It’s Sunday Book Day, which means I can tell you about some of the novels I’ve been reading.
I’ve been immersing myself in crime fiction lately starting with Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy. I found it compelling and devoured the three books in a matter of days. I won’t go on about it here. There are plenty of reviews online by better writers. But if you haven’t read it, and you can cope with some fairly brutal crimes, I recommend it.
The Millenium trilogy whet my appetite for more books in the crime genre so I decided to try The Private Patient by P.D James which had had some positive reviews.
Private Patient started out with promise. The story centered around Rhoda Gradwyn. She was an interesting character who had survived a background of violence and abuse to become a well respected investigative journalist. At the age of 47 she decided to have plastic surgery to remove a disfiguring scar across her face that she had had since childhood because she “didn’t need it anymore”. I found the whole storyline around her intriguing and it was hard to stop reading at times.
However, after she was murdered (not a spoiler – the first sentence of the book alerts you to this) I thought the writing deteriorated. The murder investigation followed a similar path to locked room mysteries. The suspects all resided in or around the private clinic where her surgery was to be performed, and of course, as the story progressed, some of them were murdered as well. The characters were cliches of the genre – stock characters.There seemed to be no effort to develop them and I just didn’t care about or believe in them.
Inspector Dalgliesh was given more depth, but it was clear much of his character had been developed in earlier books. Throughout the story were references to characters and events from previous books that I hadn’t read. I couldn’t understand their significance. This was frustrating.
In the end I gave up on the book – I’ve tried to return to it a few times but the cliches annoy me and I find it all a bit of a chore. So I stopped reading crime for a while until two friends recommended Kate Atkinson to me and restored my faith in the genre. I’ll tell you about these books next Sunday.