10 April 2014

Library Limelights 53

Peter Robinson. Children of the Revolution. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2013.
Is it just me, or what? This is the first Inspector Banks novel that I've found rather flat. It's not unusual that the author of an ongoing series has an off book once in a while; it was a surprise (and disappointment) that the great Peter Robinson seems to have had one. The mystery ― the plot line ― moves like molasses and did not captivate me at any given point. I felt more like who are these tiresome people Banks and his colleagues must interview. However, Robinson is paying good attention to his female characters. Conflicting personalities on the police team make one lively scene where two women lash into each other to Banks' extreme discomfit.

A scruffy, malnourished older man falls or was thrown off a bridge to his death. His pathetic life is examined in detail for clues. With a few token red herrings, the effect is still strangely lifeless. Where is the suspense?! The central secret can be guessed well in advance by any alert mystery fan. Banks' credo that everyone lies could have been played up more; it would have made a good title. His treatment of "class warfare" is familiar English ground. All in all? No surprises or challenges here.

The professor's office:
To say it was book-lined would be both too generous and inaccurate: it was book-crammed, book-piled, book-besotted. They were everywhere. They probably bred overnight. The room even smelled of books. Here was a man who had never heard of a Kindle. The books were on wall-to-wall shelves, on the floor, on the windowsills, the chairs, on every flat surface, and even balanced on some of the curved or angled ones. Oddly enough, Lomax didn't look in the least bit bookish, Annie thought as he stood up to greet her, at least in the way she understood the term. There were no unruly tufts of hair sticking out at odd angles, no tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, no pipe, no thick glasses, no flyaway eyebrows. (36)

One-liner ― social death for a dull guy:
"He's about as exciting as a wet Sunday in November." (185)

Deborah Crombie. A Finer End. New York: Bantam Books, 2001.
The author and her police detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are very popular in the FEC library so it seemed a good idea to give her a go. Early pages worried me that I'd be expected to buy into a scenario of spookiness, but it proves to be only a superficial side trip into mythical, mystical Avalon. The ancient pagan past of Glastonbury in England still lives on in some minds. Kincaid and James don't fully enter the picture for some time; their personal and professional relationship is evident but subordinate in the story.

We are introduced to a large-ish cast quite smartly and it's difficult to predict what the crime will be. Or why. Jack is an architect who discovers he's the subject of strange automatic writing; Winnie is an Anglican priest; Andrew is her schoolteacher brother; Nick works in a bookstore; Simon is a mediaeval scholar; Garnet is a unique craftswoman; Fiona is a troubled artist; Faith is a pregnant teenager. The reader's challenge is guessing if and how they will all mesh together. Glastonbury itself is the real star of this novel (thank you for the end-paper maps!). Legend says it's where Joseph of Arimathea arrived with the Holy Grail. If you like a bit of twelfth century history with your mystery, this is up your alley.

End of the work day:
Faith stopped, panting, pressing her palm into the small of her back and wiggling feet already swollen from a day of standing behind the cafĂ©'s counter. She could hear the trickle of water beneath her feet. These hills were honeycombed with water―it ran in the culverts laid under the tarmac; it leached from the verges and sprang from every nook and cranny.Woodsmoke lay heavy on the still, damp air. Garnet would have the stove lit, and Faith imagined the smoke rising from the chimney, spilling down the hillside like a cloak, hiding everything beneath it from mortal sight. But then she had been thinking strange things of late, and her dreams were stranger still.It was odd that the nearer she came to having her baby, the more she missed her own mother. Often now, she dreamed she heard her mother's voice calling her name―sometimes she even felt her mum's hand on her brow, stroking back her hair―and then she would wake in the silent, cold room, the only living presence the calico cat curled on the foot of her bed. (95)

Gemma consults an expert:
"'Getting in touch with the earth,'" as you put it, usually involves actively opposing those who abuse our natural resources for their own ends, and there you encounter great greed. And there are men―and a few women―who cannot abide the idea of women in power. But I'm certain you know that from your own experience." Dr. Rosenthal studied her shrewdly. "Paganism, like any system of belief that is world shaping, can easily inspire fanaticism. You could say that Christianity is a basically benign belief, and yet it has been responsible over the centuries for enormous suffering in the world.But the worship of the Old Gods can go further. It has a dark side to it, an element of chaos, and there are those who aspire to tap that, to release it again into the world. And there are those who are caught up in it unawares." (263)

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