23 December 2012

Question about Rendell

Anyone have an opinion about Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh?

Marilyn Stasio, who reviews mysteries for the New York Times, made Rendell's new book, The Child's Child, sound intriguing.
“Subtle” is an inadequate word for Ruth Rendell. So are “crafty,” “cunning,” “clever” and “sly.” Although these are accurate descriptions of her confounding technique, a better word would be “surprising.” Whatever it is you might think Rendell is up to, especially when she’s writing as Barbara Vine — that’s not it...

Write and tell this little bit of the world what you think about Rendell/Vine's books.

21 December 2012

It's not nice to fool an old man

A month ago I picked up Christopher Fowler's Ten Second Staricase at the Northfield Library. It's subtitled "A Bryant & May Mystery." Reading it was a confusing and slow project.

I suppose I shouldn't have begun with the fourth "Bryant & May Mystery." There were lots of ways that I was adrift from the first page. I should have guessed since the two characters of the subtitle were the heads of London's Peculiar Crimes Unit.

My other problem was that I kept trying to read it in the late afternoons and evenings. The times of day, the confusion, and the writing kept abetting my fatigue. I seemed unable to read for more than a quarter hour without falling asleep. No wonder it took me a month to finish the book.

Throw in a lot of London mythology, a bit of vampire lore, and some cultural history about the "Highwayman," and I was getting less entertained. And that, after all, is a main reason for reading a book like this.

The investigative process used by these agents of the Peculiar Crimes Unit are anything but normal. But that didn't help me since much of it was based on following clues based on arcane London history. The plot is ridiculous. The cops are too weird to admire. The other characters are enigmas and even less interesting than the detectives.

Merry Christmas from Bryant & May
I finished because I hoped the ending would make sense out of some of the rest. It didn't really help.

Have you read any Christopher Fowler or Ten Second Staircase? What did you think?  

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Dan Conrad wrote: "I don't know if it was Ten Second Staircase, but I once began a Fowler book thinking stories related to something called "The Peculiar Crimes Unit" -- and in London -- would just have be interesting.

"Wrong. I think I got about a quarter of the way through and gave it up."

02 December 2012

Short and sort of non-fiction

While at the Northfield Library, I picked up another book by Karin Fossum. This one is The Water's Edge. The primary characters are, once again, Inspector Konrad Sejer and his partner, Jacob Skarre. They're smart and careful cops.

 Christian Skolmen as Jacob Skarre
and Bjørn Sundquist as Konrad Sejer on Norwegian TV

I've thought that a couple of Fossum's books were very good and a couple others weren't. This one borders on good from the not so good side. Luckily, it's short -- about half the size of most of the mystery novels I read.

Also, I want partial credit for reading non-fiction (see previous entry). The primary crime in this story involves paedophilia. I'm glad the crime is neither graphically described nor discussed at length. However, Fossum obviously did a lot of research on paedophilia in order to write the book and she passes on what she learned through the voice of Jacob Skarre. Skarre "does" his research in the course of investigating this case, and he passes on what he learns about profiling paedophiles, about paedophilia in the USA, and about the liklihood of serial killings. All that telling does offer some education to Inspector Sejer and the reader, but it's not fiction. Nor does it move the story along.

As in other of Fossum's books, much of the investigation takes place off stage (off the page?). It reminds me of the handy partners that Detective Kate Beckett has on the TV series, Castle. Beckett says, "You guys and the uniforms go canvas the neighborhood and find out if anyone saw anything." And magically in the next scene, the partners show up with the results of the canvas. Well, Sejer and Skarre have a good crew at their police station who carry out much of the investigation off the page. That creates some complications for the main investigators in this story, but it does mean that little happens during the course of the story telling -- and that's been true in others of Fossum's books.

That inaction works pretty well because Fossum tells the main story and two or three side stories in first person narratives. She's done that in other books too. One of those side stories is intriguing -- especially at the end. Intriguing enough that I wish it had been more fully told.  

The Water's Edge was pretty good. Not great. Certainly not as good as Fossum's best (He Who Fears the Wolf or Black Seconds ).

Have you read The Water's Edge?  

Write and tell this little bit of the world what you thought of it.