Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Murder Room

After I posted a "meh" review to P.D. James's Children of Men, a gentle reader left a comment setting me straight P.D.'s sex and encouraged me to read one of her Adam Dalgliesh novels. When I saw The Murder Room, I snapped it up.

Alas, I didn't, uh, even finish The Murder Room, but I love that my guest commenter suggested it (check out her blog, Entre Deux Solitudes) and just because it's not my cup of tea, if you're into mysteries, you'd probably love it.

What I liked: It's really English. One of the characters was always talking about taking a walk on the "heath." It made me absolutely LONG for a walk on the heath, whatever heath is. Reminded me of, after reading The Mill on the Floss, wondering, what the hell is floss?

James's writing is sophisticated, and she never insults the reader. Her writing style (obviously not her topics) reminds me of Barbara Pym, who I've been enjoying lately. I think she's decidedly old-fashioned - I was actually surprised when one of the characters pulled out a cell phone, because I thought it took place much earlier than that.

What I didn't like: The pacing. It's a murder mystery, but the first hundred pages basically just introduces the characters with little action. It moves r.e.a.l.l.y. slow. Sometimes, I like a book with a slow pace, but, in this case I didn't. I ended up skimming and then skipping to the end.

It used to be almost impossible for me to put down a book - I felt like I was giving up on it, and myself. Lately it's merely difficult, but I can do it. When I don't enjoy a book, it gives me a thrill to pass it on to someone I think will enjoy it, or to leave it on a bench in a public place to let fate help it find a home. That's what I'll do with this one, tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Oh, it's such a shame I didn't manage to make a new convert, but thank you for giving P.D. James another try!

Admittedly, I prefer her earlier novels (those published before "A Certain Justice") and would have recommended you read "Devices and Desires", her best in my opinion, but since your remarks apply equally to any of them, it appears that you and P.D. simply aren't compatible...

You're right, her books are very English in their setting and atmosphere, her pace is slow-moving, and her writing highly intelligent and anything but modern. While there are some action scenes, they certainly don't dominate her plots. I suppose they could be called "intellectual" crime novels. Fans of Dorothy L. Sayers should find similarities between these two Grandes Dames of crime fiction.

I think there's a deliberately timeless quality to her books that makes it difficult to pinpoint the moment when most of them take place. Perhaps because of her age, she never relies on technology as essential to solving crimes; mentions of tools such as faxes or mobile phones are few and mostly incidental.

Special K said...

Oh, I forgot to mention, another thing I really loved was how progressive her book was - there was a gay character that had some interesting things to say about love and being a couple.

Maybe I'll come back to James in a few years, my tastes may changed a bit then... thanks for the tip, Deleilan!