I've read three books by Joseph Kanon now (just finished Los Alamos) and I definitely have a grip on the template. Tough sort of guy, maybe a journalist, gets involved in both a murder investigation and some romantic entanglements - usually with a woman who seems like trouble but is ultimately worth it. World War II and communism are involved. The murder is solved, and along the way deeper themes are explored (the responsibility of the scientists in the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, for example).
I like them. Is it bad when books are formulaic? Maybe it's not the sign of the most daring, original, wonderful books (Los Alamos is no Cloud Atlas, which I still can't get out of my head) but that doesn't mean they can't be fun. Fun isn't even the right word, since reading about the destruction of Berlin in Kanon's The Good German is certainly not fun. Maybe the word I want is worthwhile. Plus, after a chapter or two to gain momentum, they're nicely un-put-down-able.
As soon as I find my stupid camera cord I'll post pictures of the blouse I finished. It's the pink, floral 1930s one, and I adore it. It's lovely. I also created a tank top out of a shiny, dressy blouse that a friend gave me, an undershirt of my boyfriend's, and some black scrap fabric. It has a few more flaws than the pink blouse, but I'm proud of it since I built it myself, without a pattern.