Books 1/22/06

Back ages ago, I posted about my disappointment in Alexander McCall Smith’s series of mysteries set in Africa. Well, technically my disappointment in the first one, since I didn’t go on to read the others. I felt at the time (and still do) that it was a matter of misplaced expectation- I went into the book expecting it to be one thing, and was disconcerted when it proved to be something different altogether.

I had the same problem with his most recent book, Friends, Lovers, and Chocolate. This is the second in his “Sunday Philosopher’s Club” series, the first one of which I liked but didn’t love. This one I smartly borrowed from the library (I can learn, sometimes it just takes time!).

When I sit down to read a mystery, I want a mystery. I want a crime that needs to be solved, and I want a detective, and I want clues, and I want resolution. If it’s possible for me to solve the mystery along the way, then all the better, but that’s not strictly required. But the crime/detective/clues/resolution quartet is pretty much a must, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

This book started out well enough, we have an already established detective, and though she’s a bit snooty for my taste, if she solves problems then she’s ok. The “crime” in question is nebulous- all we know is that a man had a heart transplant and is now having visions of a face, accompanied by intense pain in his upper torso. Was the donor murdered? Seems so. So we have a detective, and we have what is an actually pretty intriguing crime. And this is where it falls apart. Because instead of clues, we have meandering meditations on the philosophical ramifications of different actions, two thwarted love stories, discussions of wine, cheese,and chocolate, and finally, after all of that, a resolution that comes out of nowhere and that given what it took to get there, is somewhat frustrating. If there had been clues, if there had been anything pointing in that direction it would have been acceptable, but as it was… it just didn’t do it for me. It was as though the mystery was simply an excuse to write about a million other things, and really, if you want to write about a million other things, then just do that. Don’t frame it in the context of a mystery if you’re not going to give the mystery full play.

Rant over.

Now I’m reading Urn Burial by Kerry Greenwood, and am so far enjoying it immensely.

Current total: 6
Just finished: Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith
Currently Reading: Urn Burial by Kerry Greenwood

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