More about the characters than the mysteries

The Lady Sherlock series is… fine? I recently read the first two books; they’re fun without being spectacular. I’m not sure I could tell you any of the intricacies of the actual mysteries, which always seem to be entirely too convoluted. One of Agatha Christie’s rules of mystery writing is that the motive should be something simple and everyday. These books do not follow that rule.

However, I’m not here for the mysteries. I’m here for the characterization of women in Victorian London figuring out how to be transgressive and get away with it. Charlotte Holmes losing her virginity and making sure it gets out so her father can’t marry her off; Mrs Watson coming from the stage; Charlotte’s sister starting to make her own living by writing down “Sherlock”‘s mysteries. Sherlock is a total fabrication created so that people will bring their issues to Charlotte.

The books are a mixed bag, and I still have the third one on hold at the library, so I’m enjoying them enough to keep going on the series.

Different families get different kinds of stories

Different kinds of families get different kinds of stories in books. A family drama about a white family is probably upper-middle class, there’s probably someone who’s traveled overseas, and there’s probably lots of “finding yourself” type rhetoric. And there’s something to be said for that. Figuring out who you are and what you like is important.

But this is not that kind of book. This is a family drama about an African-American family. There are three generations and they are all poor. All the adult men in the story have been to prison. Racism weighs heavily on them. The father in the story is white; his father killed the man who would have been his brother-in-law. He has only met his children a handful of times; his parents haven’t met their half-black grandchildren. He is the one the mother and children travel to pick up from prison when his sentence is complete.

Sing, Unburied, Sing is a heavy book. You can feel the weight of the generations of racism on everyone. The 13-year-old boy is definitely figuring out who he is, but it’s not in a fun lets-go-see-the-world kind of a way. That kind of privilege is absent here. Instead, it’s about learning to take care of your people and understanding who your people are.

Recommended, but schedule a party or something afterwards.

Responsibility and relationships

I picked this up because I thought it would be fun and gossipy about a family, both today and two generations ago. Alas. It wasn’t.

It’s not that The Necklace was terrible, per se. It just wasn’t for me.

It’s about a love and what it means to go find yourself and how your relationships may or may not make it through such a journey of self-discovery. And is it selfish to take time for yourself, to figure out who you are and what you want? I mean, now it’s not, what with our extended adolescences. But it definitely used to be kind of a problem. What if you didn’t want to get married at 18? There’s a dude in this book who travels around the world to find himself, but expects his lady friend to wait at home for him. (To be fair, he does offer to marry her and bring her with, and she’s the one who demurs.)

This one is going to end up in one of the local free little libraries.

Revisiting Austen

Death Comes to Pemberley

What’s it about?
Death Comes to Pemberley is about the Darcys from Pride and Prejudice. Lizzie and Darcy are happily married; Jane and Bingley live nearby. Lydia and Wickham are traveling with Denny nearby, and coming through the Pemberley woods when Denny leaps out of the carriage, followed by Wickham. Denny’s body is found later, Wickham is, of course, covered in blood and is the main suspect. And every mystery reader knows that the first main suspect is almost never the person who actually did it. So Lizzie and Darcy must figure out who actually killed Denny.

Why should you read it?
Don’t. This was a did-not-finish for me. Pride and Prejudice is full of charm but Death Comes to Pemberley wasn’t. Austen was a great master of her characters, but that delicacy and complexity doesn’t come through in this book. PD James is a great mystery author, and the plot is, I’m sure, quite good. But I missed the familiar characters, so put it aside.

Who are you?

The Man in the Rockefeller Suit

What’s it about?
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit is a true crime novel about a German man who didn’t like who he was. So he pretended to be a series of other people, including a man called Clark Rockefeller. He implied that he was an illegitimate Rockefeller cousin, deceived a many, and conned a lot of others out of their money. He was caught when he tried to kidnap his daughter (after he lost custody of her in a divorce).

Why should you read it?
Because it’s a fascinating story, to think that someone could get away with impersonating American royalty for more than a decade without getting caught. It’s a news-y account – Walter Kirn also has a book about Clark Rockefeller, but his is more memoir-ish. This is a report of who Clark Rockefeller was and how he spent his adult life. I’m surprised that I hadn’t heard about him before reading this book, honestly. It seems like it would be right up American’s true-crime alley. It’s a good, light read.

Wuv. Tru wuv….


What’s it about?
Landline is an adult fiction book about marriage. It uses the story of a woman whose marriage is falling apart to talk about the emotional connection that two people make in a long-term relationship. It also uses the impossible: a landline to talk to the past. Georgie’s husband and children have gone to Nebraska for Christmas; Georgie has had to stay back in LA for work, an incredible opportunity that came up at the very last minute. When Georgie calls them via her cell phone, it’s the present-time husband. When she calls via an old rotary phone connected to the wall, she talks to her husband from their college years. It’s a magic trick the author uses to get the two of them to talk honestly about all the issues that a married couple has.

Why should you read it?
Landline is cute. I like that it’s about a long-term relationship, in a real way. It’s not about falling apart, not really, and it’s not about falling in love. It’s about the ties that come from a life spent together. You don’t see much fiction that concentrates on that, much less that compares it to a friendship of similar length. (I wish that friendship had been a bit more fleshed out.) Also, I was grumpy that the conflict in the marriage came from a woman putting her career first. Can we please stop that trope? But overall: cute. Fun. Not life-changing.