Sunday, October 19, 2008

Escape Reading: I love a good mystery!

While I'm working my way through Kristeva's Powers of Horror, I realized last week that I needed a bit of pampering and escape to help me through all the marking. Generally, when I get to that point, what I want is a good mystery, and I had a few on hand, awaiting that anticipated need. Top of the pile? James Lee Burke's Swan Peak which sets Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel far from their homes in Louisiana's New Iberia and into rural Montana. Pater and I are partial to Burke's descriptions of New Orleans and surrounding Lousiana, but he draws the Montana landscape and folks very satisfyingly as well. The plot's tight; the characters are convincing; and the grappling with morality is handled as deftly as always.

But that wasn't quite enough for me. Although I've also been doing some re-reading for my 1st-year lit course (MacBeth; Daniel David Moses' Almighty Voice and his Wife; articles about the latter), I took advantage of a momentary lull in the marking this weekend (another big wave comes my way Wednesday and Thursday) to start another mystery novel, this one Patricia Cornwell's Book of the Dead. I've long been a fan of the Kay Scarpetta series, although I've found the last three or four uneven. So far, this one's got me hooked, and I'm off to bed early tonight with the idea of reading for an hour or so and hoping the gory crimes depicted don't keep me awake.

7 comments:

  1. I'm looking forward to hearing what you think about The Book of the Dead. I've just read it. Patricia

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sorry, Patricia, but half the point of the escape reading is that I don't HAVE to write about it! I will say that it kept my attention all the way through, though it strained credulity in spots -- Dr. Self was close to a caricature a bit too often and the plot re the son (trying not to do a spoiler here) relied so much on coincidence. I loved this series up 'til perhaps 4 or 5 years ago -- then it began to feel as if Cornwell was being obligated to live up to a contract she'd grown bored with. This one brought back some of the energy of the earlier books in the series and let go of the flip tone, brittle almost, I sensed in the last one or two, but the characters are relying on traits established books and books ago -- there's not so much to propel them forward, for me at least. Still, on the strength of this one, and because I'd like to know what's up with Marino, I'll probably buy the next one.
    What about you? I'm curious what you thought as well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sorry for making you work - that was quite a review! Mine is rather more succint - utter tosh! A couple of chapters in I started to wonder, "is this as bad as I think it is?" You see, I don't have much faith in my own powers of literary criticism, so I went online to check out some reviews, and most seemed to think this was a train wreck. I used to love everything about these books - plots, characters, dialogue - but this didn't even seem to be by the same author. I don't think I've read the predecessor to this book, perhaps I should, but up until now I felt I knew the characters and everything made sense. This time, for example, I didn't even recognize Marino in the physical description she gave. I felt the writing was shoddy and there was no flow. Thumbs down from me! Patricia

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oops - lost the end of my comment! ...author. I haven't read the predecessor to this book, perhaps I should, but I thought I knew the characters and everything made sense. This time, for example, I didn't even recognize Marino in the physical description she gave. The writing was shoddy and there was no flow. Thumbs down from me! Patricia

    ReplyDelete
  5. Now I'm confused by your comment screen! Sorry for the duplication, it looked like the end of my comment had been chopped off! P.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Patricia: Maybe I liked it better than you because it was such an improvement over recent ones that you haven't read. I sometimes wish I'd kept some of the earlier ones so I could do a side by side comparison -- tone especially seems different to me, almost as if there's a different writer. The move to a different city and to self-employment for Scarpetta was obviously intended to refresh the series, but sadly, Cornwell might do better to simply pull the plug, à la Rankin on Rebus.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm glad I have all my old ones in storage! I'll get to them in a year and a half. ;0) P.

    ReplyDelete