Friday, March 9, 2012

What's the Mystery? McDermid, Child, Watson

I'm trying to resist the gripping escapes they offer me, but I'll admit to a few mysteries read already this year (and later perhaps I'll list those I'm ready to load up on my Kobo for travel reading in May).
In January, I spent a(n armchair) weekend in Oxford, courtesy of Val McDermid's Trick of the Dark. Not as intense as her Carol Jordan/Tony Hill novels, but quite satisfying nonetheless with the additional pleasures of some time spent on that idyllic campus.

My next mystery read came after a number of other books, a mix of non-fiction and literary novels that I'll post about eventually. Hard not to read Lee Child's The Affair with some distracting thoughts about just how wrong Tom Cruise is for the role of Jack Reacher (size matters, people, size matters!), but if you like the action-packed intricacies of Child's plotting and the complex stolidity of Reacher's personality, as well as Child's critique of military and government bureaucratic corruption and inefficiency, you're unlikely to be disappointed. Plus you'll get to see Reacher still working in the military and find out how/why he left.

And my most recent mystery novel was S.J. Watson's Before I Go To Sleep except that I read it translated into French by Sophie Aslanides, Avant d'Aller Dormir. Our Parisian visitors last summer left it behind because they know that I like to keep my French up by reading a few novels each year.  Reading mysteries makes the challenge of this task more a treat (Paul and I have both worked our way through Fred Vargas' Inspector Adamsberg mysteries and are impatient for a new one). Watson's novel is based on such a clever premise -- a woman with severe amnesia who, waking each morning not knowing who she is nor who she's sleeping next to, must trust to that man to explain to her who she is, how she arrived at her condition, and what is the history of their married life. Unbeknownst to her husband, she begins seeing a doctor who contacts her because he wants to write up her case study, and he urges her to keep a journal, but suggests she keeps it hidden from her husband. Almost anything I could tell you now would constitute a spoiler, so I'll desist. But this one is a page-turner, with a satisfying ending.

A minor note: this was an easy novel to read en fran├žais, and as I wondered why I was finding it so, I decided that the more straightforward structure of the English sentence, in general, even rendered in French, requires less effort of me than the French one with its subordinate clauses and layered turnings. This might be even more so in mystery novels, but putting Avant side by side with Vargas' books, written in French originally, the translation is much simpler to follow, sentence by sentence. Admittedly, a small sample, but I've picked up French translations of English genre fiction before and found the same thing. Anyone with experience reading both care to chime in?

Now I'm only 5 books behind on my list of Books Read, Should Be Posted About. But that list is vying for my attention with those pesky work-oriented tasks. You know, the ones someone actually pays me for. So it might be a while. . . . 'til then, though, let me know if you've read and enjoyed any of these titles. Or if you want to recommend a mystery for me to add to my travel reading list.


  1. Oh good! If you post these as Amazon links I can go RIGHT to the site and load these onto my Kindle:).

  2. If I did any linking, I have to admit it would be to Chapters, a slightly more benevolent, and Canadian, counterpart of Amazon (which, quite frankly, terrifies me in its will to world domination ;-)