Friday, July 09, 2010

Ngaoi Marsh: Off With His Head

This is the one I wanted to write about for midsummer, seeing as how it was about Morris dancing and all. Morris dancing is apparently not a vaguely silly, quaint dance, but an ancient ritual with a lot of deeper meaning. In this case, the dance (our Dame writes in the foreword that she's freely mashed together a few different ones in the name of fiction) shows the ritual death of the Fool, who then is resurrected. I forget the word for this, but you know - it keeps the world going for another year, that type of thing?

This dance takes place in the middle of winter in a small village that has stuck to the old ways in this respect, and that has succeeded in keeping out the tourists and others who might gawk at their customs instead of participating. Sword Wednesday is a big deal, and the primary part of the fool has been performed by the old smith Andersen for many years. His five sons too dance, and even this is part of the ritual. This time as usual they mime beheading the fool, but when it is time for him to be resurrected he lies there dead, his head away from his body. Who has beheaded him under the eyes of all the spectators at the dance?

And the cover? Well friends, it is not a folkloristic, pagan fool we see, no siree. This one wins the awful cover competition hands down and head off, all categories, all prizes. If you weren't afraid of clowns before, you will be now.

Donna Leon: Uniform Justice

This one is about a boy found dead at a very swanky pseudo-military private school in Venice. Apparently he's committed suicide, but it doesn't seem in character, and when Brunetti learns that his father is a politician well known for his integrity, who suddenly resigned and went into seclusion - then he suspects that the son is a victim. Ok.

Donna Leon: Death at La Fenice

The first of the Brunetti novels, and I see now why people like the series. Here the charm of the characters shows (which is why I read another one, and have borrowed more). I think I had some notes somewhere about things worth saying about the book, but I'm lagging behind, and have started on another truckload of novels so I'll be brief. Also, can't find the notes.

A world-famous conductor is found dead, poisoned, in the interval of a performance of La Traviata. The most likely suspect is his wife, but Brunetti doubts it, and finds the truth when he probes the conductor's past.

How's that for brevity? In other news, I'm so annoyed that Blogger came up with what certainly looks like three-column themes JUST as I'd done lots of work in downloading a third-party template. With this template I'm using, the "pages" feature (that I really want to use) doesn't work well - but it would, of course, if I was using Blogger's. Arse arse arse.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Caroline Graham: Death of a Hollow Man

The last of the library's four Caroline Grahams in English. Ironically, there are only four of her books in Swedish too - considering the popularity of Midsomer Murders I mean. I do not at the moment have the energy to see if they are also the same books, but that would be very funny.

The Hollow Man is set around an amateur theatrical company (of which Joyce Barnaby, of course, is a member), led by an egomaniac with delusions of grandeur. The leading man suffers from the same malady, and was married to the former primadonna, whose position in his life and on stage has been usurped by his new, superficially pretty little wifey. See all the dwama? During the opening night of Amadeus all manner of conflict comes to life and starts to come out on the stage, culminating in the razor that Salieri uses to slit his throat with being doctored. Resulting in a real throat-slit, right there on the stage.

I do like Caroline Graham, I've said it before. This felt rather more Midsomer Murderish, as in the TV series, due to both Joyce and Cully being present. Cully's aloofness and coolness is demonstrated very subtly by her wearing a t-shirt with an Eddie Izzard quote, in French. This book is from -89 so coolness and indie extreme, dudes.