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Where There's Life There's Murder Monday

What I've Finished Reading

My plan to read all of Agatha Christie got knocked out of commission by RL and is on temporary hiatus. But I did finish The Inheritance, which was both beautifully comfortable and surprisingly painful, within its own perfectly maintained stasis field of coziness - I didn't expect Dallington was going to be made to suffer that much for his Upper-Class Twit Redemption, and I'm not sure I like it! I mean, it's not like he was doing anything wrong, even (just dallying a ton). Poor little shambles. But it was another solidly enjoyable entry in a series that just keeps getting better, and unless Charles Finch decides to betray us all in the name of Serious Literature I am very much mistaken, there will be plenty of coziness next time to make up for this book's narrow brush with tragedy.

No More Dying Then by Ruth Rendell: an odd story as much about DI Mike Burden's troubled sexual re-awakening as it is about the missing child cases that make up the bulk of the plot. I like Mike Burden because he is an ordinary policeman in a field crowded with extraordinary policemen, and because Rendell portrays his narrow-minded conservatism with sympathetic interest.

There's a fine, awkward line between sympathetic interest and too much information, and I'm not sure it's actually all that fine, on reflection. Rendell walks it -- reasonably well, I guess? I mean, she's a good writer, so it's not awful. I didn't particularly want to know that much about poor Mike Burden's sex life, but I read this entire book and now I do. So it goes.

Still, it's always nice to be sympathetically interested in a character for whom, in real life, I would have no time at all. Burden is genuinely (and because he is safely fictional, touchingly) convinced that Gemma, the mother of one of the missing children, will mend her modern city ways once she's married to him. He's touchingly convinced that she will marry him in the first place, because they are sleeping together and that's how his frame of reference works, even though they have nothing else in common, barely even a language, just a missing child and a whole bunch of sublimated fear and grief. The mystery with the children is good, necessarily a little grim but not gleefully so.

What I’m Reading Now

Dreaming of Babylon: A Private Eye Novel 1942 by Richard Brautigan

I bought this because of the opening sentence of the back cover copy: “When you hire C. Card. . . you have scraped the bottom of the private eye barrel.” Since the middle of the private eye barrel is already a dark wood of confusion and booze, what can the bottom be like? I couldn’t resist this question. The answer so far is “a lot like the middle, but with less interesting prose.” C. Card is a detective, technically, but he can't stop daydreaming about a fantasy life in Babylon, so he never gets anything done. There are some good funny moments and some that fall flat. The back cover promises that it will “upend the conventional private eye novel,” but is it possible to upend the conventional private eye novel any more than Chandler did by writing one? That’s always the problem with trying to upend things. Anyway, it’s too soon to tell.

What I Plan to Read Next

Either In the Woods by Tana French or The Headless Lady by Clayton Rawson. Maybe Agatha Christie, but I might leave it until after the new year.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 12th, 2016 04:32 pm (UTC)
I hope Mike and Gemma didn't get married, for I suspect it would not go well!

I'd go for the 'Headless Lady' next. It sounds like a horror story for Xmas?
Dec. 13th, 2016 12:20 am (UTC)
No, thank goodness! Gemma said she would only marry him if her child was dead and she was unable to face the loss alone, a promising basis for a relationship if ever there was one! After the case is solved, he tries to have a heart-to-heart talk with her about Their Future and it goes just as badly as we always knew it would.

I'll probably go with the Headless Lady! It has the most magically bad cover, for one thing, including an evil rabbit gesturing toward the scene of the carnage for some reason. It's so bad it almost cancels out the magic of its own badness. Almost!
Dec. 13th, 2016 03:34 pm (UTC)

I'm intrigued! Got to love a bad cover:)
Dec. 12th, 2016 05:37 pm (UTC)
I do worry sometimes that Charles Finch will decide to betray us in the name of Serious Literature. If nothing else, everyone in the Comfortverse is slowly but surely getting older - no detective stasis here! - so you just know that one of them is going to die of something eventually.

Although Dallington and Polly are terribly young and therefore probably safe, and also surely Dallington has reached his suffering quota for the series? I just hope it's not Lady Jane, or Edmund, or poor Graham (we haven't seen as much of Graham for a few books, by the by), or anyone really. They all need to live forever!
Dec. 13th, 2016 12:46 am (UTC)
As much as he SHOULD have reached AND EXCEEDED his suffering quota for the series, I have a sinking feeling that Finch might milk the unfortunate circumstances of Dallington's betrothal. . . not for all they're worth, because that isn't the Finch-Lenox way, but for some measure of anxiety/uncertainty/inferiority/regret. I think what I can expect, if that happens, is that it will resolve itself in a book or two, like the problems Toto and McConnell had in the early books.

THEY ALL SEEM SO HEALTHY. :( I'd be perfectly happy if the Comfortverse ended with Lenox in happy retirement, with all his friends still alive, but you're right, there are absolutely going to be a few more low-key meditations on mortality before the end.

It was nice to get an update from Graham! He's been mostly Sir Not Appearing in This Book lately. If I had to guess, I'd say Finch might kill Graham off first, just because he's detached himself from Lenox's service and has made an independent name for himself in Parliament; since he's no longer a fixed part of Team Comfortable, he might look like easy pickings for the mortality birds. It would be too obvious to make Lenox a grieving widower anytime soon. But actually, NO ONE NEEDS TO DIE AT ALL; we will all be perfectly happy to suspend disbelief at everyone living more or less undiminished into their nineties and to leave them happily arranged with some brandy drinks and miniature cakes around a crackling fire.

Edited at 2016-12-13 12:47 am (UTC)
Dec. 13th, 2016 01:54 am (UTC)
A little bit of Dallington & Polly angst wouldn't go amiss, provided of course that it doesn't involve putting them in Mortal Peril again. The circumstances of their betrothal and marriage were odd enough to give anyone some confused feelings about it. Perhaps they can chat respectively with McConnell and Toto for some helpful advice from people who have Been There?

I for one am all Team Everybody Lives. We've got a few good working years left in them; they could get half a dozen more books or so before gracefully retiring to sit around the fire and watch their children play together. TEAM COZY RIGHT TO THE END.
Dec. 12th, 2016 08:15 pm (UTC)
Seconding the vote for The Headless Lady! When in doubt, Off With Their Heads! ;-)

(Although I definitely think you should read Agatha Christie, if only because I don't know any of these others.)

Dec. 13th, 2016 12:54 am (UTC)

Agatha Christie will be back soon! I want to get back to Christie, but I was in the middle of two Christie books when the election happened and for whatever reason, instead of being the comfort reading I expected, it's like they've been irradiated. I just feel like I need to count to a thousand before I can pick them up again.

The Headless Lady it is! I'm excited to learn what this book is like because whoever designed the cover . . . well, I'll post a picture next Monday and you can see for yourself. It's curiously hideous, but not in like a lurid There Will Be Blood way.
Dec. 13th, 2016 10:51 am (UTC)
Aww. Poor you, poor Agatha! (I think for all her mid-20th C faults, she wouldn't really wish to have that association!)

Well, now I am definitely intrigued. Terrible covers are obviously the way to go! Besides, headless ladies! (I bet it's a swizz and all the ladies have heads, though. /cynical).
Dec. 12th, 2016 09:52 pm (UTC)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


blase ev

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