Weekly Reading Round-Up
Happy Friday, all!
It’s winter again here in New York– with snow and sleet the other day– so I’ve retreated to the equivalent of a warm blanket with vintage cozy mysteries, finishing the last few books in Elizabeth Daly’s 1940s Henry Gamadge series. I’ve heard the term “American Agatha Christie” uttered many times about many authors, but in this case it really feels true. These are, as contradictory as it may sound, New York City country house mysteries. Just trade in the traditional British manor house and the village vicarage for the New York City brownstone and the corner drugstore….
Since I’ve run out of Gamadges, I went back to one of my favorite comfort read authors, Charlotte MacLeod, to try one of her stand alones, The Fat Lady’s Ghost, which has both the advantage and disadvantage of being very much a period piece. On the one hand, the picture of Boston in the 1960s is rather charming. On the other, I had a hard time with the heroine coming to the realization that it would be a far, far better thing to put aside her silly artistic ambitions and support the man in her life. One can’t blame a book for being a product of its own time, but… it smacked a bit too much of Milton’s “he for God only, she for God in him”. Just me?
Meanwhile, I have a growing pile of both new books I’ve been wanting to read and ARCs I really must read– if I can pry myself away from my cozy mystery cocoon!
What have you been reading this week?
I’ve been reading my book club selection about the real life murder of Hazel Drew in New York State in 1908. It’s interesting, but the way the authors structured it is really bad. Planning on spending my weekend with Georgette Heyer, who I just read an article saying she was unknown. Seriously!?! Ugh.
What was it about the structure that didn’t work? (Curious because I’m trying to figure out how to structure my Manhattan Well Murder book!)
Glad you asked! So, instead of providing a timeline of events, this leading to that, they (two authors working together) decided to thematically group the chapters. Like there’s one on the press, one on the inquest, you get the idea. The problem is even within these chapters they skip around with evidence and when it’s discovered to best suit their narrative structure. So sometimes later events are listed earlier. Also, the grouping in this manner led to weird time issues. The reporter Clemens (NO relation to Mark Twain despite his claims) is the “star” of the press chapter and it ends with, “he left town and had no more involvement in the case.” But then in the next chapter there he is because we’re dealing with an event that happened before he left.
So, the main problem was internal and external chronology. They needed to be clearer on the sequence of events and when things happened. They could have grouped things and still made the timeline clear, but they didn’t. The crime and the evidence should come first, everything else should be built off that. Instead of, hey I have this cool idea about how to structure this differently than other books! Maybe they should have realized people don’t do this for a reason. For prose perfection with true crime I’d say look to “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” AND the miniseries they developed from it. They lay the facts out first and then build off that in a very emotional and personal way. Also Rick Geary’s true crime series of graphic novels is, to me, the perfect structuring of true crime. Seriously, I’ve read them all and they are all fabulous.
I am immersed in Pam lecky’s Lucy lawrence mysteries. They are set in late 1880’s England (the second is set in Egypt with an archaeology theme). I find them very entertaining.