Tag Archives: Murder mystery

Death Comes to Pemberley: The silly and exploitative adaptation of Pride and Prejudice

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Trapped in a hotel room for a week while at a work function, I couldn’t bring myself to read anything requiring focus or thought (I’ll admit I was also distracted by the availability of cable news: an opportune time to have access to CNN as the world collectively watches the meltdown of American political life). Instead I picked up a copy of P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley from the local used bookstore. Continue reading

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The North Water: Read This Instead of Moby Dick?

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Mostly I find nineteenth-century Arctic shipwreck stories too familiar (even though – or because? – it’s a very particular category). One of my thesis novels, Afterlands, was all Arctic shipwreck all the time. And I must have read and re-read that novel a dozen times. Too many times to read much about whale blubber without shuddering with concern that someone might ask me about the significance of the whale. or the blubber. But how often do we read in this niche category? Obviously not often. Unless you’re someone who re-reads Moby Dick. In which case you are someone with other kinds of (whale blubber) problems. Continue reading

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The Secret Place: Because you like to read about violence.

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I can see why some people read only mystery and suspense novels. They are so. fun. Or at least, Tana French’s The Secret Place was so. fun. I mean, if you look past the murder of a teenage boy and the fraught and disturbing presentation of adolescent femininity and friendship. Yep. If you can focus just on the investigation, the unravelling of who did what and when, the certainty that everyone is lying all the time (but why? to whom?) then it’s a lot of fun. Continue reading

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The Paying Guests: Books to Avoid Reading On Your First Week of Carpool

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Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests is set in 1922 London. Setting is important here because the backdrop of postwar changes in economics and class, social and gender expectations and disaffection with the grand truths of justice deepen the themes explored in this erotic noir. (I didn’t realize I was choosing a novel with erotic scenes when I picked it up from my shelf (the last of the holiday haul), though I ought to have known better having read – and enjoyed – Waters’ The Little Stranger and The Night Watch. Reading it during my first weeks of a carpool positions me to give this advice: be prepared to squirm for ten odd pages).

The novel follows the life of Frances as she struggles to maintain the family home in the absence of male income (see Remains of the Day). Forced to take on ‘paying guests,’ she and her mother are joined in their aging home by the lower-class, freer spirits of Lilian and Leonard Barber. If the first half of the novel traces the budding… relationships between Frances and the couple, the second half takes a decidedly different turn in exploring love tested not by societal expectation, but by conscience and trust. Rather than fuss too much about who loves whom, the novel instead explores the nervousness of (new) love and the doubt that accompanies it (and it goes to some plot extremes to do so).

I very much enjoyed this one. Well crafted, expert character development, written with careful and evocative language (*cough*) it is a delight to be immersed in.  Though I’ll admit that after A. pointed out the frequency of the word ‘queer’ in the novel I was somewhat distracted by its repetition (a project for some student to trace and explore diction in Waters’ work – the way she works the connotations of the early 20th century against that of the contemporary reader).

In entirely unrelated matters, I finished reading the novel in the campus gardens during lunch today. In writing this post a bug has flown out of my hair and now I can’t stop checking to make sure there aren’t more insects all. over. me. Such are the hazards of having this literary vice.

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