Tag Archives: Mystery

20: The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse by P.D. James

Another library book sale find. Wasn’t a library book, though. Looked brand-new, still with remainder price tag on. Zing!

So it’s a police procedural in PD James’s Adam Dalgliesh series, with the three detective characters (who presumably, regular readers would be familiar with from previous books) sent to a private island to investigate a murder. The book starts out by introducing each of them in turn, and providing quite a bit of detail about each of their back stories. Which I was fine with in the beginning, but later on I wondered what the point of all that was since it was barely returned to at all in the main story.

The murder mystery itself is decent, but the pacing was bogged down by the amount of description. omg, so much description! Did I really need to know about the minutiae of the furnishings and refrigerators (!) of each cottage and apartment? I do not think so. I seriously felt like this book could have been half as long. With so much wandering detail, The Lighthouse didn’t have the urgency it might have had if it had been trimmed down.

Despite the endless detail, there was curious lack of emotional connection to the characters. Maybe if some of that detail had been cut, James could have expanded on the detectives’ stories that were rather left hanging. As it was, I didn’t find any of the characters particularly compelling. I guess I was supposed to care about Dalgleish mooning over Emma, but I really didn’t, and the other two, Kate and Benton, were like robot-people.

I did kind of wonder why Francis Benton-Smith was called just “Benton.” Mayhap it was explained in a previous book.


Revelling in the novel

Crimes novels/detective fiction … are the only kind of “genre” that has ever won me over, and I think it’s because these are novels that wear themselves on their sleeves. The same mechanics are present as in any novel, but their workings are much less subtle, and I think that when we revel in detective fiction that we are revelling in the novel in general.

Kerry Clare

11: T is for Trespass

T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton

Another 55 cent book from the Book Sale. Hardcover, with a jacket, and another that was not a library book.

Previously on The Remainder Table…

[S is for Silence] flips between Kinsey’s 1987 world and flashbacks to 1953 (various characters). Since Kinsey is not a party to the 1953 flashbacks, the reader always knows more than she does. I’m not thrilled with this device. In a detective story, I think it’s best if we stick to the detective’s PoV—this is the only way the reader can play along (and isn’t that what a detective story is about?).

I’d forgotten about this. In T, while most of the story is told from Kinsey’s PoV, some of the chapters are told from the villain’s PoV. As with the flashbacks in S, I wasn’t excited about this device—I don’t think Grafton provided any insights into the character that we couldn’t have gotten another way. And it mitigated the suspense. Sure, there was still the “what is she going to do?” suspense, but there was no “who’s the villain?” More importantly, it put the reader ahead of Kinsey from the very beginning, which made Kinsey look kind of slow when she finally did catch on (which seems kind of unfair to the character).

I’m guessing that Grafton couldn’t think of a way to create doubt as to who the villain was with this particular storyline, so that’s why she went this route. But I think it would have been possible, if some of the minor characters had been played up more.

In T, what would normally be the side plot turns into the main plot. Kinsey’s neighbor, 89-year-old Gus, falls and dislocates his shoulder. He needs help while he recovers, but his only relative is a great-great-niece in NY. Kinsey manages to locate the niece, and she makes a brief visit to Santa Teresa. But because Gus is a Grumpy Old Man, she has trouble finding a home care nurse for him. When she finally finds someone, she only has Kinsey do a cursory background check, because she is eager to get back to her life in NY. Duh-duh-duh!

I enjoyed T more than S. But I know if I think about it too much, the whole thing will fall apart. (So I’m not going to ;-))

Here’s the thing. I know Kinsey Millhone isn’t great literature, but also know if I come across another in the series, I will probably read it. It’s reading junk food! nomnomnom It’s not even so much about the series itself, but about the fact that reading it also reminds me of reading the first books in the series, back when my favorite TV show was Remington Steele and my career aspiration was to be either a police detective, a private investigator, or a cat burglar.

Random tidbit: Grafton’s pet word is “ease”: people are forever easing onto stools, cars easing out of driveways, etc. etc.

Haha. It’s true! She still likes ease, but its noticeability was eclipsed by her new pet word (phrase?): “thumb lock.” I assume she means a deadbolt. I’ve never heard them referred to as thumb locks before.