Category Archives: Mysteries

Telewitterings

Sherlock was one of the most exciting new discoveries of last year, TV-wise, for me. I was heartily sorry there were only three, but I consoled myself that at least they were doing a good job. And yes, I share the widespread fan conclusion that “The Blind Banker” was weaker than the other two. I enjoyed it all the same.

So I was very disappointed when the second and third episodes of series two turned out to be so much mush. Mush filled with little chopped cranberries and walnuts of goodness, admittedly, but mush nonetheless.

The things I love in Sherlock are all those bristly and wonderful Holmes/Watson scenes, where they have the giggles together, when they’re fighting, when John’s putting up with Eccentricities.

I love the captioned detection scenes. The sequence where Sherlock goes over the body of the pink lady and we get to see his chain of observations and conclusions? Amazing!

What I don’t like so much–and it’s been part of the whole thing from the beginning–are the mano a villain bluff scenes. The bits where the bad guy is all “Who are you, Sherlock Holmes? I can outbluff you, nah nah nah.” They don’t work, and the big one in “The Reichenbach Fall” particularly didn’t work.

Stick to the mysteries, writer guys, is what I say, and the Sherlock/John action. Let us form our own conclusions about the characters, okay?

Thoughts falling like raindrops, in no especial order…

It’s pouring, which does not bode well for a Mother’s Day outing with Barb. We may be jostling for elbow room at a brunch place tomorrow if the rain doesn’t let up.

In the meantime, I have finished Josh Lanyon’s The Dark Farewell, which–when I take over the universe and am boss of you all–shall be retitled: “Ha Ha Ha, Bored Now! The End, Suckers!” until such time as Lanyon can be made to sit down and finish the thing properly. Or at all. Just as things were starting to get messy he solved the crime, wiped out the Romantic Obstacle, and finis! I am moving on to Wayne Arthurson, and Fall from Grace, in what might be described as a Profound Reader Snit.

(Which state I do expect Wayne to remedy. I already love how he writes about the Alberta landscape.)

Words, words, words: 1748 words since last time on the current novel.

I am working on a bunch of related shorts, though, and have just had a grand realization about the next entry in that batch. So once I fix up the chapters I drafted this week, I may defect from the novel to the shorties, which I’m calling The Gales, for 8500 words or so. Meanwhile, here’s a snippet from that book; I Tweeted it earlier this week:

At his feet, the gutted remains of the monster were soaking into Sophie’s second-best jeans.

And a sea star. Well, two:
Sea Star

The girl who came through the ether

It was about a year ago that I got myself an iTouch, and at some point I also got the iBook app. (They were giving away Winnie The Pooh.) Then kelly-yoyoKelly got a Kindle, so I got that app too. Once I had successfully read a few books on the gadget, I got myself a third book-reading app so I could experiment with downloading books from the BC Libraries without Walls program.

I started this phase of the experiment with Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy–the trio that ends with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. I knew the database would have them all, I figured they would be fast easy reads, and I was betting I’d never want to own them. All of that, as it turned out, was true.

I have been mustering up a post about what makes a book good. Not okay, not good enough, but good. And this Larsson trilogy falls into the category of books I liked a lot that are not, strictly speaking, good. In this case, that means they have terrific stories and poor prose.

This isn’t just my opinion. Others have pointed out that in translation (and possibly in the original) these books have a clunky prose style. June Casagrande does an interesting edit on the opening passage of the third book, and Nora Ephron makes great fun of the series in The New Yorker. The points made in both articles are valid, but I have no real problem with liking a bad book (or TV show, or movie) now and then. In this case, Larsson’s protagonist and her story pulled me in. It was a tour around the bureaucratic backroads of a foreign country.

I was particularly intrigued by the weird legal situation that Lisbeth Salander is in as the series begins. She’s in her twenties but she’s also trapped in an odd sort of reversed emancipated minor status. Emancipated minors can act as adults in some cases, even though they aren’t legally of age. Lisbeth, meanwhile, is an adult in fact but a dependent minor in the eyes of the System, and she has a court-appointed guardian.

There must be a comparable structure here in Canada and in the U.S., but I have never seen it used in fiction. And it is a great obstacle for a character, especially a socially awkward one, to be stuck with–the threat of being institutionalized hovers over Lizbeth’s every move.

I liked the cluster of allies Lisbeth gathers, somewhat against her will, and the way each novel ends with a gory explosion of violence and crushing public exposure of the bad guys. I like the examination of the role of the media in making big crime stories, and the glimpse of Swedish constitutional law, and the fact that Larsson clearly had it in, bigtime, for homophobes and racists and human smugglers and guys who batter women.

Finally, I have to say that it didn’t hurt that the phrase “lesbian satanist bikers” pops up on every third page of the last two books.

Sweet mysteries of the UK

Sherlock has begun airing on PBS and, like practically everyone else whose opinion I’ve heard, I loved it. I thought Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch were brilliant, I liked the script, and everything else I could squee about would be so very spoilery. I cannot wait for the next one.

Before SHERLOCK, Masterpiece aired S2 of Wallander, featuring little Kenny Branagh in the title role–remember when he was just that Henry Five guy?–as a deeply emo Swedish detective. These mysteries may not have the crackling struck-by-lightning appeal of Sherlock, but they’re good stories, well directed, with intrusive-but-nifty camera work and a stunning color palette. They offer a bit of a peek into another society (as filtered through British TV) and have good casts and solid enough mysteries.

There are many inappropriate humor moments to be had on this show, though. Wallander himself is precisely the sort of basket case that brings out a certain heartlessness in me. There’s been lots of Pause and Heckle: “Dude, if you’re so busy being upset that you don’t pay your bills, don’t go crying to me, in the dark, when the power company cuts off your juice. And, man, could you have said something dumber and more hurtful to your daughter? Hey, bummed out guy, why the uber-peppy ringtone?”

Seriously, the guy needs a nanny.

Wallander’s excuse might be that he appears to be the only competent cop in his particular unit: the others, as far as I can tell, have taken a full course of Useless Pills and a precautionary run of Huh? Boosters. They don’t help when he’s in danger, they barely blink when he goes all “Hey! People are dying, OMG, I’m so upset!” No, they shrug, dump unwanted boxes in his office and order pizza. No wonder he’s stressed out!

(Wallander’s obvious slash interest, as played by Richard McCabe, is Competent and Cares, but he’s a forensics guy, and thus his reach is limited.)

Humor aside, I definitely want to see the first season of this.

Words and pictures

I think you all know I live in a beautiful city, but here’s proof in the form of False Creek on a sunny fall afternoon:

Seawall

After a marathon transcribing session, I’ve gone and dug up the 4K words (ish) I’d written on THE RAIN GARDEN before starting the most recent push, and integrated the files. Total verbiage now comes to 29,555. Words for Tuesday, Monday, and Sunday, working backwards: 955, 1082, 1108.

Favorite Thing Mystery Monday…

My post today at Favorite Thing Ever is about the awesomely creepy Minette Walters novel, The Shape of Snakes.

And in case you missed it, kelly-yoyoKelly gives a most excellent pitch for Twitch City – The Complete Series, whose don’t miss central thesis is: Molly Parker is Lickable.

Other sources of televisual excitement in Dualand include the season premieres of both House and Castle, not to mention the CBC documentary: Queen Elizabeth in 3D. Really. That last bit isn’t a joke.

One book, two book, new book, blue book…

First, an exciting contest announcement: Favorite Thing Ever is giving away a copy of Indigo Springs. Entering is easy: surf here, leave a comment, and you’ll be in the running to win. No skill testing questions are involved.

Speaking of skill-testing, I am embarking on a new novel this morning.

I had been thinking to write a couple more squid stories, to go with the three already published and the two that are about to hit the market. However, after a couple of weeks of thrashing around the Battle of Las Vegas, I’ve conclusively determined that my head’s not currently in the Proxy War. So, as an experiment, I switched over to detailed planning on THE RAIN GARDEN, my next mystery project. Things clicked immediately. Presto, plotto, kazam!–I have an outline.

My plan as of two weeks ago had been to blast through a very rough draft of this book in November, as a Nanowrimo thing. Barring fire, flood and the common cold, I find that two thousand words a day for thirty days (less a couple days off) is a pretty sustainable pace for me. But since I’m ready now I’m darnwell gonna start now, keeping the end-of-November finish date but moving at more of a 900-word daily target. That will leave time for days off, a visit to Alberta, and Orycon.

I like the sustained push-push-focus of Nanowrimo, but it does tend to leave me bug-eyed and gibbering well into December. And there’s no reason to hold off if I’m ready to write the book now.

So, hey! What are all of you working on this autumn?

Cruising through the bookpile…

Kelly’s brother turned up on our doorstep out of the blue some weeks ago. He was on a business trip to Vancouver, and had ended up at a big fancy dinner at Federico’s Supper Club, which is just around the corner from us. So he ducked out and came to visit.

Part of catching up involved his telling us about a recent trip: he and his family had just come back from a Disney Cruise to the Mediterranean. They came back more tired than they were before they left, he said, because they went on so many shore excursions. (And, really–the Mediterranean? How could you not?) Still. The prospect of spending my downtime getting exhausted did not appeal. I vowed then and there to sit on my butt as much as possible while I was cruising.

So last week, amid the visiting and the wandering around various Alaskan towns, I finished Adam Nicholson’s Quarrel with the King: The Story of an English Family on the High Road to Civil War, reread the oft-mentioned Tana French novel In the Woods
and got two thirds of the way through In Triumph’s Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters, and the Price They Paid for Glory.

The Nicholson book was rough slogging at points. English history isn’t my strong suit, and this covers several generations of Pembroke family history, with regard to their relationship with the Crown. It goes from Henry VIII through to the Revolution. The best part, for me, was Nicholson’s lovely descriptions of the terrain around Salisbury. Here’s a snip:

Early on a summer morning–and you should make it a Sunday, when England stays in bed for hours after the sun has risen, the chalk downland to the west of Wilton slowly reveals itself in the growing light as an open and free-flowing stretch of country, long wide ridges with ripples and hollows within them, separated by river valleys, with an air of Tuscany transported to the north… At first, the larks are up and singing, but everything else is drenched in a golden quiet. Shadows hang in the woods, and the sun casts low bars across the backs of the hills. You will see the deer, ever on the increase in southern England, moving silently and hesitantly in the half-distance. It is a place of slightness and subtley, wide and long-limbed, drawn with a steady pencil.

I think if you already have a background in this era, it’s a delight. Otherwise, consider waiting on it until you know more. I might still try God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible (P.S.), but not soon.

I have been trying to sell Kelly on Tana French, so as soon as she wanted In the Woods, I handed it over. (I finished it yesterday.) My initial reaction to the book is here. I was so ambivalent I gave it away, only to realize after the fact that I’d loved it, so we bought a copy for Kelly to read on the cruise.

In Triumph’s Wake is rocking my world, and will get its own post after I’m finished with it. Meanwhile, here’s a preview of tomorrow’s post about our day in Skagway:
Skagway