Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Trio of Mysteries

Now that classes have started, it's less and less likely that I'll ever get round to writing anything more than a mention of my most recent reading -- in the last few weeks of summer, I scarfed down some mysteries, just because I could!

What mysteries? Well, one of them you see in the photo above as part of the loot I found put out curbside by a fall-cleaning neighbour -- yippee! Besides the three books, I also scored the pyrex lasagna pan which will replace a 30-year old model I broke a few years ago. Both the Martha Grimes have been tucked away for future reading, but I couldn't wait to read Minette Walters' The Chameleon's Shadow, on my list for a while now. It was soooo satisfying -- her character development is always so nuanced with not-easily-likeable characters whose redeeming features nonetheless are gradually revealed.

Similarly, I was quickly caught up with the latest Simon Serrailler mystery by Susan Hill -- the relationship between Simon and his sister is enjoyable to watch, but both characters face some major emotional upheaval. The terrain of grief is tentatively explored here as it was in Elizabeth George's Careless in Red. Hill is also interesting for her willingness to introduce theology -- both the Anglicans and the atheists have room for their two cents here, as does a young lad caught up in a more fundamentalist version of Christianity.

After reading these two examples of very satisfying British mysteries, I found Kathy Reichs' latest-in-paperback, Devil Bones, competent but not particularly gripping. The main character seems much less complex to me than does Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta (at her best, at least) with her alcoholism-under-control struggle appearing a bit formulaic as does her on-again-off-again relationship with a Montreal detective. I wonder sometimes about the demands of publishers for another book in a bestselling series and what it must be like to keep these characters fresh and the plots satisfying. Walters is wise, perhaps, to have resisted writing the same characters over and over again. Much as I look forward to the character development that can happen over the broad canvas of a multi-novel series, I can understand why writers might want several years in between -- as George seems to take -- or why they might choose to focus on more peripheral characters in some books as is the successful approach of others (Connelly, Robinson, Kellerman).

I've also just read W.G. Sebald's The Emigrants, which absolutely deserves its own post, however short that will be. Marvellous. Sad. Dream-like. More later . . .


  1. There you go again - Minette Walters is one of my guilty pleasures, usually restricted to plane trips and the like ... Why is it that one feels guilty for reading 'non-literature'?

  2. We're soul sisters in reading! and perhaps in guilt. I'm trying to get better at "giving myself permission" -- there should be no guilt in enjoying different kinds of reading, especially in reading anything as well written as MW's mysteries!