I quite liked a previous book by Julian Symons, and this had quite a similar feel: more literary and polished than some of the other crime novels in the British Library Crime Classics series, which just attempt to be good stories. And another experience has led me to conclude that, well… I don’t really like his work, on balance: I find it has a certain self-conscious feel, a knowledge of its own cleverness, that I find somewhat offputting.
That’s more the case with this one that with The Colour of Murder: the narrator is an older man recounting something that happened when he was just barely an adult, describing his naive young stumblings-about and pretentiousness with an older, more temperate eye… and in the meantime showcasing how very clever he was in some ways (like wordplay and random intuitions to dash across to France). The tone felt fussy and slow as a consequence.
The whole family are pretty unpleasant here, as is traditional, and I didn’t really get majorly involved in the mystery: parts of how it would work out were much more obvious than I think the author would’ve liked! It’s just not that clever, and something about that smarmy narrator (both his young and adult selves) just gets up my nose. Bah.
As a piece of writing, I think it’s well done, pretty well-plotted and structured and so on. The neat sketches of the characters are mostly unkind, but do conjure up people quite vividly… But overall, meh for me.
It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!
What are you currently reading?
Fiction: The Belting Inheritance, by Julian Symons. It’s heavy going compared to a lot of the other British Library Crime Classics; it’s very consciously literally, and it has a rather stodgy narrator (an older man narrating events of his youth, groan).
Non-fiction: I’m back to reading Afua Hirsch’s Brit(ish), having got my ereader all set up again after the replacement, and also got back to the front of the queue from the library. I’m finding it hard going, not because of the subject matter, but just something about the writing. I’ve never done that well with memoir, and that’s largely what this is, though it does also discuss society-wide issues.
I’m also reading Lara Maiklem’s Mudlarking, which is a very easy read. I love microhistories, so perhaps it’s not surprising that this exploration of mudlarking and the things you can find while doing it is working for me.
What have you recently finished reading?
The last thing I finished was Adam Hart’s Unfit for Purpose, which I found a fairly obvious exploration of how human beings are ill-adapted to our modern environment because we evolved for a wholly different one. It never really dug into the issues enough to satisfy me.
What will you be reading next?
Most likely I will get back to work on The Grace of Kings, which I’ve been neglecting a bit too long. I have a whole shelf-full of books I’m partway through (or have been partway through at some point in the last… year-ish) that I want to pick back up, but there’s also a chance I’ll pick Marie Brennan’s Driftwood first.