Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Book Review(s): Inspector Lynley Mysteries by Elizabeth George

Here's what I've been doing for the last month:

I got a Kindle, as you may or may not have heard. And I decided that what I wanted to read first on my Kindle were the Inspector Lynley mysteries by Elizabeth George. A bunch of them have been sitting in my Amazon.com wish list for well over a year, following my seeing the BBC versions of some of the books on Masterpiece: Mystery! At last count, I think I've read 6 of the 13 that are available. This is what keeps me off Facebook most nights. Of course there was also The Count of Monte Cristo, but that's a subject for another post.

So I started near the end, with the book that was the last episode of the television series: With No One As Witness. This one had all my favorite things in a mystery novel: lots of dead bodies, a potential threat to the law enforcement officers involved, and a serial killer. Needless to say, it did not disappoint. The bulk of the book deals with a series of murdered young boys; eventually the investigation leads the detectives to a youth center and from there to the killer. It was pretty awesome. I really enjoyed Inspector Lynley as a written character, and Sergeant Havers is awesome. This particular volume made some ill-advised attempts to convey what happens in a police situation room; no one wants to read about people sifting through paperwork and looking shit up on a computer -- those are things for which you want to skip showing and go straight to the telling. And make it brief.

Next I read What Came Before He Shot Her. I was tricked into buying this one by Amazon, which publicizes it on their website as being a Lynley/Havers novel. Well, no. It is a novel about the kid who shot Lynley's wife in the previous book. And it is terrible. Racist, and terrible. It reads like a social services case file on a 12-year-old stuck in a housing project. If this novel had been written about an African-American kid by this white woman writer, the outcry would have been quite loud. As it is, I found this novel offensive and boring -- drugs, sex, and gang violence aren't even remotely entertaining anymore, it turns out. Which is a shame -- if you're going to offend, at least make it interesting. I stopped less than halfway through, as soon as I figured out that Inspector Lynley would not be making an appearance.

And then came Careless In Red. I enjoyed most of it -- the investigation, Inspector Lynley and the way he's mourning the deaths of his wife and unborn child, most of the peripheral characters. But the character that gives the book its title was just stupid and one-dimensional, and I found myself really irritated by her and her supposed effect on several other characters. The whole situation was poorly drawn.

Then I went back to the beginning and read A Great Deliverance, Payment in Blood, Well-Schooled in Murder, A Suitable Vengeance, For the Sake of Elena, and Missing Joseph. I really liked going back to the beginning and meeting the characters for the first time. And honestly? Elizabeth George's writing was better in the earlier books. However, four of her five main characters -- Lynley, Helen Clyde, St. James and his wife Deborah -- really need to get over themselves. No one in real life has the kind of issues they only think they have. There's nothing relatable in any of their faux-drama. They are likeable enough, but they are not relatable. It's like the writer is so enamored of all their virtue, she's made them into these paragons. Presumably they all become more human, like the 5th main character, Sgt. Havers, as the series progresses. Thank god for Sgt. Havers, ever the voice of reason and actual humanity.

But in general, the books are really great reads, and the mysteries are somewhere between a British/PD James type thing and an American-feeling faster paced crime thriller. It was time well spent.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

I am in fact still among the living.

What would it be like to be the sort of person who blogs every day? Or nearly every day. Or even, at this point, once a week? But don't worry -- I have an actual, semi-entertaining entry planned, reviewing a bunch of Inspector Lynley novels. Once I finish reading The Count of Monte Cristo. Which has somehow managed to take over my life the last several days. It's so long! And I just haven't had the kind of time I usually have to really sit down with it and read a ton all in one stretch. It's an awesome book -- I can't believe I've gotten all the way to 40 without ever having read it. But whatever -- I'm nearly finished and thus won't be deficient any longer.

And by the way? Totally different than that cheesey movie with Jim Caviezel -- which, don't get me wrong, I love wholeheartedly and will watch every single time it's on cable even though I actually own the DVD. But it should be called The Count of Monte Cristo, loosely inspired by the awesome novel of the same name. I totally picture the count with Jim Caviezel's face, but everything else in the story is pretty much... different. Yet another example of a book where I'm glad I saw the movie first, because otherwise the movie would have just angered me in all that it left out. And this is a situation where what they did instead didn't really improve upon the narrative -- the filmmakers actually just kind of made up a fan fiction ending and left it at that. Which is fine for fanfic, but not so much for movies. But I guess they just assumed that no one going to movies in 2002 had ever read the book...

Also? I'm really glad I got a Kindle and read this book on it, because the actual book is over 1200 pages long, and I have carpal tunnel syndrome something fierce, in addition to cysts on both wrists. I would have been even more miserable than I already am if I'd tried to hold that book for the 7 evenings it's taken me to read it.

Also? (And this is what I get for ever doing ANYthing on Facebook...) I posted that I was "Currently Reading" this book in my Facebook library thing, and it brought up some user reviews. And this one halfwit was going on and on about how cliched she found all the "revenge stuff." And said that "it just got really old after a while, and it's been done so many times." And I find that hysterical on so many levels, because this is actually the book that wrote the book on revenge fantasies. So if you're reading the first major work of literature to explore in depth a revenge plot, you can't call it cliched. You just can't. You have to actually put the book into context; you have to do a little work. You have to. Because otherwise, people like me will call you a halfwit. And mean it.

So yeah. I'll be back soon with an actual post, and you might even see me on Facebook again this weekend.