The solar system that Catton puts into motion here felt complete, from the beginning of the book to the end. I was ridiculously delighted by the narra...moreThe solar system that Catton puts into motion here felt complete, from the beginning of the book to the end. I was ridiculously delighted by the narration; omniscient POV works so well when authors are explicit that destiny is a force at work in their novel's universe, and Catton didn't disappoint. The character descriptions were gorgeous and purposeful, and the plot was gleefully twisty and Victorian.
"Yes," the boy cried, "because I must! True feeling is always circular--either circular, or paradoxical--simply because its cause and its expression are two halves of the very same thing! Love cannot be reduced to a catalogue of reasons why, and a catalogue of reasons cannot be put together into love. Any man who disagrees with me has never been in love--not truly."
I'll get this out of the way first: the burry man is a real thing and, to my eyes, looks terrifying.
This was a slow-moving mystery, but the atmosphere...moreI'll get this out of the way first: the burry man is a real thing and, to my eyes, looks terrifying.
This was a slow-moving mystery, but the atmosphere was a delectable mix of spooky (pagan traditions, talk of ghosts in gloomy woods), sad (family feuds, the legacy of destroying an entire generation in WWI), and funny (Dandy, who clearly prefers dogs to children, is charged with judging a Bonniest Baby competition, and she--despite her friends very clearly instructing her to simply choose the plumpest baby there--forgets and instead picks a scrawny newborn, much to the dismay of the locals). I missed the meditations on crime-solving that the first book of the series featured, but I appreciated that Dandy was very level-headed about truth-seeking--particularly in comparing it to justice-seeking.(less)
A dark page-turner, but the ending was a letdown. Like the ending to The Mirage, it worked and seemed inevitable enough and I couldn't read fast enoug...moreA dark page-turner, but the ending was a letdown. Like the ending to The Mirage, it worked and seemed inevitable enough and I couldn't read fast enough, but it did nothing for me on an emotional level.(less)
A fairly-played mystery that I would have enjoyed more had it not been accompanied by a little too much background radiation of mild racism & colo...moreA fairly-played mystery that I would have enjoyed more had it not been accompanied by a little too much background radiation of mild racism & colonialism.(less)
A funny, bittersweet, twisty mystery, and my first Agatha Christie. I've unfortunately already been apprised of the twists/endings to her most famous...moreA funny, bittersweet, twisty mystery, and my first Agatha Christie. I've unfortunately already been apprised of the twists/endings to her most famous and most recommended novels, and I hadn't any luck starting with the first books of her major series, but beginning with this Miss Marple novel was an enjoyable experience. The biggest drawback was the mocking caricature of the solitary non-WASP-y character, an Eastern European refugee/servant (Catherine Tate plays this character in the TV adaptation--which I watched after reading this book--and I was actually pleasantly surprised by how she managed to add at least a little subtlety to an over-the-top, widely reviled character).(less)
A witty 1920s detective novel with engaging characters and enjoyable banter. The plot wasn't very strong or surprising (I'm sure it was much fresher b...moreA witty 1920s detective novel with engaging characters and enjoyable banter. The plot wasn't very strong or surprising (I'm sure it was much fresher back in its day), but the strength of the other elements made up for it.
It depicts anti-Semitism, and to this reader, while it didn't usually seem that the narrative wasn't endorsing those views of characters, it was still uncomfortable to read and still uncomfortable to have those views unchallenged by other characters.(less)
What a half-assed ending. I'm left with a bitter taste despite finding this book, as well as the trilogy as a whole, very gripping and very uncomforta...moreWhat a half-assed ending. I'm left with a bitter taste despite finding this book, as well as the trilogy as a whole, very gripping and very uncomfortable-making.
I still recommend all three books, but with the caveat that the ultimate deus ex machina ending isn't at all earned, neither as a coherent emotional arc nor, well, as a consequence of all the plot that came before it.(less)
Set in an alternate-universe fascist Britain in 1949, this is a cross-genre thriller featuring a genderflipped performance of Hamlet in which the lead...moreSet in an alternate-universe fascist Britain in 1949, this is a cross-genre thriller featuring a genderflipped performance of Hamlet in which the lead actress (Viola Lark, who comes from an infamous Mitford-like family) is a reluctant conspirator in a plot to kill Hitler during their opening night performance.
Honestly, the book had me enthralled at simply the prospect of genderflipped Hamlet (and it delves into the acting implications and all the theatre-side stuff wonderfully!), but the continuation of the world set up in Farthing is also breathlessly and twistedly done. The ever-tightening fist of fascism is relentless, and the depiction of Inspector Carmichael as a reluctant agent of this system is rendered with very patient delicacy.
At a train station while on a short leave, WWI nurse Bess Crawford witnesses a tearful encounter between a woman and a soldier. Nothing out of the ord...moreAt a train station while on a short leave, WWI nurse Bess Crawford witnesses a tearful encounter between a woman and a soldier. Nothing out of the ordinary there, but Bess recognizes the woman as the much beloved wife of a soldier she recently nursed, and the man she's with is not her husband. Their farewell isn't so much a farewell as the end of a confrontation, and Bess can neither parse the ambiguous emotions being exchanged nor intervene as the man gets on the train and the woman leaves.
Weeks later, back to work near the front, Bess sees the woman's picture in the newspaper: according to the article, she was murdered hours after Bess saw her, and the police have no leads.
I like this series for the way it intertwines life-at-war with people-are-always-going-to-be-unfathomably-complicated. It's not war that necessarily brings out the best or worst in people; it's all the uncomfortable human emotions and frailties that we're swimming in, no matter the external pressures, that determine how we treat one another. I also like the character of Bess, as stereotypically plucky (and stereotypically foolish of an amateur detective) she is.
One thing that doesn't really appeal to me about this series is how old-fashioned it feels. I completely understand I'm reading historical fiction (I mean, really!), but I still find the sexism and colonialism replicated in these books hard to take. Like, how everyone assumes that Marjorie, the murdered woman, must have gone bad, because good women, especially good married women, don't just get murdered! There's absolutely no thought spared to the possibility that Marjorie, who died three-months pregnant, had been raped; no, everyone privy to this information assumes she was having an affair and had gone bad. I understand these attitudes were prevalent back at the turn of the century, but I still didn't appreciate how these unquestioned assumptions in the book a) turned out to be correct, and b) that going unexamined, they contribute to continuing this perspective here in the 21st century.(less)
Framed for arson and abandoned by both her best friend and her boyfriend, Rose sets out to discover who among her high school classmates hates her eno...moreFramed for arson and abandoned by both her best friend and her boyfriend, Rose sets out to discover who among her high school classmates hates her enough to want to destroy her. It turns out the list is a long one. She may be a popular head cheerleader and valedictorian-hopeful, but Rose has hurt a lot of people, with her history with prank wars and with her rise to success. Torched has her confronting both suspects and her own idea of herself and her past.
I loved Rose's voice as well as the quick and vivacious style of writing in this self-published YA mystery. I liked the nuances in Rose's relationships, and I liked that issues like class were not ignored (and it reminded me a bit of Veronica Mars, in both this aspect and in its girl-detective-ness). I liked that Rose's path toward redemption, once she figured out that's what she was on, wasn't perfect and was challenging, and that not all her relationships could be fixed or restored, not to mention that there were some she rightly didn't wish to restore.
I had some trouble believing in Paxton and in his and Rose's shared history; the extent to which they continued their prank war over the years, how they supposedly focused on it so much and yet didn't really communicate or have any other sorts of possible positive interactions with one another (and yet still managed to set, and respect, ground rules for said prank war) didn't seem too believable to me. I mean, letting a Big Misunderstanding get out of control is a completely teenage thing, but I still didn't get how, with their personalities, how neither of them lost interest in their prank war (and, in fact, increasingly escalated it) before the events of the book.(less)