26 February 2012

Death Comes to Pemberly.

I don't believe i've read any of P.D. James' mystery novels before now.  I read Talking about Detective Fiction back in 2010. I saw Death Comes to Pemberly somewhere before Christmas and stuck it on my library hold list on a whim.  I've never read any of the continuances of Jane Austen novels either


So I thought when I picked this one up that it was going to be an English country house-type mystery with Elizabeth and Darcy in the role of the detectives.  This book was not at all like that.  The murder takes place on Pemberly's grounds, out in the woods.  Without going into spoilers, Wickham and Lydia are involved.  There really isn't any detecting going on; a gentleman is accused of the murder, basically says he didn't do it and expects to be believed.  There's an inquest then a trial and Darcy has to testify.  I didn't even find it very suspenseful.


The redeeming quality is the James nails Austen's voice.  The novel does feel like a continuation of Pride and Prejudice.  Lizzie and Jane are both happy mothers of 2 and 3 healthy children, respectively.  All the kids are under 5 and we only get to see the two Darcy boys.  Lydia is still a scatterbrain; Mr. Bennett adores Pemberly's library.  In a way it is like catching up with some old, formerly close friends.  I suppose that is why there are so many Austen continuations and imitations.  


I give this one a 5 overall but I would say you won't like it if you don't enjoy Austen or require your mysteries to be the main focus of the story. 

24 February 2012

Ghost Stories!

I finished Collected Ghost Stories by M.R. James.  The amazon link is not the volume i read; my copyright was 1994 and had a much less cheesy cover, just a grey old castle at sunset.  The stories really are short as the book has 30 stories in it's 350 pages.  It was the sort of book where the stories really do start to blend together.  They are proper Victorian ghost stories: often second or third hand, vague, moody.  

my favorites were "The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance" which was an epistolary story about the search for a missing man and his strange reappearance, "Wailing Well" about what happens to bad boys who don't do as they are told, "Casting the Runes" which had a hint of a caper story about it, and "The Mezzotint" which was a very creepy one about a picture that changes every time you look at it, telling a story of murder. When done well, the stories can be deliciously creepy. 

There were several I really had no fraking clue about, "Two Doctors" and "The Uncommon Prayerbook" come to mind.  My edition also had a weird way of only giving some of the translations for various bits of Latin.  One in particular was at the end of the story and Google translate failed me.  I got that it involved a vampire but not the verb so the dramatic reveal was a bit lost on me.  


This is a book to sip.  The few times i tried to really read several stories straight through I got muddled. I would read a few, pause for a drink, then have a hard time remembering which i was reading.  I would recommend it for RIP; a story a day leading up to Halloween would be a wonderful way to read it.  overall a 5.

05 February 2012

Quite Contrary

The high ambition, therefore, seems to me to be this: That one should strive to combine the maximum of impatience with the maximum of skepticism, the maximum of hatred fo injustice and irrationality with the maximum of ironic self-criticism.  this would mean really deciding to learn from history rather than invoking or sloganising it--Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian

I finished Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens this morning.  I need to read more Hitchens.  I read God is not Great several years ago and liked it.  I loved it actually, as it is strident and unapologetic.  I'm not the contrarian or the arguer; it isn't in my makeup.  I do, however, enjoy hearing those who are argue for me.  This book is a short series of letters on how to be a contrarian.  Hitchens give advice on reading, experiences to collect, traveling, how to cultivate the skepticism and anti-crap detector everyone really needs.   I really enjoyed this one and, once April 1st rolls around and i can add things to my library list again, intend to read another collection of his essays.  a 6.

03 February 2012

Second Foundation

Second Foundation is the third book in the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov.  The first two were better but this one was not bad. The first book was essentially several short stories while the second was basically two novellas. This one also had 2 stories but a much bigger cast of characters and i felt it skipped between the characters too much, with too many gaps in time.  Also, how did the Second Foundation get their mental powers?  And why are the First Foundation so damn scared of them?  I mean, they spring from the same source and have as their goal the same end: to make the Universal Dark Age as short as possible.  Plenty of the Foundationers come off sounding like krazy konspiracy guys because there doesn't seem to be any real reason for their fears.  

ah well.  a 5 I think, as i did like Arkady.