29 November 2012

Library Limelights 17

Someone is a little confused here, having posted Library Limelights 16 twice (since appropriately deleted). Blame it on recent travel syndrome and/or early Christmas parties!

Sue Grafton. R is for Ricochet. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group (USA) Inc, 2004.
A first for me, even though Grafton has about twenty alphabet titles under her belt. The book was a chance filler from our casual mini-library as opposed to our on-site proper library while I await incoming from the Toronto Public Library. The strangely lethargic (mildly depressed?) private detective Kinsey Milhone seemed to have the most boring non-life and I yawned my way ever onward because little else was at hand except professional journals that are more and more electronically delivered. About page 92 a plot was revealed. Still no tension, no suspense. The financial mystery involves much banking and money laundering data. When I thought I might hurl it against the wall and resort to reading the Larousse Dictionaire for a fun change of pace, at about page 251 (of 350+) Kinsey began detecting. Of sorts. Like Sarah Paretsky's heroine, V.I. Warshawski, Kinsey gets beat up a few times. The difference is she bumbles around avoiding common sense and it's not even funny. I tell you, I have absolutely no interest in whether her new boyfriend works out, nor do I plan to investigate A to Q.

David Mitchell. Ghostwritten. New York: Vintage Books/Random House, Inc., 1999.
With the popularity of Mitchell's Cloud Atlas right now, and because the movie is now released (I think -- I've been away), and knowing I will be about four years on the TPL waiting list because of all that, plus having lapped up his intriguing The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (2010), I opted to retrieve this earlier work. What seemed like getting a strategic leg up in anticipation of Cloud Atlas, left me feeling like a brainless tourist in a very strange land without a map, let alone a Fodor's.

There are ten parts to the book, each taking place in a different city with seemingly a different narrator. Aha, one thinks, the characters will all mesh somehow by the end. Not exactly. The non-corporeal narrator silently disappears after Mongolia. Just when I think I get it, he loses me again. Few of the characters elicit human rapport. I'm so disappointed Mo the physicist disappeared; copious notes I made while reading now stare at me, blank of meaning. Random connections between one stranger after another? Transmigration? The "story of the three"? ... Is the ultimate dystopia a deeply complex Orwellian view of Christianity? Judging by other reviews, I'm not the only one confounded. Cloud Atlas sounds more connected and together although Mitchell loves apocalyptic scenarios. I'm tempted only to see what the film makes of it.

Val McDermid. The Grave Tattoo. Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2004.
 You can tell I needed a really classic crime novel after that, filled with real human beings. Who better than the prolific, awesome Ms McDermid of the Tartan Noir writers. I have some catching up to do with her, and was thrilled to pick up this book at Word on the Street. Wordsworth scholar Jane Gresham inadvertently leaves a trail of bodies behind her as she seeks a missing manuscript by the famed poet. Her path is crossed with other story threads--her sarcastic brother, her London tenement neighbour, the greedy antiquarians dealer, and her charming or charmless ex-boyfriend depending on your perspective. A forensic anthropologist investigates a long buried peat-bog body that may or may not be a famous historical person. The peat-bog body ties everyone into the plot.

A bit of family history has a stake in the mystery, not enough to repel the author's usual fans. For die-hard genealogists, someone should have told Val that the Family Records Centre at St. Catherines House closed in 1997. At another point I was yelling at the amateur genealogists, "Look up her father's will!" ... to no avail. Eventually the amateurs learned that surnames have variant spellings. Small quibbles. This is ingenious McDermid, and oh so satisfying.

Brotherly love:
"Matthew couldn't hide his pleasure at Jane's absence when he arrived at the farm with Gabriel for their regular Friday teatime visit. With Jane not there, he was deferred to, his opinion seldom challenged, his presence welcomed gratefully as if he were bestowing a precious gift. Which, of course, he believed without reservation he was." (201)

On post-secondary discrimination:
"Jane hated the way Professor Elliott assumed the pedantry of an Oxbridge don in spite of having acquired all three of her degrees at redbrick universities. Given her age, she should be a laid-back egalitarian, not some fogey acting twenty years older than her age and several gradations above her class." (66)

A snake in the Internet grass:
"The dial-up connection via the phone point was tediously slow compared to wireless access, but he wanted privacy for his piracy. He booted up Jane's email program and was pleased to see, as he'd suspected, she'd left her password stored on the dial-up screen. He hesitated for a moment. What he was planning was about as shabby as it got. ... But he had his future to consider. Frankly, a little shabbiness was neither here nor there if that was all that stood between him and the literary find of the century." (195)

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