Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Minette Walters, Patricia Cornwell . . .

After a busy week finishing off my essay followed by my weekend's Half Marathon run, I'm now nursing something sinusitis-bronchitis-y, and one of the best methods for doing that, besides sleep, is reading, right? (Well, curling up on the couch with old Buffy DVDs helps as well).

I picked up Patricia Cornwell's Port Mortuary. Despite complaining about the quality of her recent Scarpetta books, I keep picking them up hoping they'll get better again. So far, this is not bad, although there's some very flabby repetitive writing that a bold editor might have taken out. And I'm surprised at the distribution of words on a page which makes a lovely thick-looking book to sink into out of what will actually turn out to be much slighter than suggested. . . .

A much better deal was the paperback edition of Minette Walters' The Devil's Feather, that I finished a few weeks ago. Walters never disappoints, except in refusing to write faster -- but that's probably part of her secret to success. That and the fact that she doesn't try to return to the same characters, although there have been several along the way I would have been happy to see more of. Some find her politics too strident, but perhaps because those politics are closely aligned with my own, I never find they get in the way of plot, character, or setting, and the relationship between the two female central characters here was intriguing and satisfying.

An interesting link in both novels was the reference to the Middle East and the military implication of Western governments (Britain and US) in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond -- the ways that that history is coming back to roost in the colonizing powers. More and more, I'm finding mystery novels used very convincingly to educate a reading public about aspects of our
engagement that we might not bother to read in other media (or that other media don't bother to cover). Lee Child has done this as has James Lee Burke. Have you noticed others? And do you find it worthwhile, interesting, distracting, what? Comments, please. . .

7 comments:

  1. I gave up on the Scarpetta novels ages ago but I do love Minette Walters. And I agree about the way some of the more sophisticated thrilled writers can actually introduce topical, political issues in a way that the 'general' reader finds accessible. Worthwhile? Definitely. I love the fact that more and more (or perhaps it's just my experience) the divide between 'high' (worthy, etc) literature and 'low' (fun but not 'improving') is eroding, so now we can have pop fiction that is also intelligent and information. Then again, there's always been fun 'high' lit (Jane Austen being just one example) ... Must be too early in the morning, I'm talking dross.

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  2. Not dross at all -- and you're right about the history of fun "high" list -- Charles Dickens is another sterling example.

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  3. I did mean 'informative' not 'information' there ... Dickens is an excellent example - must re-read some Dickens this winter!

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  4. I'm trying to think of a Dickens for this summer (I've been doing a Dickens each summer the last few), but not sure which. Last summer was Tale of Two Cities, before that David Copperfield, then Great Expectations, then Bleak House . . . not sure what might come up to those standards . . . my GF/colleague, the 19th-century specialist, is suggested I switch to Hardy or George Eliot, but I'm not sure . . .

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  5. Love Eliot and Hardy, but quite a different proposition to Dickens ...

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  6. I, too, stopped reading Patricia Cornwall. I find all her books (except the first) not only sloppily and unconvincingly written, but downright unpleasant. I will seek out Minette Walters.

    Dickens, Hardy, Elliot--all wonderful. I especially love Middlemarch and Under the Greenwood Tree. But what about Trollope? The Small House at Allington would be a perfect summer read.

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  7. Anon: I could peek at Trollope, but what I love about Dickens is the immense page-turn-a-bility AND the still-so-pertinent social commentary AND phrases that regularly make me laugh out loud. I know I won't find that in Hardy! and there will be some dry, clever wit in Eliot but not such accessible humour in such a wide range of deftly drawn characters. . .

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