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A Wednesday Book Report

I got this Wednesday Reading Meme from osprey_archer and, since "writing about books" contains some of the same words as the thing I'm supposed to be doing, it doesn't even count as full procrastination! So here is an embarassing glimpse into my sloppy reading habits to celebrate it being Wednesday.

What I’ve Just Finished Reading

The Mirror Crack'd by Agatha Christie, as part of this detective fiction rabbit hole I'm in. The rabbit hole is new and 100% the fault of Dorothy L. Sayers, a totally separate mystery novelist about whom I will probably have something to say eventually.

This was my first-ever novel by Agatha Christie, and it was ok? The most interesting things about it are all spoilers -- but there's a lot of mid-20th century angst about maternity and ambition (and a dig at busty actresses that made me sad). This one had a really tremendous quantity of foreshadowing to dole out and kept rolling more of it toward the reader in every scene. I can't actually tell if mystery plots are good or not, but nothing jumped out at me as particularly improbable, so it was good enough. Lots of potential suspects with not quite adequate grudges and that sort of thing, and some misdirection that is overshadowed by all the foreshadowing.

Miss Jane Marple is my favorite thing about this book by a couple of orders of magnitude, and I feel a little sorry that I managed to be alive so long without knowing she existed. She's the most likeable consulting detective I've encountered so far, or at least the one I want to take to dinner: all patience and unassuming clarity, intelligent in this completely self-posessed and self-contained way despite constantly having to walk around other people's assumptions about little old ladies and their interests, actively resisting nostalgia like a champ. I love how the old-timers in her small (but apparently murder-dense) hometown are all completely resigned to the fact that she is an unstoppable solver of murder mysteries, and when upstarts like the patronizing home health aide try to shield her from the nastier side of life and steer her toward a nice cup of tea and some cheery music on the BBC instead of the details of the latest shocking death, someone who has been around for all the previous books just rolls their eyes and says, "You have no idea who you're talking to; Miss Marple is the Murder Queen of Murderia; you couldn't shock her with a bathtub full of toasters." (Not a verbatim quote).

Unfortunately, most of the interviewing of suspects etc. is done by a Regular Detective, and I found it slightly harder to pay attention whenever Miss Marple was off-page. I wish there had been more scenes of Miss Marple inviting the eyewitnesses to tea and listening sympathetically to their unwitting confessions, even if that technically isn't how crime investigations "work" in the "real world."


What I’m Reading Now


The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wrecker! I haven't gotten very far, but I like what I've read. It's a historical urban fantasy, something I have been thinking about wanting to read for a long time, and has a strong sense of place and time without being too baroque or research-festooned about it, though I wouldn't actually mind having more research thrown at my face (I never do). I am eternally a sucker for intelligent automatons learning to deal with their new consciounesses and the world, so I would be inclined to like it even if it were less well-written. Not much has happened yet, but I wouldn't be that disappointed if very little did. Plus a couple of other things: Grief Lessons: Four Plays by Euripides (Anne Carson), which I was only supposed to read one play out of but kept going because I like pain apparently, and New Worlds of Fantasy #2, a short story anthology from 1970 that is a very mixed bag.

What I Plan to Read Next

I'm not sure! Either Slaughterhouse Five, which is one of those Great Books I've never been able to get into somehow, or this book about the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 that I just bought. Probably both. Also probably some detective thing or another, though it's a large and intimidating sea I've chosen to drift out into the middle of, so I don't know what exactly -- some earlier Marple stories once I can get them, and probably something else by a different author, which I might just pick at random from the bookstore shelves the next time I'm there. Or if someone comes by with a suggestion, I'll take the suggestion.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
osprey_archer
Oct. 16th, 2014 02:32 am (UTC)
I am pretty sure my main contribution to the internet has been convincing half my flist to do the Wednesday Reading Meme. It's just so USEFUL! And it gives me a convenient place to store all my book thoughts, which would otherwise need separate posts, many of which would never get written, because I don't always have a full post in me about any given book, you know?

"You have no idea who you're talking to; Miss Marple is the Murder Queen of Murderia; you couldn't shock her with a bathtub full of toasters."

Hahaha, this is glorious. I haven't actually read any Agatha Christie, because I'm the worst mystery fan; the only Golden Age author I've really read is Ngaio Marsh, although I keep meaning to read Dorothy Sayers' Harriet Vane & Peter Wimsy books.

If you're looking for suggestions for detective series, one of my favorites is Charles Finch's Charles Lenox series (yes, he named his detective after himself, such is life) about a mid-Victorian detective in London. The mystery plots are solid (occasionally they hang too much on conspiracies for my taste, but most people have a higher conspiracy tolerance than I do) and the world-building is amazing: Finch has a real gift for evoking London, and also for creating a compelling and lovely web of characters around Lenox. Occasionally Finch gets a bit excited about his research, but it's utterly charming, not at all info-dumpy. Well, maybe a little info-dumpy? But I like info-dumps when they're well-done.
evelyn_b
Oct. 16th, 2014 05:25 am (UTC)
I love info-dumps, worldbuilding and fictional detectives with whom one suspects the author of identifying, so Charles Finch-Lenox sounds perfect! Do you recommend starting at the beginning, or does it matter?

Miss Marple is glorious. I recommend her 100% I found Christie's writing hard to get into at first, and I'm not totally sure why. Something kept dropping me like a stitch. But Jane Marple is a character whose existence makes me happy, so I'm glad I powered through.

Sayers is interesting. I liked the Wimsey-Vane books a lot, but in a way where I don't feel competent to recommend them to other people, because what I liked was this very specific combination of extreme nerdiness + simultaneously self-indulgent and thoughtful authorial self-insertion + everything else the author likes in a big unapologetic pile + excellent prose + weirdness that is chocolate-covered crack to me, but potentially annoying or just uninteresting to anyone who doesn't share my frankly unreasonable love for Mary Sues and epigraphs. As usual, I have no idea whether the mysteries are good or not. I also didn't realize that “Mystery novelist IRONICALLY accused OF MURDER!!!” is a massive mystery-novel cliché, because I hadn't read any other mystery novels. But some people who are not me also seem to like them, so who knows?

I picked up a Ngaio Marsh book at the bookstore about a week ago, but it was full of posh people having country-manor-house problems and I was so burned out on poshness from all the Sayers that I put it right back on the shelf. I'll pick it back up eventually, though! I've heard good things.

Edited at 2014-10-16 05:46 am (UTC)
osprey_archer
Oct. 16th, 2014 02:21 pm (UTC)
Yes, definitely start at the beginning with Charles Lenox! The series really hits the ground running, and it just gets better as it goes along - and there is enough character continuity that part of the fun is watching the characters' relationships grow. There are a couple of books I have reservations about (The September Society and A Burial at Sea), but I'm not sure it's that they're actually bad, just that the kind of mysteries they're telling is not as much to my taste as in his other books. And The September Society in particular has some important character moments.

I've heard about the self-indulgence of the Harriet Vane books before, but they sound self-indulgent in exactly the right way to please me, so I think I'll give them a go.

And Ngaio Marsh can be very posh! I think the book I started with is Dyed in the Wool, which takes place in a New Zealand sheep farm, which is fun for being very different from her usual country houses and theaters.
evelyn_b
Oct. 17th, 2014 11:58 am (UTC)
Excellent. I ordered A Beautiful Blue Death and also DIED! in the Wool. Mystery novel titles are the best titles. Who knew one language could hold so many death puns?


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