John Leland's Reviews > Murder in the Queen's Armes

Murder in the Queen's Armes by Aaron Elkins
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In some ways, this is the kind of mystery I normally like very much. The detective is an agreeable academic, to be precise a professor of physical anthropology, who is normally "the smartest man in the room" (as a devoted Holmes fan, I am not fond of bumbling detectives or those who struggle through repeated false theories like Asimov's Elijah Bailey) . In this novel he is enjoying a delightful honeymoon (I am not fond of detectives with tortured private lives) in rural (or at least small-town) Britain (which I love from my experience), though he himself is from the US northwest. On the other hand, on page 13 it had a flagrant historical error, describing Judge Jeffreys and "the Bloody Assize of 1685 when seventy-four of Cromwell's royalist opponents had been executed " Considering that Cromwell died in 1658 and King Charles II's Restoration was in 1660, followed by his brother James II's reign starting in 1685, this is an extremely obvious error. In fact , the victims in the Bloody Assize were supporters of the duke of Monmouth's Protestant rebellion against the Catholic James II --ideologically, Monmouth's revels were much closer to Cromwell than the royalist Jeffreys who condemned them. perhaps because I was sensitized by this error, I began to question more significant aspects of the story -- why would Oliver, who is an expert on prehistoric bones, notice obvious defensive injuries on a modern corpse sooner than a pathologist much more experienced with modern victims of violence, injuries that Oliver notes despite the shattered bones being covered with rotting flesh (to which the pathologist is accustomed and Oliver is not) ? (The explanation given, that pathologists neglect the long bones, seems unlikely). Why would an archaeologist noted for his meticulous excavation technique overlook obvious signs that a bone has been "planted" in his dig, signs that Oliver spots immediately? (The explanation, that the find confirms the archaeologist's pet theory, is possible, but goes counter to the plot-important stress on his insistence on meticulous technique elsewhere.) For that matter, why would that one bone still be in the ground weeks after it is discovered, when all the other finds are carefully removed and cataloged? No explanation is given, and this variation in practice is necessary for Oliver to spot the evidence of its being planted, though since he also recognizes it as a famous bone stolen from a museum, the evidence of planting is superfluous. . Why would a young man in about 1985 exhibit the psychological symptoms resulting from being forced to shift from left to right handedness, when this practice has been abandoned in western countries? I think this one is actually more debatable --by the time the book was republished in 2005, the practice of "correction" was outdated, but it might not have been in the 1960s when a young man of 1985 would have been growing up. Overall, I thought the book was enjoyable light reading, but carelessly contrived. I like a genuinely superior detective, not on whose "evidence" is pre-cooked for him to discover.
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Reading Progress

September 24, 2017 – Started Reading
September 25, 2017 – Finished Reading
September 30, 2017 – Shelved

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