Friday, May 06, 2011

Laurie R King: The Language of Bees and God of the Hive

Disclaimer: this post was started on May 6th. Adjust all references to times and dates accordingly and make allowances for sketchy memories.

Two days before reading these books (well, one of them, I can't remember which one I was thinking of when I started the draft)  my husband and I walked about the Wordsworth poem We Are Seven (yes yes, initiation of discussion was all his. I'd never read it before, I admit it). And lo and behold the quote from that very poem on page 82 (in one of the books, see above), which would have been meaningless to me only three days earlier. Yesterday I read an article about a recent trend in Japan for divorce ceremonies. A key element was smashing a symbolic wedding ring with a mallet. The broken pieces are placed in the mouth of a netsuke, a frog (not real one obviously), which in Japanese belief symbolizes new beginnings. Page 210 Mary Russell breaks into a house, and her foot brushes against a netsuke on the floor.

Lucky I'm not that crazy, or I'd start thinking I was receiving messages from Above. Of what though? - that would lead to new levels of madness.

Another incidence of - well, serendipity more than coincidence I suppose, is how I stumbled across The Language of Bees second-hand and only days later went by the library and they had the sequel in. So I could read these pretty much back to back. And it was just so easy to lean back and meet those old friends Russell and Holmes again. Very relaxing. I could get used to this! However, since starting this blog during a phase of reading only crime fiction and thus judging them relatively - compared to others in the genre - I have progressed to a more varied literary diet and am therefore more easily distracted by anachronisms or other boo-boos. Not that Laurie King's are full of such things. I'm only saying. Well, I think there was something anachronistic, yes, but no biggie. I could be wrong anyway. I'm often struck by how words that I think are modern crop up in books from the 1930s, so whatever it was that grated on me might well have been just my ignorance of the matter. What I did ponder with more pointed-ness was whether it was necessary with two books to tell the story. I'm undecided still - and frankly, by now (July) I don't even remember the details of why I pondered. It must have felt a little too prolonged. Was the showtown on the London Bridge (can't remember which one) really necessary? Is Laurie falling into the old trap of writing scenes that would be "great in a film!"? A plea from me to all writers: don't write the screenplay too soon, please. It shows and it makes me cry. Note: I am not accusing: I was merely slightly suspiscious and that scared me.

I did thoroughly enjoy reading these books, don't get me wrong. It was GREAT to fall back into these familiar characters. And there are some wonderful Sherlock Holmes bits here, showing his mastery of disguises and make-up in a way that pleases the crime reader enormously. And what more can one ask for really - it's entertainment with real feeling and pathos in it, with brains and energy. I was concerned by detecting what may or may not be a certain cooling-off of Russell's feelings towards Holmes. A certain annoyance? Let's hope they can resolve that issue.

Always recommended.

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