For The Someday Book

Posts Tagged ‘mystery

The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard, Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers, 2011, 246 pp.

The-Fates-Will-Find-Their-Way-33012This is the last book from my impulse buys at the YMCA book sale a few months ago. They weren’t a half-bad lot, in all. This was a good vacation read during Christmas break–quick, light, but also a bit forgettable. And, frankly, there were some scenes I would rather forget.

The Fates Will Find Their Way is the story of a group of teen boys and their reactions–over the course of their lives–to a classmate, Nora Lindell, who goes missing. The story is not quite a mystery, although there is an element of mystery in it. It is not quite a coming-of-age novel, although we watch the boys mature into adulthood. Pittard uses a unique narrative voice, a “we” that consists of the group as a whole, that speaks not for one particular boy, but for the whole group and their shared memories and shared fantasies. That voice lasts throughout the entire narrative, as the group ages and the dreams and imaginations change. The story then carries a murkiness from beginning to end, as the group creates fantasy narratives for Nora’s life, both juvenile and adult, both terrifying and beautiful.

The story felt slow at first, as it took awhile for me to adapt to the strange narrative voice or to develop a relationship with the characters, since there were so many sharing the spotlight equally. There was also a lot of sexual content in the teen years, both fantasy and reality. I don’t consider myself a prude, but I found it a little more graphic than was helpful or interesting to the story. The Fates Will Find Their Way was a fine vacation read, an interesting narrative device, but nothing too exciting.

The Case of the Missing Servant: Meet Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator, by Tarquin Hall, Simon & Schuster, 2009, 310 pp.

{270af1c9-7806-4ad4-8bee-ce9c429e92c9}Img100I don’t usually go for mystery novels, but someone talked me into this one based on the unique setting in modern India. In the end, I did enjoy the setting a great deal, but the “whodunit” plot did not draw me in. I think I generally like novels that emphasize character development over plot, which is why I don’t go in for mysteries too much.

The Case of the Missing Servant is the first in a series about Vish Puri, the top private investigator in India. We meet his wife and mother, and his staff, who all go by various nicknames like Handbrake (the chauffeur), Facecream (an undercover agent), Tubelight (a basic stakeout expert) and more. The primary case is about a household servant who goes missing, leading to the arrest of the master of the house for murder. There is also a secondary case involving a pre-marital investigation by a grandfather concerned about his daughter’s fiance. Puri goes to elaborate lengths to conduct secretive investigations, involving undercover staff, disguises, secret interviews and more. The setting in India adds a uniqueness and intrigue to the story, as he navigates the particulars of Indian culture and caste.

I have the second novel on my nightstand from the library as well, but I haven’t yet decided if I will read it. I enjoyed the setting, but the plot and the characters just didn’t do it for me. If you are a fan of whodunits, I recommend it–it’s just not my thing.

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, by P.D. James, Simon & Schuster, 1977, 250 pp.

I decided to take a risk and try a mystery novel. I have so many friends who love mysteries as a genre, and sing the praises of P.D. James as the best in the business. I wanted something easy and fun and forgettable. It was all of those things, but nothing more. And a lot more easy and forgettable than it was fun.

This is the first of the Cordelia Gray series, which I figured would be a good place to start in case I got hooked and wanted to tear through the whole series. Perhaps that made it a bit more rocky, since the main character needed a lot of set-up and back story. In this story, she is on her first case as a private eye, hired by a rich scientist to discover why his 21-year-old son hung himself. The story had its twists and turns, but I thought the “whodunit” aspects of it were fairly predictable.

I decided that I like to read for characters and ideas and pathos, not for plot twists and turns. The mystery did not work for me because I did not care enough about the characters. A mystery novel works on cleverness, both of the plot and of the detective solving the case. For me, the cleverness did not carry me through with enough passion to care if the victim was this character or that one, if the culprit was this character or that one.

Mystery lovers: what am I missing? Correct me, cajole me, console me. Why do you love this so much?

Time to move decidedly back to the territory of my preferred genres for awhile. I don’t have any plans to seek out the next Cordelia Gray story anytime soon.


About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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