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The School for Murder Monday

What I've Finished Reading

My very mixed feelings about Career of Evil didn't actually prevent me from reading the whole thing in about two days. I don't think Rowling ended up justifying the Killer POV chapters, and if I read this again, I'll probably skip them entirely. Maybe that's short-sighted and illiterate of me, but I don't think so. For me they didn't add anything but an extra dose of nausea.

The book as a whole left me a little queasy a few minutes after I'd finished it. Partly this is just because I find it harder to read about sexual violence and abuse in fiction than plain old murder, but I think there were probably also some genuine missteps. I'd have to think about what I want to say, or if I want to say anything in the first place.

Robin's plot -- I kind of wish she wasn't in so much danger all the time, though at least in theory I like that she is so resolutely turning her pain into competence. But after what felt like the fiftieth instance of her going behind Strike's back to sneak into yet another rapist's apartment wearing a dress she keeps tripping over, I began to feel frustrated -- with whom, I'm not completely sure. (It was probably more like the second or third time, but IT FELT LIKE A LOT).

There was a lot to like along the way. I didn't love the Robin-in-peril stuff, but Strike's panic when she gets attacked over the phone is still delicious pain candy (and Rowling gets to break out the ALLCAPS, her favorite!) As much as I want these damn masts off my horizon, the very last scene [in which SPOILERS occur]in which Strike drives straight from the arrest to Robin's wedding in Yorkshire, looking like refried hell and arriving just in time to knock over a flower display as Robin says 'I do,' is a little bit perfect.

Poor Matthew. He behaves very badly in this book, but I sympathize with him even while he's flinging himself beyond the pale. It can't be easy to know that forces beyond your control are conspiring to shove your fiancee into the burly bloodstained arms of Detection. He's not wrong about that, even if his grasp of the details is shaky.

Definitely my least favorite of the three, but will that stop me from putting the next one on pre-order as soon as it becomes available? Reader, it will not.

Also finished: Death of a Fool. Not bad, but the patented Ngaio Marsh Death Performance Reconstruction felt a little tired -- I think the action might just have been too complicated to present clearly while maintaining any kind of suspense. This is another post-war [more or less a spoiler] social-upheaval and imperfect re-integration-of-violent "war heroes" story -- we're up to 1956 in the chronology -- and that aspect of the book is interesting in the ordinary way but not particularly deep or startling. Alleyn is Alleyn, Fox is underappreciated, everyone has a secret or two -- a slightly less than typically excellent Marsh, but still good.

And "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," featuring [Spoiler!]the notorious milk-drinking snake! The editor of The Annotated Holmes has appended a helpful article suggesting that this snake was "really" a deadly hybrid of a cobra and a Gila monster! Holmes fandom, your commitment to scientific realism is an inspiration to us all. <3

What I'm Reading Now

Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey. I meant to get the next Marsh book, Singing in the Shrouds, but the university library stacks keep being moved around due to construction, so I got lost and decided to start on Tey's non-Grant books instead. I love it so far. I've never actually seen a harem anime, but

Miss Pym Disposes is what I imagine a harem anime must be like, only with a not-very-cryptically lesbian outsider in place of the traditional young male POV. Lucy Pym accepts the invitation of her old school crush to give a lecture on psychology at the physical training college that she (the crush) now runs - a school for Phys Ed teachers, as far as I can tell. Miss Pym is lodged in student housing, and finds herself surrounded by college girls who are earnest and giggly and fascinated by her, and who keep bringing their carelessly compelling bodies right up against her own, as though it never occurred to them she might notice. One of them barges in on her at her bath and goes away blushing vividly. There is a Sensual Foreigner whose "exotic" charms Miss Pym assesses in scientific silence. And so on. It's interesting? The POV is interesting, even if there always seems to be something a little sour at the heart of Tey's protagonists (and Irrefutable Face Science, of course).

The account of Miss Pym's overnight success is a wonderfully absurd piece of shy-writer wish-fulfillment: on reading a book on psychology, she becomes so annoyed with the author that she decides to type out all her thoughts just to get them out of her head. One day she uses the back of one of her typewritten pages to write a note to her neighbor about how loud his music is. He turns up at her door, demanding to read the rest of the manuscript, rushes it through publication, and suddenly she is being feted in intellectual circles for the beautiful clarity of her crankiness.


There's no sign of a murder yet. Maybe there won't be one? Maybe this is a genre vacation for Tey, and we're all just going to put on our bathing suits and play some lawn tennis and have a couple of sleepovers and call it a day. I think I'd be on board for that. Murder is the worst, after all, and it's been so nice out lately!

Malice by Keigo Higashino. This is a recent translation of a book written in 1998 about the murder of a writer, so it's full of plot-relevant conversations about 90s writing technology -- word processor vs. computer vs. writing in longhand in notebooks, and there is a clever alibi trick with a fax machine. It feels translated -- in that way that's hard to explain; the writing always seems to be stepping gingerly around something -- but that doesn't hurt anything very much. I don't know if I should give too much away about how it's structured, because part of the fun is finding out for yourself, but I will say that [mild early spoiler for Malice]it includes an example of Killer POV done well.

What I Plan to Read Next

I started Champagne for One a while ago, so I should get back to that. It's a Rex Stout story about a murder at a benefit dinner for unwed mothers. And more Annotated Holmes, probably.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
a_phoenixdragon
Mar. 21st, 2016 12:22 pm (UTC)
*Hugs*
osprey_archer
Mar. 21st, 2016 12:33 pm (UTC)
I thought I was done with Josephine Tey, but I may have to read Miss Pym Disposes. Who can say no to not-very-cryptically lesbian overnight literary successes who get dragged back to a college full of winsome young ladies?
evelyn_b
Mar. 21st, 2016 01:28 pm (UTC)
Not me!
liadtbunny
Mar. 21st, 2016 04:44 pm (UTC)
Lol:) Although Doyle's own zoological knowledge was a tad iffy.
bearshorty
Mar. 22nd, 2016 12:51 am (UTC)

I liked reading your impressions about Career of Evil. The killer POV did work for me in the gross nauseous way since it served to really build up the tension of the stalking. I was worried for Robin. (Not that I should be. The girl can take care of herself!).


I'm not a big fan of sexual violence either but at least it is presented as gross and not sanitized.

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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