August 11th, 2003

Dark Tower

Shake Hands Forever

I've just finished listening to Ruth Rendell's novel Shake Hands Forever, one of her Inspector Wexford series. This was a nice conjunction of me currently reading and watching lots of crime fiction, and me going through the spoken-word novel section of Sutherland Library over the last year, now I finally have a car with a working cassette recorder.

I don't know if this one is well-regarded or not, though the author obviously is. I always enjoy intelligent characters with a strong human side to them, and this delivered, providing various clues, red herrings and temptations to the Inspector as he investigates the murder of Angela Hathall. And no, I didn't see the ending coming (and still don't know what the title has to do with anything).

But, I've gotta say, the book did highlight a deficiency of the genre, as I see it. Basically, although there was a fine sense of urgency involved in the investigation, there wasn't much of a threat. Things come together, but I don't think I'm giving too much away to say that the final revelation occured to the reader when Inspector Wexford was describing the case to a colleague of his. In a way it's eschewing melodrama, but I like melodrama, in moderation. There's that point when your well-drawn characters come together in moments of heightened danger and trauma, and have to sink or swim by their decisions and their training. It's the payoff to suspence, and what keeps me attached to genres where I've found little good writing in recent years.

Another example (to increase my sample space to an almost-as-useless two): Chloe Hooper's A Child's Book of True Crime, which I read many moons ago, was a fine novel looking at murder, sex and alientation in a small town (plus interesting bits of Tasmanian history). I liked it, thought the writing was very good, but there was no moment that grabbed me and kept it hooked in my brain, and so it sort of passed me by. I think this is the sin that 'literature' is often blamed for, by those who enjoy their genre fiction.

Then again, before Shake Hands Forever I listened to the somewhat pulpier Witch Hunt by, um, somebody, about a terrorist (and a feminist!) slipping into the UK to murder someone. Also pretty good (better than it sounds), but a little flat in the end. Maybe there's a lot of it going around.

Hey, this journal writing is harder than it looks. I just spent an hour writing that (why? you might well ask). Oh well. In other news, I remain busy at work, have kept writing and mapping, and went to a party at my parents on the weekend (where I found someone who knew Ian Irvine professionally, tried to explain what sort of game involves intimate knowledge of the Californian legal code (without revealing it was based on a kung-fu vampire TV show), and heard bits of strange political discussions whilst catching up with my other brother).
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