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MacGuffins Are Murder Monday

What I've Just Finished Reading

I haven't seen it in many years, but The Maltese Falcon was one of my favorite movies from childhood; I loved the mythical golden bird that may not even exist anymore under its protective enamel, and Sydney Greenstreet's never-ending list of things he doesn't trust in a man, and the great line, "I couldn't be fonder of you if you were my own son. But if you lose a son, it's possible to get another. There's only one Maltese Falcon."

Reading the book was an odd experience because, except for a lot of weirdly vivid eye colors, it deviated so little from my memories of the movie that it felt like a transcript, not a novel. Not surprisingly, Hammett wrote the screenplay and pasted all his own best lines in (plus a few extra; Greenstreet's best line seems to have been movie-only).

Sam Spade is an oddly opaque character, which I think is deliberate. I found his constant derisive chuckling plays a lot better as a performance by an actor than it does on the page. The descriptions of characters and their actions are highly meticulous and a little alien, as though Hammett were making notes for a Galactic Cosmographic Society study on Earth Detection and its Gestures. I think it must have been a startling prose style in 1930, but it may be suffering from its own success a little now.

What I'm Reading Now

Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin. It's not bad at all, even if the title pun is a groaner. Gervase Fen has just shown up, less actively unlikeable (so far) than he was in The Moving Toyshop, and the humor is less manic and forced -- it helps that it takes place in a school, with plenty of low-hanging fruit in the form of classroom discussions, etc., but the book also feels a little better constructed in general. And because it's not Fen's school, there's no opportunity for me to get annoyed by how indifferent a teacher Fen is. Two teachers have been killed, a chemistry cupboard has been broken into, and a student is missing. Is there a connection? Almost certainly!

What I Plan to Read Next

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett -- this one was also made into a movie, but I haven't seen it, so hopefully I will be better able to read it on its own terms.

Also, did you know that someone wrote a Porfiry Petrovich mystery? The Gentle Axe by R. N. Morris is a new case for Crime and Punishment's indefatigable detective, apparently. I found it today while cleaning up the mystery shelves at work -- I don't know when I'll read it, but probably sometime this year.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 11th, 2016 05:10 pm (UTC)
Oh< I'm glad you're finding Love Lies Bleeding a bit better - I read the two books at least 10 years apart, so it was harder for me to compare, but the Moving Toyshop felt too novelty and weird to me as well, whereas I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed Love Lies Bleeding. Mind, I think I'd just watched Love's Labour's Lost for the first time and been reading John Sutgherland's Literary Detective take on Shakespeare, too.

I'm amused, but not surprised, to find that someone's done a new case for Porfiry Petrovich (I don't remember him as much as I should but ha). Is Sergeant Cuff the only classic 19th C detective lacking new adventures? (Or, as is probably more likely, he has some, I've just never heard of them or they're terrible.)
Jan. 11th, 2016 11:59 pm (UTC)
It's A LOT better -- I think it's just better made in general, and incidentally less wacky. The Moving Toyshop had a lot of digressive scenes that were kind of theoretically funny but in practice didn't get anywhere, while Love Lies Bleeding is more tightly plotted and more of the humor hits its mark. Fen as a character makes less noise rather than being actively more amusing, but I don't mind that.

I'm not aware of any Sergeant Cuff Adventures, but I would not be surprised to learn they exist.

Edited at 2016-01-12 05:18 pm (UTC)
Jan. 11th, 2016 05:55 pm (UTC)
I haven't even read Crime and Punishment, but I love that someone has written a new mystery for its detective to solve. (Does he even solve a mystery in C&P? Maybe I shouldn't ask in case of spoilers.) What's next? A series of mysteries that Javert investigated in the long stretches of time when he lost track of Jean Valjean?

Actually I think that could be kind of cool, if the author is sympathetic to Javert without actually buying into his worldview. It would definitely be a fun way to write about a lot of different facets of early 19th century France.
Jan. 11th, 2016 11:46 pm (UTC)
It's been a long time since I read C&P, and I read it before I was paying any attention to detective fiction, but yes! Porfiry Petrovich is a memorably excellent detective, even if he is upstaged by the killer's POV.

I could go for some Inspector Javert mysteries! Javert is nothing if not indefatigable, and it's not like I'm in complete political and ethical agreement with any of my faves. And just imagine the infodumping!
Jan. 12th, 2016 12:36 am (UTC)
It wouldn't be proper Hugo pastiche if the author didn't stop at least once in every book to have a digression about counterfeiting or politics or the lavender trade or whatever other aspect of early nineteenth-century French life Javert is taking on this time! Probably there's an entire case devoted to epaulets.

I'm kind of surprised no one has done this already, but as far as I can tell from a quick google search, Javert does not yet have a modern mystery series of his own. Maybe his suicide puts writers off?
Jan. 12th, 2016 07:42 pm (UTC)
I too would totally love "The Other Adventures of Inspector Javert"! Someone really needs to write that series.
Jan. 11th, 2016 11:14 pm (UTC)
I am so tickled that someone wrote a mystery novel for Porfiry Petrovich! Aw. I hope it is a good book.
Jan. 11th, 2016 11:36 pm (UTC)
Me, too! On both counts.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


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