets, carries a tote bag with a literary quote on it. I’m not sure if we were meant to prefer Laura to Roach, but also I found her to be written as deeply unappealing. We later learn about some trauma she has experienced in her life, and some current challenges she is facing, but she is so judgmental, so fake, and so sad.

Roach tries desperately to be friends with Laura after she learns that Laura writes ‘found poetry’ based on true crime books. But Laura hates true crime, while Roach loves it. Things move from there as Roach tries harder and harder to get Laura’s attention, and Laura tries harder to stay away.

I did appreciate the discussion of true crime and the current obsession with it. How, especially with more modern crimes, podcasters and their fans often seem to forget about the very real victims involved. Same with some true crime books. In the past I listened to a couple true crime podcasts, but not anymore, and I appreciated the discussion about it from Laura’s perspective, though I felt that Roach’s was intentionally absurd so as to make any defense of true crime writing and discussion seem negative by default.

As I said, I found the book to be an easy and engaging read, but it wasn’t one of my favorites.

Minor spoiler here for those who have read the book:
I was wondering, did anyone else find Laura’s reaction to the Roach poem a bit hypocritical? Just as Laura takes (uncredited) lines from true crime books and puts them together and claims them as her own found poetry, Roach took Laura’s poem and added to it to make it her own work. Obviously for very different reasons, but it felt a bit rich for Laura to claim her work is fair use but Roach’s was plagiarism.

What’s next for this book:
Nothing for me – I think I’m good.

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