The station master of my local train station is nice enough to provide a “book table” for the use of patrons. The idea is that you bring in your old books (as a second-hand book-seller in training all I can say is that these are usually not the cream of the crop) and take a book to read on the train occasionally. It’s an honour system. There are usually a whole lot of nice old National Geographics, a few Reader’s Digest condensed books (don’t you think it’d be weird to have a job as a book condenser?), stuff like that. Occasionally you get a nice gem. I’ve picked up a few Sherlock Holmes books, and a couple of science fiction classics.
The other day I picked up a copy of Elizabeth George’s book Well Schooled in Murder. I already had a book in my bag (I’m in the habit of setting my iPod to shuffle and reading to and from the city), but since I’m an omnivorous reader and I vaguely recognised the title and blurb from an ABC drama I’d seen a few years earlier — an Inspector Lynley mystery — I decided to read the book on the train.
The train pulled in to Central and I was three-quarters of the way through, and I was a bit iffy on Elizabeth George. She was one of those authors who I couldn’t decide whether I liked or disliked. The book’s narrative got along fine, but I couldn’t decide whether the descriptions were apt or just plain weird. I finished the book, and I still couldn’t decide. Occasionally I research authors in this fashion, seeking out whether or not they’re worth reading a lot of. Crime fiction is so easy to read that it’s a lot easier to form a complete picture of the author’s shortcomings and strengths very quickly. This is compared to someone like, say John Irving or Faulkner.
I picked up a copy of In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner from the library, since I was “experimenting” and didn’t want to buy it. Well, dear reader, if you’ve read this far into this post I’m going to reward you by telling you that it was absolutely DIRE.
George is an American, and that shows through in her over-exaggerated treatment of Cockney accents and London in general. Inspector Lynley’s friend Simon St. George (can you think of a more cliche` English toff name?) was crippled! In an accident! Years ago! and Lynley feels the need to emote about it much more than I feel his background as a count or an earl or whatever would evince.
Inspector Lynley seemed to be the most balanced character to me, and I will admit that the idea of an English Lord working as a police detective was one of the things that got me interested in the novels in the first place, in a similar way to the TV series — sort of like a crime fiction version of Carter on ER.
In contrast his sidekick Barbara Havers is overburdened with unattractive descriptions. In attempting to inject some traditional British class division into the book George has made Lynley into some sort of James Bond type while Havers chain-smokes and constantly eats bad food. Not even her POV is sympathetic to her, so I feel a bit sorry for the character.
I didn’t finish the second book. I felt like I got derailed by the high drama going on in the character’s lives, and the murder mystery was so bland in contrast that it didn’t interest me one iota. One jot!
I’m confident that our crime fiction section at JimmyD’s is extensive. When I first came into the shop I was pleased that it encompassed all the crime sub-genres: classic crime, real-life crime, cheesy crime, thrilling crime, procedural crime, cosy crime… The cheesy crime section I feel is well represented by the five or so Elizabeth George books that we have in stock, including In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner.
My question is this: what were your experiences with Elizabeth George? Should I keep reading? Are her “off” moments worth the rather gripping storylines in her other books? Am I being a crime fiction snob – am I too spoilt by P. D. James? Discuss for your chance to win a voucher at JimmyD’s.
- Agnes.Filed under BOOKS, Cool Crime Writers | Tags: Cool Crime Writers, The Crime Fiction Detective, Your two cents worth - book reviews | Comments Off