Friday, July 20, 2018

Is it the mystery or the voice that entices a reader?

I've been rereading Divide by Zero ready for its rerelease (with Ink-Filled Stories... watch this space!). I guess there's something appealing about actually enjoying my own book. I like the way each chapter is a story in its own right. I'm enjoying getting to know so many characters. And I've realized it really is still a mystery, though I changed my mind so many times while writing it. It's a mystery because I didn't know (really... I have a really bad memory) quite where it was going. I remembered the crime and whodunnit of course, but, while reading, even that was gone from my mind. Whodunnit why, and how did he get from here to there? All of this was a mystery again and I loved revisiting it.

Meanwhile I've been reading some "real and literary" mysteries. It must be something to do with having been in England for my mum's birthday. I picked up some English mysteries (reviewed some a week or so  ago), then came home and started picking up mysteries from my to-read bookshelf. Which is entirely wrong of me. I have a long list of books I'm overdue to review. But I needed a break. I needed a chance to read just for me. And here are some reviews of the books I read. They might be mysteries, most of them; and even if they're not, it's still a mystery to guess how someone's getting from there to here and where here will be.

Sometimes where here will be is a surprise as well as a mystery. Harms’ Way by Thomas Rayfiel was a book I found in my mailbox (for review) when I got back from England. I couldn't resist starting. It's not a mystery. It's really a rather dark drama set in a maximum security prison and told by a prisoner. Maybe the reason he's there is a mystery; if so it's very slowly hinted at for so so long, the reader begins to wonder what's true and what's imagined. How the story will end is surely mystery too, as another prisoner maybe kills, as riots and rehousing and a PhD student with too many questions intervene, as ... A very human drama; a very thought-provoking invitation; a dark read requiring a seriously dark cup of coffee I think.

In Bones of Brooklyn by Ira Gold, another first-person novel with another fascinating narrator, the mystery, I guess, is how the protagonist will get around being told to kill someone he likes and learn what's going on. Of course, it soon moves on from there. There's the girlfriend who might have a way out from being scared, and past history (from an earlier novel) that's so naturally interwoven into the tale, readers will never feel they've missed anything. Another dark read. Another dark cup of coffee. And great humor! (Yeah, I guess it's the voice, not the mystery, that enticed me.)

The Dollar-a-year Detective by William Wells is a sequel to Detective Fiction, which I loved. And yes, it's first person again. It's also much more like a standard mystery, with an ex-cop searching for the mafia-style killer of rich yacht-owners. The narration includes social commentary and clear points of view without ever trying to persuade the reader--feels like listening to a real person. And circumstances just might change some of his fixed opinions anyway... making him even more real. Florida, politics, oil, greed and more. Maybe a complex four-star coffee for a tale with a complex character and plot.

Then there's The Occupation of Zaima by Georgeann Packard, which surely isn't mystery but is filled with so many mysteries--who is the girl, what happened to the guy, what about the girlfriend, what about the past, the future, who or what occupies or is occupied... Mysteries that feel like real life. Land that feels so real it's almost a character in the tale. Trees that fruit in due season. It's a stunningly beautiful novel about genuinely wounded people. It sings to the poetry of one of its protagonist. It grow like the blossom on the trees. I love it--can you tell? And you'll need a delightfully well-balanced, smooth three-star coffee to go with the read.

So why did I say I've been reading mysteries. Well, the other books I've picked up and enjoyed are AGreat Deliverance by Elizabeth George, first of the Inspector Lynley mysteries (as seen on TV), set in my beloved Yorkshire and filled with--yes, great characters and relationships, as well as a mystery to be solved; Whose Body by Dorothy L Sayers, first in the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries--probably not the best, but a great place to start since I'm planning to reread them all, and still, certainly, an intriguing mystery, well-told, with smoothly drawn characters and hints of the past; Murder in Belleville by Cara Black, number two in the Aimee Leduc series (because I've already reviewed #1), and a vivid recreation of Paris's dark side--again, a scary mystery combined with great characters and complex plot. Then there's Virtually Lace by Uvi Poznansky, but that's not been released yet. An artistic murder where art and place are genuine (occasionally virtual) characters, it fits this collection perfectly.

So yes, lots of mystery. But maybe more importantly, lots of great characters. What I'm reading at the moment? A children's book, the Wizard of Tut Tut Bun, with a very odd central character and a very chatty style; the first of the "new" Lord Peter Wimsey books--Thrones, Dominations (which I'm absolutely loving!--so much for reading things in order!) and, well, like I said, Divide by Zero, getting it ready for its rerelease--I can hardly wait!

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