The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own. -- Adam Gopnik



December 6, 2012

A Question of Identity (?)


She settled herself in bed with one of the three paperbacks she had still not read since getting them for Christmas. She had always used the library too but it was a bit far from here. When the community hall and sitting room were built, as they'd been promised and seen on the plans, maybe a library could be started in a small way for the residents here. She had plenty of books, others might have discards, relatives could bring some, and though it might be more of a swap system than a proper library it would serve. She kept a notepad and pen on her bedside table and she started to make a list of the sort of books people here might enjoy. Crime. Romance (nothing dirty). Anthologies. Classics. She began to put down names too. P.D. James, Joanna Trollope, Katie Fforde, Ruth Rendell, Penelope Lively, Victoria Hislop ...
      She was well into her stride, remembering books she'd loved, wondering if this or that novel was out of print, adding 'Miss Read' hastily, then 'Nancy Mitford' and 'Denis Lehane' -- one of her own favourites but possibly a bit too raw for some.
      [X's] stomach for crime fiction was surprisingly strong, though she found the dark Scandinavians a bit hard to take.
      She was enjoying herself, and had just jotted down Daphne du Maurier when she heard a sound. Inside? No, outside. A cat. One had tried to sneak into her kitchen and resented being thrown out. ...
      Then she heard something louder. Her heart jumped into her throat like a goldfish leaping out of a bowl, and then beat so loudly she could hear the blood pulsing in her ears.
      Again. A little louder. Nearer. She thought someone must surely  be trying to get in through the bedroom window, which was how ...
     No. The window was secure and the sound was coming not from there, but from the front hall. The front door.
      She sat up in bed, clutching at the top sheet, not knowing if she should cry out or stay silent, get up or stay still.
      She did not have many seconds in which she was still free to decide.
Since this scene {all my favorite authors - and there's one there I could still discover!}  is set in new 'sheltered accomodation' for the elderly, I feel a little old. But with age comes wisdom...

I know that I don't read mysteries the way you're supposed to.  I hardly ever try to follow the clues, or set out to figure out who the killer is -- but sometimes it's a lucky guess, and sometimes it's kind of obvious.  There could be, for instance, some 'extra' (or non-recurring) characters, and they're probably only there to be suspects.  Pretty early on, that's what I thought was happening in Susan Hill's new Simon Serrailler novel, and then something was mentioned, in passing, that seemed like another obvious clue, or at least a confirmation.   So I was sure I knew who was killing the elderly women in Duchess of Cornwall Close. Then Fleur {writing very thoughtfully about this book and the series} said the ending was improbable, and I was sure I was right. 

I read series mysteries to meet the recurring characters again, and I like the family saga in this one. Simon is still trying to build a relationship with Rachel, Judith's relationship with Richard might be falling apart ...

      'I love her,' Simon said now. 'And if my father loses her, I swear I will kill him.'
      Rachel looked at him gravely, her violet eyes clouded. 'No,' she said, 'no, you won't and please never say that sort of thing again. You of all people.'
      For a moment he was angry. No one spoke to him like that except his sister, the only person he would take it from, though his mother had sometimes been critical, as had Judith once or twice. But their tone was different. Rachel spoke in the way Cat did, almost as if he were Sam's age and behaving childishly. He looked at her across the table. Her eyes were steady on him, as she ate her pudding quite calmly.
      And then he smiled. 'Yes,' he said. 'You're right. Of course you're right.'
 
... and Cat is watching her children change, her patients die, her hospice diminish, and new work take shape.

In the end, I enjoyed spending some time in Lafferton again.  But as for the killer, I was right, and that's almost a little disappointing.


4 comments:

Lisa May said...

I only guessed the killer very late - but then I'm usually completely clueless. I did enjoy this one, because I like Cat's story - at this point, I'm not sure I'd miss Simon if he transferred to another force :)

lyn said...

Like you, I never bother trying to work out who the killer is, I just enjoy the ride especially with a series when I want to find out what's happening with everyone's personal life! I'm sorry you were disappointed with the killer though. What a lovely passage you quoted but it's a shame that the character is about to die! Hope that's not an omen for lovers of Mitford & Trollope (both of them).

FleurFisher said...

It's passages like the ones you quote, where Susan Hill gets it exactly right, that makes it all the more maddening when she gets it even a little wrong.

I prefer to watch characters or admire plotting, rather than trying to work things out, when I read crime fiction, but I couldn't help noticing that there were only two possible suspects and one was much too obvious.

The improbability I meant was how the police got their man by the way - not the identity of the man they got!

Audrey said...

Fleur, now that you mention it, you're right, of course.