Saturday, November 5, 2011
The ability to fool and mislead a reader while not actually lying or omitting key details is a forgotten art in mysteries. I especially dislike the ones where you know who the bad guy is and you have to rely on the tension of whether they will find him on time to drive the plot. That seems like cheating to me. And books that are so formulaic that you know who the killer is just because of their function in the story are even worse. (Cozy mysteries, I'm looking at you. 95% of the time the new guy who hits on the heroine is the bad guy.)
I also enjoy the main characters, Bryant and Mays. Unapologetically elderly men who put their experience and skills to work in ways that the younger people can only try to learn. Protagonists in their 70s or older are also pretty rare. Elderly people who don't die by the end of the book are even rarer.
The writing is evocative, or at least to me, of the foggy, grimy, and above all, old city of London. It was the city as character that kept me coming back for more. Not only are the main characters old, but they have grown old in the same place. They know the town and have lived through so many changes, every corner has a memory.
I am enchanted by this sense of place. I've never lived anywhere long enough to gain that for myself. Salt Lake City is where I spent my teenage years, so it comes the closest. Yet I went away for school (only a little ways, but still) and spent 18 months away for a mission, then after marriage we moved away for good. My memories are still there, but I wasn't there to see the changes happen. We have had dreams of a permanent home for our family but that hasn't happened yet. Eight places in fourteen years isn't an unusual amount of moving, but it is enough to never live somewhere long enough to know its secrets.
I may be too old for that now. The type of exploring you do as a child and teenager is not my thing anymore. I still hope for that permanence for my children though. I don't know if where we are now will be that place. My gut says no, but that could just be negative thinking. My gut said Moab was and we see how that turned out.
So for now I read about places I've never seen and envy those who have stayed in a place long enough to know its history.