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Scarlet Thread of Murder Monday

What I've Finished Reading

There is a Tide goes off an interesting deep end: [SPOILER for the entire book]Lynn, the demobbed Wren who is dissatisfied with civilian life, decides to marry the "dangerous and attractive" (if you say so) manipulative brother of the rich uncle's widow, because, like BBC Sherlock's John Watson, she can't handle not living dangerously. Is a legally binding domestic partnership really the best place to keep your personal danger-spring, Lynn? Probably not, but WAIT IT GETS BETTER: Lynn's "safe and lumpish" fiance, who up to now has seemed like a decent enough guy, if a little whiny, suddenly decides to TRY TO KILL LYNN, on the old "if I can't have you no one will" pretext, and confesses to the murder mid-strangle! It turns out it was actually an accident, but still! She's saved only by the appearance of Poirot. Even a clumsy lump like Rowley wouldn't kill someone with Poirot standing right there. I mean, how awkward would that be?

So she decides to marry the guy who literally tried to kill her instead of the guy who is just a plain old ordinarily abusive non-violent criminal, because danger is exciting! so more danger is even more exciting! Lynn, there might be some kind of category error at play here? And when Rowley mopes about being a jail-bird and therefore unsuitable for marriage, Lynn scoffs that accidentally killing a guy and then trying to cover it up is no big deal! and presumably neither is trying to kill her! Because no one ever goes to jail for manslaughter! Or assault! Oh, Lynn. You were never the most convincing character, but I can't help but wish you'd made better choices just the same.


McNally's Gamble (by Lawrence Sanders) is Upper Class Twit Detection in 1990s Florida, sort of. Archy McNally is the character described in a back-cover blurb as "a raffish combination of Bertie Wooster and Nick Charles," and while it isn't the job of back-cover matter to create realistic expectations, I'm afraid that might be a check no man can cash. Archy's all right. He drinks top-shelf liquor by the gallon, likes food, old movies and anachronistic ties in bright colors, and has a natural talent for stumbling over corpses. I'm not the target audience for his jaunty infidelity or the comedic(?) jealousy of his "Latin femme fatale" girlfriend.

Archy's friends, except for the occasional cop, all seem to occupy a pseudo-Wodehousian world of deliberate anachronism (one of his friends has had his Victoria's Secret catalogs bound in vellum). This is sometimes funny but more often I found myself wishing more had been made of the Palm Beach setting outside all those incongruously dark-paneled whiskey libraries.

The mystery is very weak, but the mystery isn't really the point. It's mostly an experiment in voice, so if you like Archy, the book will be enjoyable, and if you don't, it will be extremely dull. I found Archy theoretically entertaining but not completely successful, which landed me somewhere in the middle. There's an instance of the word "snarky," and some very 90s (and tiresome) jokes about "politically correct" euphemisms, and a few other interesting date markers. Though this is not a Cat Mystery, Sanders' author photo shows him cuddling a cat.

What I'm Not Reading

I finally watched the last episode of S3 of Sherlock. Why did it take so long to get to it? Life and other TV got in the way. It was kind of a mess! There was a dog! Some disjointed and spoiler-filled thoughts are here if you want them.

[In helpful list form!]

What I Liked

- Janine!

- every actress, come to think of it. Whoever's in charge of casting has done a great job filling up my screen with women over 30 who have interesting faces.

- Sherlock's dog was a great dog

- Honestly, the whole mind-palace pre-death sequence was probably (almost certainly) overwrought or psychologically nonsensical or something, but I liked it just fine. I've always liked the mind-palace stuff pretty well (right up until the reveal at the end of this episode, but that's another list)

- Sherlock's parents are adorable and Mycroft brings his top-secret government laptop to the breakfast table because why not?

- blackmail guy was creepy

- the theme music is still good

- nice use of deduction text as always

What I Didn't Like

- the entirety of the Janine plot, EXCEPT when she told Sherlock she was going to ditch the beehives; that was gold.

- Lestrade was hardly in it at all and when he was, HIS FOOTBALL MATCH GOT INTERRUPTED by the nonsensical return of Manic Panic Moriarty, my least favorite iteration of Moriarty. Go away, Manic Panic! Go be dead now! Put the match back on! Poor Lestrade. :(

- Ok, I know the improbable resurrection of characters who have no earthly reason not to be dead is a venerable Sherlock Holmes tradition, but THE MATCH >:(

- You know, given my previously-expressed love of Detectives Who Don't Take Care of Themselves, I SHOULD have felt something more than melancholy indifference about Sherlock running around London with a bullet hole in his chest For Great Justice, but instead I just sort of sat there observing my own unexpectedly total dearth of emotional response. "Is it me?" I thought. "Is it the writing? Is it Benedict Cumberbatch's face? Why this strange emptiness where delicious anxiety should be? AM I A SOCIOPATH TOO no that's stupid."

- Same thing with the big Metafictional Emotional Confrontation with Mary in 221B; it ought to have been everything I wanted from this show but somehow it was nothing in particular. Whose fault is that? I don't know

- The sociopath thing is back. Why is it back?

Overall, I haven't been very invested in Sherlock during S3, though I've liked individual scenes quite a lot (my juvenile favorite: Sherlock's thwarted bachelor-party planning and subsequent drunken deduction text in "The Sign of Three"). Maybe that's because I was never all that invested in Sherlock and then the novelty wore off, or maybe the Moffat approach is showing more of its seams over time. Or possibly it just wasn't the best season, who knows?

And why can't Molly be happy? It's just a little detail, but it seems like the writers are constantly kicking her bike over on their way to something else.

I'm still going to watch "The Abominable Bride," though. And s4, maybe, eventually.



What I'm Reading Now



" 'It is simple enough as you explain it,' I said, smiling. 'You remind me of Edgar Allen Poe's Dupin. I had no idea that such individuals did exist outside of stories.'

"Sherlock Holmes rose and lit his pipe. 'No doubt you think that you are complimenting me in comparing me to Dupin,' he observed. 'Now, in my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow. That trick of his of breaking in on his friends' thoughts with an apropos remark after a quarter of an hour's silence is really very showy and superficial. He had some analytical genius, no doubt; but he was by no means such a phenomenon as Poe appeared to imagine.'

" 'Have you read Gaboriau's works?' I asked. 'Does Lecoq come up to your idea of a detective?'

"Sherlock Holmes sniffed sardonically. 'Lecoq was a miserable bungler,' he said, in an angry voice; 'he had only one thing to recommend him, and that was his energy. That book made me positively ill. The question was how to identify an unknown prisoner. I could have done it in twenty-four hours. Lecoq took six months or so. It might be made a text-book for detectives to teach them what to avoid.'

"I felt rather indignant at having two characters whom I had admired treated in this cavalier style. I walked over to the window, and stood looking out into the busy street. 'This fellow may be very clever,' I said to myself, 'but he is certainly very conceited.'"

Sherlock Holmes, the original and still the best. The annotated edition is completely crowded with lengthy, delightfully dorky footnotes. Some of these are descriptions of buildings and streets mentioned in the text, with pictures; some of them are weather reports "proving" that the story took place in 1881 and not 82 as sometimes suggested, quite a lot are fan theories prodding gleefully at all of Conan Doyle's beautiful inconsistencies. (What happened to the bulldog pup that appears in one sentence and never again? Some people theorize that Watson accidentally killed it while moving into 221B, or that it ran off because life with Holmes was too stressful, but that seems unnecessary. Maybe it just led a quiet life and elected to take a nap whenever there was a game afoot).

This edition has also made the iffy decision to print the stories in "chronological" rather than publication order, so the Gloria Scott comes before A Study in Scarlet. Not that it's going to matter much to anyone who would buy a 10lb Annotated Holmes, probably, but Scarlet has such a great introduction to Holmes and Watson, and it's the first, come on. It's been five years since I read it last, so I don't know how/if the Long Mormon Flashback is going to hold up, but we haven't gotten anywhere near it yet. Holmes has just been stabbing his own finger to test his new blood identification process (seriously, Watson, be more excited; THIS IS HUGE) and explaining the importance of keeping one's brain attic free of rubbish information like whether the earth goes around the moon or the sun or whatever.

Even though it was partly ignored and mitigated later, I find that I'm really attached to this early version of Holmes whose ignorance is as breathtaking as his knowledge, because he has Important Work to do and he can't let stupid trivia like "who is Carlyle and why should anyone care" and "does the sun go around the earth or not" steal valuable mental space from all that crime literature and practical chemistry. Fan consensus seems to be that he was just teasing Watson here, but I like to believe the teasing hides a grain of truth: the suggestion that Holmes is a little bit superstitious about the workings of his own mind is too appealing.

There are lots of early and later non-Paget illustrations, including the very first published drawing of Sherlock Holmes, in which he looks remarkably like Data from Star Trek.

What I'm Reading Next

I'm not sure! Maybe Career of Evil, if everyone else in town has finished reading it. Probably Death of a Fool by Ngaio Marsh.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
osprey_archer
Feb. 16th, 2016 12:36 am (UTC)
The ending of There is a Tide sounds unintentionally hilarious, in a very dark humor sort of way. DON'T DO IT, LYNN! Maybe her reasoning is a trifle off what with the lack of oxygen, and once more time has passed from the strangling she'll change her mind?

Also I wouldn't be at all surprised if the writers of Sherlocks wanted their viewers to start wondering "AM I A SOCIOPATH TOO," although I think doing so by making it hard for the viewer to get invested in dramatic situations was probably a poor decision on their part. It fits with their odd sociopathy obsession, though.

Speaking of "chronological" rather than publication order, I own a box set of the Narnia books numbered in chronological order. I couldn't get through them till I read someone online saying that the books are much more agreeable in publication order.
evelyn_b
Feb. 16th, 2016 05:17 am (UTC)
That “chronological” order for Narnia was such a stupid move that I have trouble believing it's real. Even if you had proof that C. S. Lewis wanted "The Magician's Nephew" to be read first, that's still no reason to stamp a (1) on it and hand it to unsuspecting children. It's all wrong!

>:(

It might be meant as a joke for all I can tell, but the ending of There is a Tide is only funny in an abstract way, I think. I didn't laugh, but I did go, "huh, Agatha, are you feeling extra cynical this year? Is this one of the books where you were sick of writing books?" Lynn has plenty of time to recover normal brain functioning before coming back to what's-his-name, too.

Possibly the sociopath thing, like the claim about not caring what the sun does or doesn't go around, is supposed to be read as Sherlock either taking the piss or being irrational about himself, or both. But I was still tired of it from Day One.
liadtbunny
Feb. 16th, 2016 04:05 pm (UTC)
I declared S3 of 'Sherlock' to be emperor's new clothes when I saw it, but everyone else raved over it. So much tiresome.
evelyn_b
Feb. 16th, 2016 04:17 pm (UTC)
That surprises me a little! I've been trying to avoid spoilers, so I haven't seen a lot of reactions, but I would have expected the reviews to be very mixed.
liadtbunny
Feb. 17th, 2016 03:23 pm (UTC)
I guess nobody wanted to squash anyone's squee or be beat up for not worshiping it.
a_phoenixdragon
Feb. 17th, 2016 01:57 am (UTC)
*HUGS*
scripsi
Feb. 18th, 2016 07:48 am (UTC)
Lynn is the reason I rarely re-read this one. I can buy she's a trill-seeker and I believe there was an actual problem for people who had been in WWII- they had got used to the thrill and found normal life boring. But I can't stomach her decision to stay with the man who tried to murder her. Argh, argh, argh.
And I feel really sorry for poor Rosaleen who must be one of Christie’s most innocent victims.


You sum up my feelings for McNally very well. His character is moderately amusing and I enjoy the food talk, but well, there are so many stereotypes. And if you read more of them, you’ll realise that there is absolutely no character development at all, which I find really boring. I also dislike the way his girlfriend is portrayed.

And indeed, why can’t Molly be happy!
evelyn_b
Feb. 18th, 2016 04:30 pm (UTC)
Poor Rosaleen. :(

Everything about McNally's girlfriend (and the other girl whose paintings he lied about liking so he could sleep with) was basically insufferable. The girlfriend sticks around because she doesn't exist outside of Archy's mind; that's the only conclusion I can draw from the evidence provided.

Molly needs to find herself a better show. Maybe a nice traditional procedural where her work can be appreciated.
scripsi
Feb. 19th, 2016 06:20 am (UTC)
The girlfriend sticks around because she doesn't exist outside of Archy's mind; that's the only conclusion I can draw from the evidence provided.

You know, that sounds very plausible. I think she only ever interact with other people in the very first book, but after that she's clearly just a figment of his imagination! :D
lost_spook
Feb. 18th, 2016 01:10 pm (UTC)
:lol; I was waiting for you to get to that ending! It is truly bizarre. (Although isn't he called Rowley, not Crowley, despite his murderous habits?)

And the US has renamed yet another Ngaio Marsh, although I would have thought Off With His Head was more exciting than Death of a Fool.
evelyn_b
Feb. 18th, 2016 04:00 pm (UTC)
You're totally right! I'll fix it. I don't know why I mixed up the letters of his first and last name and didn't even notice. Rowley Cloade! murdering his way to domestic felicity, despite the disruptions of the Royal Navy et al.. Even though I suspected him of the murder of "Arden" for most of the book, I was not at all prepared for the rest of that plot twist.

Oh, US publishers! What silly thing will you do next? "Americans won't buy a book that doesn't have 'death' in the title," said the head of international marketing, "and I don't blame them. Last time I bought a book without 'death' in the title, it was a damn bell-ringing manual. Never again. The American public wants to know it's going to get what it pays for, because we're a nation of SMART COOKIES and our economy is THRIVING, and if you ask me, it makes me proud to be an American! Call it Death of a Something-or-other."
lost_spook
Feb. 19th, 2016 01:01 pm (UTC)
Oh, US publishers! What silly thing will you do next? "Americans won't buy a book that doesn't have 'death' in the title," said the head of international marketing, "and I don't blame them. Last time I bought a book without 'death' in the title, it was a damn bell-ringing manual. Never again. The American public wants to know it's going to get what it pays for, because we're a nation of SMART COOKIES and our economy is THRIVING, and if you ask me, it makes me proud to be an American! Call it Death of a Something-or-other."


LOL! Although, you never know. Maybe there were six other books called Off With His Head out in the US at the time; they might have had reason. (Although Taken at the Flood to There Is A Tide strikes me as someone just going, hey, I know Shakespeare, let me prove it.)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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