Both mysteries are the latest volumes in series by dependable writers featuring characters whose detective exploits I've been following for years and years. Peter Robinson's Alan Banks, for example, I've "known" since he was married, watched the hurtful breakup, the divorce, Banks' efforts to maintain his relationships with his teens (now adults). I've watched him date a colleague, befriend and date an expert witness (have I remembered that correctly? I think so), and I've kept track of the exploits, challenges, and relationships of his co-workers, particularly DS Winsome and DI Annie Cabbot. Not to mention the considerable pleasure, with each new entry in the series, of keeping track of its Playlist -- Banks is an eclectic lover of music, across a variety of genres and styles.
The fat new novel I snatched from the library's Fast Reads shelf last month was his Sleeping in the Ground, and it was the perfect book for airplane and poolside, although I could also have enjoyed savouring it a bit more slowly. Unusually, the mystery focusses on finding the person responsible for a mass killing, so there's considerable urgency moving the plot along. Robinson manages to fold in some melancholy on Banks' part related to memory and aging, some thinking many of us can relate to, and he also engages with moral and social questions regarding class, the military, individual conscience and honour. In the end, I found the book engaging enough, but the ending/solution a bit flaccid. If I'm honest, I'd have to say, though, that I don't read mystery novels for the puzzle anymore, if I ever did. I read them more -- especially in series -- because they allow me to immerse myself in a setting to which I can return every year or so, in which I can follow fictional lives that I have somehow invested myself in. It's a long, long time since I've been thrilled by a particularly elegant and satisfying plot in a mystery novel.
And most of those reservations would also hold for Lee Child's latest in his Jack Reacher series, The Midnight Line. These mysteries, I know, have become a bit too formulaic for many, but I'm fascinated to see how, if at all, Child can continue to develop Reacher's character, whether or not Reacher can sustain his idiosyncratic lifestyle of continual, random movement, a life with No Fixed Address. As well, part of Child's formula is an indictment of some aspect of contemporary social life, particularly one in which past or present political/military policies or actions have widespread deleterious results. In this book, it's the terrifying spread of opioids that comes under his lens, and the part of Reacher's character that interests me here is his grappling with the Lone-liness he's choosing by refusing (or being unable) to settle in one spot. I'm using that peculiar hyphenation of lone-liness, because Reacher doesn't wallow in isolation, he's not holed up and unhappy. But there's clearly a pull toward someone he'd hoped might stay on the road with him. . .
Do any of you read either of these series? Or did you and you've abandoned them (and if so, why)? As mystery readers, how much does plot matter? And if you'd like to recommend a mystery with a truly elegant plot, please, go ahead!
Can you believe I have nine other recently finished novels to tell you about? So I hope I don't let another three weeks elapse before I post again -- the math just isn't working in my favour (instead of the one step forward, two steps back, I'm at Two Books Blogged, Nine More Read? -- yikes!!). Indeed, I should be able to give you three more mystery titles in the next short while, and let you know whether they're ones with a satisfying ending or simply ones with satisfying characters and settings.
And in case you're interested in what else I've been reading (given the distinct possibility I may never manage to stay much more about those titles!) I've finished four of the Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St. Aubyn, in anticipation of the upcoming BBC series featuring Bernard Cumberbatch (thanks, Brenda, for the recommendation). I've also read Cynthia Ng's Little Fires Everywhere and George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo. . . plus the three mysteries I just mentioned and will name very soon.