Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Two Last Read (in 2012)

This is an “audio review” – or two – of the two last books I listened to in 2012. I borrowed both as ‘talking books’ in Swedish translation from the library. How much this affects the reading experience – compared to reading them in print and in the original languague – is sometimes hard to tell. What I do know is that it always makes it harder to write reviews, because one can’t go back for details, but has to rely on the overall impression.

Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James (2011)

P. D. James, born 1920, is a renowned British crime novelist, best known for her detective novels starring policeman and poet Adam Dalgliesh.

This is not a Dalgliesh mystery, though. Inspired by a lifelong passion for the work of Jane Austen, in Death Comes to Pemberly, the author tries to recreate the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and combine it with a crime story (supposed to take place six years after Elizabeth’s marriage to Darcy.) Somehow, I just cannot conjure up much enthusiasm for her attempt. But then I never was a huge fan of one author trying to continue or change a story begun by someone else. (The exception could be if it’s done with obvious irony and humour. I did rather enjoy a TV mini series entitled Lost in Austen, involving time travelling.)

With this book, I never really felt like I was listening to the continuation of Austen’s novel, and I kept thinking I’d probably have liked the story better if the author had just kept the “atmosphere” from Austen, but had created her own set of people to act out the mystery. The book will never stick in my mind as a “true” sequel to the original Austen novel.


Believing the Lie

Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George (2012)

Elizabeth George, born 1949, is an American author writing crime/mystery novels set in Britian. Her main characters are Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley (8th Earl of Asherton) and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. In the books, as opposed to the TV series based on them, Lynley’s friends Deborah and Simon St James are also important main characters (quite central to the plot in some of the books, more peripheral in others); as was Lynley’s girlfriend/wife Lady Helen Clyde until… Well. If you’ve read the books, you know.

Anyway, when I first got acquainted with this series – which was probably some time in the early 90’s for me, even if the first was published in 1988 – I could hardly wait to read the next one. With the last five or so, though, I’ve found myself losing interest. While the crime story in each novel is (more or less) a separate mystery, the background story involving the main characters seems to evolve infuriatingly slowly, and more so with every book. Each novel ends with one or more cliffhangers on the personal relationship level. And while the reader has to wait one or two years for the next book – when it finally comes, no time has passed in the background story, something which I’m beginning to find rather frustrating.

As I don’t own them all in print, I can’t check; but I think the last five novels, written and published over a period of eight or nine years, have actually all taken place in a fictional time of less than one year. I can’t help thinking that if the author keeps this up, and gets to be as old as P.D. James, then in 2040, Lynley and Havers & co will still be stuck somewhere around 2010!

In this book, Lynley is sent by Hillier, his superior officer, on a secret mission to investigate a death that has already been officially ruled as an accidental drowning. As it is not an official police matter, he cannot involve his usual team, but he does take Simon and Deborah with him.

As it happens I’m not overly impressed with the “main mystery” in this book either. It’s hard to give criticism without also giving away spoilers, but I have to say that in some respects it felt like a lot of going round in a complicated labyrinth and coming out still wondering what for. (624 pages or 26½ hours of active listening. In reality a lot more time since I keep falling asleep and have to rewind and don’t remember where I lost the thread.) I guess if there is a point to the story, it’s supposed to be to ask ourselves if digging out the truth is always the best thing to do, or if sometimes we’re happier just… “believing the lie”…?


  1. So do you think the earlier Lynley/Havers stories were better? I haven't read them and wondered if you'd recommend I do?

    I didn't think all that much of Death comes to Pemberly either, but it was a lot better than some 'Austen' novels...
    I enjoyed it at the time but now I can't remember it, so can't have been great.

  2. These look good. Have you read some of the older classic English mysteries, the most famous of which is "The Woman In White"? I have been meaning to for years and think I will finally start sometime this year.

    1. I just recently downloaded The Woman in White (free) to my Kindle. I have a lot of books on my To Read list just now though!

  3. When you say 'Austen' novels do you mean fake ones or the real ones?
    For me, 'the thing' with the Lynley/Havers novels is that the background story of relationships/friendships (also including Lynley's friends Simon and Deborah) always stuck with me more than the cases they were involved in solving. (I stopped watching the TV series because they removed Simon and Deborah) For many books I really liked the characters, that's what kept up my interest. In the last few books however, Barbara Havers is just about the only one who still holds my sympathy. If I decide to read the next one as well, it's more because of her, than anyone/anything else. If you're going to read them I would recommend to do it in order, because that best explains the relationships between the background characters.

  4. About the Lynley/Havers mysteries by Elizabeth George, I feel very much the same as you - when I first started reading them many years ago, I was eager to read the next, but lost interest at some point. Now, I do neither look for the books nor watch the series on TV.

    1. "So it's not just me then", Meike... ;)
      Actually I understood from some other reviews I looked at too, that I'm not the only one with similar reactions.

  5. I've never read any of the books but was very taken with the early TV series. I've not seen it for a long time though. It's probably on TV in the UK when I'm here in NZ.

    1. Graham, I think I watched the first one or two seasons. What bothered me most was that they cut out/changed/merged characters from the books. But of course if one never read the books, that wouldn't be a problem! So if you enjoy the TV-series... I'd say skip reading the books!

  6. the one thing i do not like about my kindle is not being able to go back with out clicking and hunting. i like being able to sometimes go back and pick up the thread i lost and it is difficult with the kindle. mine is not touch screen so that makes it harder. some things i love about the kindle some not so much.

  7. I thoroughly agree with your remarks about the Elizabeth George series, it use to be a favorite of mine, now I just don't care. As for the Death Comes to Pemberley, I couldn't finish it, didn't like it at all.


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