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Crumbling Edifices of Murder Monday

What I've Finished Reading

The Silkworm. Ouch, Rowling, that was nasty! I think she gets away with it though. I don't know. It's nowhere near as good a confrontation scene as the immortal Leg Incident and its lead-up in The Cuckoo's Calling, though it is a good solution to a difficult problem and very cleverly seeded. For some reason I never expect writers to try to pull off the [SERIOUS CENTRAL SPOILERS for The Silkworm!]murderously sex-starved spinster!! thing in earnest, but here we all are anyway.

Strike's reckless disregard for his own health and safety in the service of The Case is as pronounced as before -- here he puts so much stress on his knee stump that he wrecks the cartilage and has to go without his prosthesis while it heals, which leads to Robin having to clandestinely drive him to a suspect interview in terrible weather because the car rental place didn't have any leg-optional cars. Get it together, Strike! And Robin is going to take a surveillance course! I'm enjoying her increasing indispensability. Things are even a little better between Robin and Matthew: at one point, they had an actual conversation about Robin's interest in detective work! The relationship is probably still scheduled for demolition, but it's nice to see Matthew trying a little just the same.

Fair warning: this novel has some very grisly details, and the grisliness is integral to the story. I think Rowling is doing a great job managing the inevitable tension between "fictional homicide investigations are the best entertainment" and "wait, no, murder is actually horrible," but I wouldn't blame anyone for not wanting to read about this particular murder.

Also read: The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters. This book was recommended to me as a cheerful mystery-comedy-adventure in which an independent-minded late-Victorian spinster goes on archaeological digs, written by a real Egyptologist! How fun! Unfortunately, the book and I didn't get off to a good start. I found myself immediately disliking the narrator (Amelia Peabody, the spinster-adventurer) both as a character and as a narrative device. The very first line is a smarmy joke for the benefit of the present; soon after, we are forced to listen to Amelia cataloging her own "plain" (but forceful and interesting!) features in response to an innocuous comment by a nondescript male visitor, and it just goes on stumbling and elbowing its way through the rest of the action. Amelia meets a romantically self-dramatizing young woman named Evelyn, whose narrative sections worked a lot better for me as comedy than Amelia's, and some archaeologists; there is a Sinister Plot to foil, and at the end everyone gets married because the book is about to be over. Well, I can understand the book being almost over, and it's not like I was planning to devour the rest of the series anyway, but still! I was promised independent spinster adventures!

I'm not sure why I found it as boring as I did (so boring that I was reading NKVD telegrams to perk me up between chapters). None of the characters were interesting to me, even as parodies, but why not? In order to answer that question, I'd have to read it more closely, which I don't have much motivation to do. I guessed the culprit right away, but that wouldn't bother me if there were other things to like. The narrative voice wound up being sort of the worst of both worlds: all the smug imperiousness and cultural insensitivity you would expect from a real Victorian memoirist, none of the richness of detail. It's probably not bad at all -- just not my thing.

What I'm Reading Now

The corpse shows up early in Scales of Justice (early by Marsh standards, so about eighty pages in), surrounded by suspicious objects, and it's a good thing: these people are a bit dull on their own. (I do like the relentlessly competent village nurse, though). Luckily, Alleyn is on the scene, razor in hand, ready to catch all their hideous secrets in a gleaming silver bowl.

I'm about halfway into In the Company of Sherlock Holmes -- a mixed bag, but a pretty good mix. I especially liked "The Curious Affair of the Italian Art Dealer" by Sara Paretsky, which is a crossover with another fictional detective, and "The Memoirs of Silver Blaze" by Michael Sims, which is a Sherlock Holmes Adventure told from the POV of a horse (in the tradition of Black Beauty), with a happy ending for the horse.

What I'm Going to Read Next

I meant to get Career of Evil from the library, but it was out with like 8 holds already on it, so I'm going to check back later, and pretend that Cormoran Strike is using the intervening time to get some sleep and maybe even eat something other than takeout. Justice is not served by your stubborn self-immolation, Strike! Even the greatest detectives need to rest. :(


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 1st, 2016 07:23 am (UTC)
Ohh, good books here!!

Need to find my 'excitement'in what I wish to read. I have been so spoilt by fanfic, I need to find my footing in the physical book world again...

Feb. 1st, 2016 12:14 pm (UTC)
I hope you find your excitement! Maybe re-reading an old favorite would help? Though I guess sometimes that can backfire. What was the last book you found really exciting?

I'm wary of making recommendations because I feel like my own taste in things is sort of simultaneously picky and indiscriminate, but if you don't mind a murder focus, the Cormoran Strikes hooked me right away and have been very enjoyable so far. I can't speak to the third book. The dynamic between the detective and the accidental temp/apprentice detective has some similarities to a Doctor-Companion dynamic, come to think of it, though the overall atmosphere is a lot more. . .crimey-wimey, I guess you could say.

I love the Inspector Alleyn series now, but that was more of a cumulative process; I don't think it gets off to an obviously promising start.

Edited at 2016-02-01 12:15 pm (UTC)
Feb. 1st, 2016 10:15 pm (UTC)
I've got a couple of titles gathered, just to look into. I love the Cat Who series (though it is FAR from what I usually read), Dresden Files, psychological thrillers...I just have to find my footing again. Spoiled, I tell you. SPOILED.
Feb. 1st, 2016 08:38 am (UTC)
I'm interested to see that you didn't care for Elizabeth Peters. I tried to read a later book and something annoyed me enough that I managed about 2 pages, but I thought that might have been me getting ill back then. Or it not being the first book, but maybe I had reason? (They sound great, but they're just not quite right when I try to read one, I think.)

I'm not entirely sure how Alleyn would feel about your blood-letting analogy!
Feb. 1st, 2016 12:34 pm (UTC)
I'm not entirely sure how Alleyn would feel about your blood-letting analogy!

Totally inappropriate and melodramatic! He would explain patiently that his visit is a matter of routine and assure everyone that murder investigations, statistically speaking, are never anything like the lurid unravelings of your detective fiction. He will politely refrain from remembering that in his own experience, they are inevitably much worse.

(They sound great, but they're just not quite right when I try to read one, I think.)

That was my experience. I kept thinking, "Well, this is certainly fun in theory." I can have a hard time turning off my internal editor in general, I think, but even more so with pastichey fictional memoirs. With Amelia Peabody, I think I just lost the thread of the narrative voice early on and nothing after succeeded in handing it back to me. But why that's the case, I couldn't say.

Feb. 1st, 2016 09:58 pm (UTC)
:loL: you are so right about Alleyn!!
Feb. 2nd, 2016 09:36 am (UTC)
I remember rather liking the Elizabeth Peters books I read but they vanished from the mind even quicker than most stuff does (and with my memory, that's saying something). Startlingly non-memorable...
Feb. 1st, 2016 01:45 pm (UTC)
Yes, Rowling does an excellent job of the tension between telling an entertaining story and showing that murder is horrible. I think that makes it easier to cope with the grisliness of it all. The narrative acknowledges how awful it is, the characters acknowledge how awful it is... if it's disturbing, it's disturbing in a really intentional way and you're not meant to find that part of it entertaining. Instead the joy is in the things going on around that. Like the way Robin finds delight in being a detective in general - she's not dependent on there being a murder to solve, she's developing skills that could apply to all sorts of cases.

I read The Crocodile on the Sandbank a few years ago and it just didn't click for me - and I didn't care enough to analyse why it didn't appeal to me. Or even review it properly.
I didn't mind that it wasn't independent spinster adventures, because it was recommended to me as romantic suspense - but I didn't find it satisfying romantic suspense.
Feb. 2nd, 2016 04:31 am (UTC)
I agree. I was surprised at how much I didn't find the grisliness and disgusting elements excessive, to be honest -- I was sort of reading with one eye squint, waiting to disapprove. But it works, I think.

Robin embracing her vocation is so enjoyable. I love how she has all these formerly discrete skills (like the emergency driving thing, and her psychology background) that are now coming together as part of a new, unexpectedly competent whole.

(Rowling is doing a great job with the murder, but I wouldn't mind a non-murder case as a break. Maybe something relaxing, like The Very Brief Mystery of Who Ate Robin's Curry, or The Case of the Pub That Used to Suck Less).

I didn't mind that it wasn't independent spinster adventures, because it was recommended to me as romantic suspense - but I didn't find it satisfying romantic suspense.

Satisfying romantic suspense would also have been perfectly adequate! But no.
Feb. 1st, 2016 03:41 pm (UTC)
Aw, I'm sorry to hear that about the Amelia Peabody books. I've had them recommended to me (in a vague "mysteries set in nineteenth century Egypt!" kind of way - and I did very much enjoy the Mamur Zapt mysteries, set in early twentieth century Egypt...), but your review makes them sound much less enticing.

Oh well. Plenty of other things on my to-read list, after all.
Feb. 2nd, 2016 04:11 am (UTC)
If you're interested in the premise, I'd say read a couple pages and see if you like it. The narrative voice and overall tone doesn't change much/at all, except for the handful of chapters narrated by Evelyn -- so if you're not going to like it, you'll know right away.

Or don't, if you'd rather not! I just worry that I'm not a very reliable guide to whether you should read Amelia Peabody.
Feb. 1st, 2016 04:36 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure that's the only Amelia Peabody book I've read too! It didn't grip me either; too nothingy. I thought it might be good because there are a lot in the series. I think she gets married eventually?
Feb. 2nd, 2016 03:43 am (UTC)
Unless I did read it wrong, she gets married to Grumpy Back Muscles Guy at the end of this book, after repeatedly arguing with him and then noticing his back muscles. It's not the worst basis for a relationship, but it didn't sell me particularly.

(That's not fair, they are also both passionate about Egyptology and it's convenient).

Edited at 2016-02-02 03:44 am (UTC)
Feb. 1st, 2016 08:52 pm (UTC)
Aw, I'm sorry you didn't like The Crocodile on the Sandbank! I've seen other reviews say that they found the narration smug also, so it seems to be one of those things that either works for you or doesn't. Humor is so oddly subjective! More so than other genres, I feel. And it's definitely a series that lives and dies on its narration, so if Amelia doesn't work for you, I can't imagine the rest would be worth it.
Feb. 2nd, 2016 03:38 am (UTC)
The narration was definitely the deciding factor, I think. Fortunately, as things that don't work for me go, it was unusually relaxing! I'm not plagued by doubts that I'm reading it wrong, for example. I can see where the appeal would come in, and I can see it's not going to reach me at all, and there's an end. It was worth a try!

Edited at 2016-02-02 03:39 am (UTC)
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )


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