Without knowing it I stumbled into a mystery series. Typical Sunday library book browsing: I was looking for Kate Atkinson’s God in Ruins for book club (and to follow-up on my enjoyment of Life After Life) and it wasn’t where it should be on the shelf. Instead I found One Good Turn with the handy (thanks, library staff) “mystery” sticker on the spine. And I thought, yeah, okay, I’m in for a mystery. Continue reading
I wish I had written this post two weeks ago when I’d finished reading Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall. Two weeks ago I had insightful things to say. Now I can only tell you that I read the whole thing in 36 hours and that it has something to do with a plane crash. It’s worth considering why I read anything when I really and truly can’t remember basic plot points or thematic questions less than two weeks later. I’ll console myself by thinking that I read because I enjoy the novel while I’m reading it, even if I’m certain to forget the entire thing almost immediately.
Anyway. What I do remember: it’s a murder mystery. There’s quite a bit of focus on incredibly wealthy people and the luxurious stuff they own. I usually find these kinds of descriptions of wealth obnoxious (and an obvious show that the novel wants to be turned into a movie where everyone and everything will be Glossy and Shiny and Gold) and an implicit reinforcement that wealthy people not only have more money but are fundamentally better than us workers. This novel was no exception: rich people have better things, more interesting lives, access to power and influence, and generally get whatever they want. The rest of us are just along for the ride to show them how great they are. And in this case when the reader is (almost certainly) not a disgustingly wealthy person, the reading is an exercise in unsolicited envy as we’re made to identify with these rich folks only to look up from our novel and see a living room still populated by second hand furniture and IKEA cabinets. Oh well.
There’s a great opening scene with swimming that I do have a vivid recollection of and found quite captivating.
On the murder bits: there’s a twisty surprise ending that you will recognize as a twisty surprise ending and – if you’re like me – be not at all impressed by.
So yep. I devoured it because it was plotty and full of the described wealth envy (and some readerly self loathing). If you’re keen on well written murder mysteries: go forth! Otherwise…
- You think you know the kind of people who attend an open-invitation Sci-Fi/Fantasy book club because you have ideas about the kind of people who a) read Sci-Fi/Fantasy and b) attend open-invitation book clubs. Your ideas are not charitable. And they have – for some reason – not expanded to include yourself (even though you are attending said club). Like most occasions when you confront your assumptions (about anything) you discover that there is much more variety involved and far fewer references to LoTR (though there is one).
- Your belief that you can power-read* a novel (in under a day) (the way you did in undergrad) is as steadfast – and as erroneous – as your belief that you can still drink the whole bottle of wine and not get a hangover. You learn that you are older than you once were, and older than you imagine yourself to be.
- Open-invitation book clubs include 500% less conversation about pregnancy, childbirth and baby-rearing than all your other book clubs combined. Which is to say: none. Unless these conversations are relevant to the book. You realize these baby-less spaces are precious and that – right now in your life – you need them.**
Filed under Fiction, Mystery
I had one of those afternoons where I ended up wandering around the public library sipping lukewarm decaf coffee and waiting to meet someone. You know, one of those library visits when you’re not properly looking for a book to read (you already have a mass stack waiting at home), but you browse because you browse. And you end up finding on the spinning carousel a murder mystery set in Russia and shortlisted for the Booker Prize and you think, yeah, I’m in the mood for something plot driven. So you checkout A.D. Miller’s Snowdrops.
It’s a fast read and an enjoyable one, but probably not a novel I’ll remember reading (without this blog). Set in Moscow it follows an American expat lawyer as he falls in love with a Russian… some kind of woman. Written as a letter to his fiancee, the reader knows from the outset that all of the drama is safely in the past, but also that something dramatic and terrible happens because our protagonist, Nicholas, has withheld the story from his fiancee until now – just days before the wedding (which raises questions about the viability of their marriage, but whatever). (It’s also a fast read because it’s short: think big text and double spaced. So it’s satisfying to read over breakfast or on the bus because you finish a reading session and find you’re already halfway done. It would, in fact, be ideal airplane reading because you’d enjoy the thing and finish it on your flight.)
What exactly the dramatic and terrible something is propels reader speculation throughout and is, I suppose, the substance of the ‘mystery’: what has happened or will happen to Nicholas that will be so bad he’s had to withhold it for so long? I’ll admit that by the end of the novel I wasn’t convinced that what he did was all that terrible, more that he was so stupid as to not realize what he was doing until it was too late. As a fiancee I’d be far more concerned about marrying someone so daft than someone with a checkered past. Oh well.
So yeah. If you’re in an airport looking for something for a flight, or want a book to read while you ride a stationary bike and train for your summer triathlon season (not that I would know anything about reading under such conditions…), I wouldn’t argue against this one (which is clearly not the same thing as arguing for it).