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on April 14, 2000
I don't read a lot of murder mysteries, and I've never read any of Deborah Crombie's other books, so I am a little at a disadvantage. Overall, the book is well written, and the characters are realistic, especially Duncan and Gemma, who are both interesting and likeable. Unfortunately, Lydia Brooke, the poet turned suicide/murder victim is the weakest character in the book. A not-very-thinly-disguised Sylvia Plath, with a-not very-thinly-disguised Ted Hughes-ish ex-husband, Lydia is weakly drawn and not particularly compelling. Perhaps that's because I kept comparing her with her real-life counterpart, Plath, who was - and still is- a very compelling person. Crombie's imitation of Plath's gushing "Letters Home" rings false, and her rendition of Plath's 'Ariel' in the 'voice' of Lydia Brooke is cringe-inducing. The introduction of a Donna Tartt-esque ending, a la "The Secret History" was over-the-top and not particularly believable. As for Crombie being the most British of American mystery writers, I found her over-use of "cheerio", "bloody", "love" , etc., irritating - exactly the sort of words an American would use when writing 'British' characters. I wish I could say that I will seek out more of Ms. Crombie's books, but I doubt that I will, given that I didn't enjoy this one.
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on August 22, 2000
I was prepared to like this book very much indeed, having seen it recommended by a number of ordinarily trustworthy reviewers. Unfortunately, the novel doesn't live up to its widespread good press.
Others have ably described the derivative nature of the 'literary' characters Crombie bases this story upon, so I'll say no more about that, but I must reemphasize the pure corny-ness of the whole premise. Crombie's own literary sense is poor; she caricatures 'literary types', especially the British subspecies, in the guise of stereotypical Cambridge "Doctors" who study Very Sensitive Writers. Her attempts at inventing letters written by Lydia, the VSW around whom the plot turns, are excruciating. "Dearest Mummy" indeed!
Equally painful are Crombie's attempts at English dialogue. Here is her recipe: each chapter must contain four "bloodies", three "cuppas" (her characters must live in their toilets), two "bollocks" (they always come in handy pairs!) one "give me a ring" and either a "posh" or an "I dare say . . ."
The plot is tired, and the potential culprits are so blandly drawn that you're not really bothered about which is guilty come the denoument.
Not recommended.
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