Grasshopper by Barbara Vine
I picked this up at Pulpfiction Books, a cool new/used bookstore at Main & Broadway.
Once upon a time, I was in a writing class where the instructor insisted that only murder was high stakes enough for mysteries & suspense novels. It was a silly thing to say and I recall scoffing when she said it. This memory resurfaced as I finished Grasshopper and contemplated what I would write about it. I was going to say that there’s no murder in Grasshopper, but technically there is. However, it’s just a mcguffin.
The reviews at Amazon are mixed. Some people hated this book. A lot said it wasn’t a “typical” Barbara Vine book. I’m not sure what they were expecting. None of the BV books I’ve read would be what I’d call typical mysteries. They’re more “regular” stories with suspenseful elements to them. Which is why I like them. I was tired of formulaic whodunnits. The people who seemed most disappointed seemed to expect a “shocking twist” ending. I guess it would be a let down if that’s what you expected.
BV’s books tend to be dark, psychological explorations, rather than thrillers. I think she’s interested in what motivates people to do the things they do. This one, I think, was less dark than others I’ve read, perhaps because it was clear from the outset that the ending would be a (mostly) happy one. The ending doesn’t tie up all the loose ends, though, which is good.
It definitely kept me turning the pages and, when I got to the last page, I experienced that little pang of sadness that you do when you’ve become attached to the characters in a book and you have to let them go. That kind of surprised me because none of the characters were particularly likable. But I suppose that was precisely it; their unpleasant qualities made them seem like real human beings and I got used to them being around.
So, to sum up: no murder(s) to speak of and no particularly likable characters. And yet, I quite enjoyed it.