Wednesday, June 08, 2016

What we're reading: Catching up on mystery series

As I previously posted, I've been catching up on some mystery reading, now that I'm free to read what I want during the summer months. I follow series by several authors, and look forward to the next in the serial tale.

The first one was The Soul of Discretion, #8 in the Simon Serrailler series by Susan Hill. This entire series is a dark one, set in a minor key--brooding, downbeat, subtle. No aspect of life or death is left unexplored by its characters, both philosophically and practically. It's beautifully written, intense, fascinating in the sense of being unable to look away from the mesmerizing eyes of the coiled snake.

This one was particularly gripping, given that its main story line involves the infiltration of a child abuse/pornography ring, and its secondary story line involves rape. Sometimes I wonder why I choose to read books like this, but the revelatory nature of the narrative speaks to something primal that wants to know and understand about things we wouldn't want to encounter in our real lives.

There were a few minor missteps in this one that a more careful editor could have caught (in particular a loose end about a character who is there and then suddenly isn't, despite her importance to a particular plot point). I was also a little bothered by Hill's use of the old trope of women making excuses for their men's bad behavior. 
I know that women still do this, and I know that Hill was trying to show us the difficulty with which women move beyond this fearful catering, but I'm bored with two of her characters being so enabling. One of them got past it in the end, but only with severe provocation.

Still, it didn't detract so much from the book that I was able to put it down, or prevent me from looking forward to various resolutions in the next book! Another good one from Susan Hill.

The next Ruth Galloway book, The Woman in Blue, is also #8 in its series of books about an archaeologist and her association with the local police, by Elly Griffiths. This one, however, doesn't really involve Ruth's archaeology skills or knowledge in any way, but rather calls on the bonds of friendship. An old schoolmate of Ruth's, now an Anglican priest, asks her advice about some threatening letters (the priest is a woman, and someone obviously takes exception to that), and the letters seem to be tied to a local murder in an old medieval town.

I'm going to echo the review I wrote for the last Ruth Galloway mystery I read--I love the characters, the setting, the ongoing ins and outs of the relationships, but again had some problems with the mystery around which they are built. I didn't think the red herring worked well, partly because it was insufficiently explored; and I felt like the development of the actual murderer was too slight (I couldn't even picture the character in my head!), as was that person's reason for killing. Yes, it was plausible, but it wasn't dramatically presented. I have always liked the low-key approach taken in this series, but there does need to be some sense of excitement, danger, anticipation. Like I said, though, I do love the characters, especially Ruth and Nelson, so I will keep reading and hope for a better mystery as a vehicle to carry their convoluted relationship!

So many more to read...I'll be back soon!

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