Sunday 27 October 2013

Tea and book talk on a rainy morning...

We’ve been having cool, wet, rainy/snowy weather these past few days, so I’m thankful for my hot cup of tea and an opportunity to stay in and read this afternoon, something that is more difficult to justify when the weather is clear, bright and dry.

I finished reading A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah early last week, and it proved not to disappoint in its ending. If you recall, this is a psychological mystery about three women who had been charged and/or convicted of murdering their children. When one of these woman is murdered shortly after being released from prison, aided in her fight for justice by film director and social advocate Laurie Nattrass and JIPAC (Justice Innocent for Parents and Caregivers), the police search for the killer and come across links to Nattrass’ media company, Binary Star, and one of his film producers, Felicity “Fliss” Benson. As cards with 16 numbers set in a grid pattern turn up on every doorstep, and murders and attempted murders pile up, suspects and motives abound in this intense page-turner. I personally found the story almost too complex to follow, but once I let go of the expectation that I needed to understand everything that was happening, I was able to enjoy the novel more fully. Her style reminds me of Minette Walters, that British master of psychological mysteries, in a few ways. Both writers’ novels feature complex stories in which the interesting, sometimes bizarre psychology of the characters is explored in detail. Both writers include such additions to their traditional prose as police reports, newspaper articles, transcripts from interviews, and excerpts from books written by the characters. These, in my opinion, add a certain depth and richness to the stories and characters that give this reader a sense of authenticity. When I read these additions, I feel as though the author is offering me the opportunity to take part in the detective work and draw my own conclusions from the information offered - basically, I feel that the author is adhering to that cardinal rule of good creative writing, “Show, don’t tell”. I must add here that, in my opinion, Walters is a better writer than Hannah, but I also think she has been writing for longer. Her books have a darker, more sinister tone than Hannah’s, but both write deep, dark psychological mysteries that are sure to keep you up late into the night, racing to get to the last page.

And I finished listening to the first in the “Peter Diamond” series by Peter Lovesey, The Last Detective. I listened to the second in this series not long ago and enjoyed it, so when the first was available to download, it made sense to start from the beginning and get the backstory of the main characters before embarking on additional titles. As this novel opens, a woman is discovered floating in a river, naked and dead for some time. Detective Inspector Peter Diamond is called in to lead the team in the investigation, first to find out the identity of the woman, then to determine the circumstances surrounding the death. Diamond is also under internal investigation for allegedly using questionable interrogation tactics in a former case, where the accused is claiming that he was bullied into a confession when interviewed by Diamond, so his every step is being monitored by the Chief Constable. As the investigation into the woman’s death proceeds, Diamond’s disdain for the reliance on forensic evidence and “the men in white coats”, and the increasing lack of respect for what he refers to as “good, old-fashioned detective work” by other, younger coppers is clearly conveyed to the reader, and sets the stage for Diamond’s circumstances in future novels in the series. This novel is interesting in its make-up, as it consists of sections that detail the police investigation which are broken up by sections from point of view of particular characters, suspects in the woman’s death, told in the first-person narrative. These sections offer insight into the characters, and give depth to the story that would be lacking if it was written as a straight police procedural with simply a detailed account of the investigation using the omniscient third-person narrative. It was definitely an interesting listening experience, and I look forward to downloading more titles in this series.

And I just briefly wanted to mention a BBC series I’ve been watching recently, “Dalziel and Pascoe”, which is based on the novels of Reginald Hill. I have a few of his novels on my bookshelf, but I don’t think I’ve actually read any of them. The tv series is interesting, as these two mismatched police investigators, Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe, solve violent crimes in their British hometown. I’m inspired to give the books a try, as I feel I now “know” the characters. I don’t recall why I haven’t read the books before - they are contemporary British mysteries, which I generally enjoy. Maybe once I finish the long list of books I have to read over the next month, I will give one a try.

Oh dear, the sun is coming out… That means I will have to be productive instead of lounging around the house drinking tea and reading all afternoon. Darn! Rainy Sunday afternoon, where did you go?

Bye for now…


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