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Make Mine Murder Monday

What I've Finished Reading

No More Dying by David Roberts: Lord Peter Wimsey fanfic with the serial numbers lightly scribbled over, plus mostly irrelevant historical hindsight in enormous quantities. Half the characters are real people, and the made-up people are constantly elbowing each other in the ribs and saying things like, "Poor little Jack Kennedy doesn't look like he could EVER be President." Verity Browne is an independent-minded (read: not like other girls) Communist journalist who keeps falling for aristocrats for some reason; Lord Edward Corinth is England's dullest upper-class sleuth. Together, they fight crime! They are also engaged to each other, for some reason. I read this book all the way to the end hoping it might magically turn interesting or do something metafictional (other than just winking ostentatiously about the future 25/7) but no luck. High body count, low suspense, disappointingly humorless, though it was probably unfair of me to expect a lighter touch from a book about the build-up to World War II just because it has a posh vintage travel poster for a cover.

What I'm Reading Now

"Well, it's not very easy to explain. But you see, Jane is a real person - very much so. To be in love with Jane might be a whole-time job. We're agreed, aren't we, that Vernon is very possibly a genius? Well, I don't think a genius wants to be married to a real person. He wants to be married to someone rather negligible - someone whose personality won't interfere. Now it may sound cynical, but that's what will probably happen if Vernon marries Nell [. . .] She'll jut be a nice pretty sweet-tempered girl whom, naturally, he loves very much. But she won't interfere. She'll never get between him and his work - she hasn't got sufficient personality. Now Jane might. She wouldn't mean to, but she might. It isn't Jane's beauty that attracts you - it's herself. She might be absolutely fatal to Vernon."

Giant's Bread: So there's Vernon Deyre, burdened by a symbolic name and a slightly off-kilter ear, who thinks he hates music until one day his cousin makes him go to a concert in her place so she can go on a stealth date or something, and he realizes that actually he loves music only everyone is doing it wrong. Now it's up to Vernon to revolutionize the entire field of musical composition, only he's already twenty years old and hasn't learned anything about music! No worries, he'll just work extra hard. He's a man with a destiny! He's also in love with Nell, who used to be his boring wimpy neighbor but grew up to be super pretty. Nell doesn't want to be poor, but being a composer who doesn't know how to play any instruments can be pretty poor work, so maybe he'll throw up his composer plans and get a job with his uncle's firm? But then he meets Jane, an older woman with a bracing honesty about Life and Art. Here's an exchange from their excellent first meeting:

"I wish I were dead," said Vernon bitterly.

Jane raised her eyebrows slightly.

"Well," she said, "if you walk up to the top of this building and jump off, you can be."

It was hardly the answer that Vernon had expected.

Jane's brutal honesty and matter-of-fact passion for Real Genius inspire Vernon to ditch his steady job and re-dedicate his life to music. Nell, who didn't sign on for this bohemian nonsense, gets engaged to a local rich older man with car instead, and heartbroken Vernon moves in with Jane and throws himself into his debut opera. Jane, a singer who has been abusing her voice for years, is warned that she will damage it permanently if she sings the supporting role on opening night like they planned, but she can't give up the opportunity to put both herself and Vernon in the spotlight with a spectacular debut. So she sings on opening night, all the reviews focus on her performance, two days later her vocal cords are permanently shredded and she has to drop out of the cast and quit singing altogether. But then war breaks out so it doesn't matter anyway, and Jane gets Nell to make up with Vernon and marry him because it'll be better for him that way or something. Because of Nell not being real? I've got news for you people, NONE OF YOU ARE REAL :O.

Giant's Bread continues to be interesting. For a genius, Vernon is a colossal drip, but maybe that's just the way life is sometimes.

Ruth Rendell's Vanity Dies Hard has a very good opening chapter, like a cleanly written minor nightmare: Alice goes to visit her friend at her new place, but the address she's been writing to - and getting distracted-sounding but perfectly normal replies from - doesn't exist. She walks back and forth in the rain, looking for the place; she asks at local businesses, but no one has heard of it or her friend. When she gets back home, her fiancee and her family all tell her to give it up, she was a bad friend anyway and they never liked her. WHAT IS HAPPENING? Something sinister, obviously! Ruth Rendell has been reliably good so far, so I'm looking forward to whatever horrible way this plays out.

What I Plan to Read Next

Did you know that C. S. Forester also wrote murder mysteries? I've known that since the day I bought a C. S. Forester mystery at the Friends of the Library book sale, but now I am going to read it at last!


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 13th, 2017 05:42 pm (UTC)
"Well," she said, "if you walk up to the top of this building and jump off, you can be."

Well, that's certainly bracing. But it sounds like Vernon needs some bracing, so perhaps that's not a bad thing. And surely Nell's desire for Vernon to give up on this composing nonsense and get a real job would get in his way far more than Jane's insistence on having a personality? Don't marry Nell, Vernon! You'll regret it!

Vanity Dies Hard sounds intriguingly terrifying.
Mar. 13th, 2017 06:02 pm (UTC)
Vernon needs more than your ordinary share of bracing. He needs a whole elaborate trapeze rig-out if he's going to manage any of the normal spine-requiring activities of human or genius life. It's a hard road, being a genius on one hand, and having no spine to speak of on the other.

Vanity Dies Hard is excellent.
Mar. 13th, 2017 05:50 pm (UTC)
LOL, oh dear. I am feeling somewhat smug(ish) about only reading Christies with murder in them now.

I had looked once with interest at those David Robert books, but ahaha, oh dear, not badly done pro-totally-not-fanfic, oh dear also.

Mind, I don't want the terrifyingness of Ruth Rendell, either! (Is she really terrifying, or is this like me thinking Agatha Christie was and she isn't? Maybe your reviews will solve that little mystery too!)

Mar. 13th, 2017 06:27 pm (UTC)
I feel like I'm not adequately conveying how much I've been enjoying Giant's Bread in spite of it being. . .well, Giant's Bread. It's not good like Christie's murders are good, but. . . ok, really I just like it because it's Christie trying something different, but the enjoyment is genuine!

Those David Roberts books have really tempting covers! I was drawn to this one immediately when I saw it at the Friends of the Library book sale. And in its defense, I didn't notice it was fanfic until page 50 or so (because Roberts 100% forgot to put any jokes in, for one thing). But you will probably be happier just buying an actual vintage travel poster and putting it on your wall, or just looking at some old Guinness ads on Tumblr or something.

Is she really terrifying, or is this like me thinking Agatha Christie was and she isn't?

It's hard to say. The situation is really creepy, with a main character who thought she had lots of good friends suddenly unsure if she can trust anyone, and Rendell does a great job making you feel the disorientation and the stress of it in a very few words. It's not grisly horror-movie scary, but it's not quite your relaxing weekend murder, either.
Mar. 13th, 2017 08:28 pm (UTC)
Then I'm glad you're enjoying it! I can tell I wouldn't be, though, because I recognise similar notes from her murders, and not the good notes. Hence, some smugness. :-)
Mar. 14th, 2017 04:16 pm (UTC)
So genius is of no use because there's now a war on? I guess Vernon could write some great tune that lefts everyone's spirits before making music all good. I hope Jane didn't shred her vocal cords for nothing!
Mar. 14th, 2017 08:31 pm (UTC)
No, it's just that everyone was too distracted by the war to do effete cultural stuff, so the opera closed early and didn't put down roots in the national consciousness the way Jane was hoping it would. Her sacrifice was doubly in vain, because not only did hardly anyone remember the opera except the most dedicated hipsters, half of those only remembered it because it was Jane's last performance and killed the voice of a promising singer. Genius is a hard road! :(
Mar. 15th, 2017 03:47 pm (UTC)
It is! Poor Jane:( Get some murders in(!).
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


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