The Private Patient – P.D. James

I don’t exactly rush to buy any new P.D. James, as I am perfectly able to wait until I find it in paperback. Once I do. however, it tends to move very rapidly up my to-read list. I picked The Private Patient up in Oslo on the last weekend of November, and started it as soon as I finished the book I was in just then.

What to say? Well, it’s just as good as one would expect from James. Dalgliesh is his endearing self, Kate is still taking a lot of attention, which is all good, the characters involved in the actual crime are just the right blend of insufferable and adorable to make them human enough.

Time flies

Since early May I’ve read a lot of books and been dumb as an oyster about most of them. To give myself a chance to catch up I will therefore throw them all in this catch-up post and start afresh with the current read once I’ve finished that.

Having felt for a long time that I really ought to read some of the Moomin books, I read Pappan och havet, which is perhaps one of the darkest and least «children’s literature» of Tove Jansson’s great series. I then read three books in the Dot-series by Inge Møller that I picked up in a jumble sale – hardly great literature and not even the best of their genre, but not an unpleasant way to spend an afternoon.

I then got through Follestad and Ffforde, before embarking on P. D. James’ latest, The Lighthouse, which, fortunately, was every bit as good as one could have hoped. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was next, a fascinating book, though overhyped, and also not at all what I expected (though I don’t know what I expected, to be honest, I just had no idea what the book was about owing to the fact that all I’ve ever done before is look at the front of the cover).

Next I picked Roald Dahl’s My Uncle Oswald off the shelf – I’d bought it a while back mainly because, well, it’s a Dahl and it also happened to be a first edition in good shape. This was quite entertaining, though I suspect the subject matter would enrage some people, but I wasn’t quite satisfied with the conclusion.

I bought The Wicked Winter by Kate Sedley at my doctor’s office (there’s a Lions’ Club book sale shelf there) and was entertained. It was pretty good as these things go – the main character, who is also the narrator, is sympathetic and the mystery had a nice twist at the end which I certainly didn’t foresee. However, not a likely candidate for a reread, it’s too… well, I suppose «simple» will have to do for a descriptive word – It’s too simple for that. Well enough written, though. So I stuck a bookcrossing label in it and left it in Britain somewhere. I hope somebody else will pick it up and enjoy it as much as I did.

I borrowed Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor from my father, who’s a fan, and enjoyed it to a certain extent, but it was not the sort of book I really wanted to read just now – I’ve been on the search for strong main characters and a make-you-turn-the-page-quickly central plot, and whatever Lake Wobegon‘s merits, those are not among them. So I turned to another rearead instead, The Fourth Estate by Jeffrey Archer. Not the best choice, unfortunately, as neither of the two arch rivals really manage to engange my sympathy in sufficient degree to make me care much about «who wins». Still, Archer is always good entertainment.

Next was Hver sin verden by Marianne Fredriksson, which was almost good. Fredriksson ruined the book for me by making basic mistakes regarding Scandinavian/nordic history (assuming an Icelander with the surname Anarson must be a decedant of earlier Anarsons was the most glaring one) and by formatting the text very strangely. Instead of sticking to the standard paragraph indicator (indented first line) there was also a blank line between paragraph-lengths blocks of text. Mostly this was just a waste of paper and though it seemed unecessary, it could be taken to indicate a «break» in the narrative – replacing the line «Some time later» for example. However, it sometimes happened in the middle of dialogues or otherwise coherent episodes, and felt just as wrong as putting a full stop in the middle of a sentence. I came very close to throwing the book across the room a couple of times, but managed to restrain myself.

Odds and ends

Ok, Easter is over and I’m back at work (sigh).

For some reason it has become almost mandatory to read whodunnits at Easter in Norway, so that’s what I’ve been doing. I had a very frustrating time of it, though, as what I like is to be surprised when I get to the end, and this year very few things surprised me.

First, I read Kakerlakkene by Jo Nesbø. It’s a Norwegian one, and I don’t think it’s been translated, so those of you who don’t read Norwegian will just have to ignore this bit. Nesbø is one of my favourite songwriters, so I thought it was about time I checked out his novels, too. And I’m glad I did, too. Very engaging, and beautifully written. Unfortunately, I sort of guessed major parts of the plot way before they happened. Pity. Still, I’m certainly going to read the other Harry Hole books as well.

Right, then I got on to P.D. James’ last novel, Death in Holy Orders. I got rather worried half way through, as the person I thought would be murdered had just been murdered and I thought maybe I knew who’d done it, too. Fortunately, I was proved wrong – I hadn’t guessed the murderer, though I’d sort of guessed the motive. All in all, the end made me very happy (for another reason, too – trying to avoid spoilers here), and I can say that, as usual, P.D. James really has to be read.

I also watched Evil Under the Sun (Agatha Christie) on television, and got the murderer way too early. Very annoying, but the Poirot mini-series are always so throughly enjoyable because of the setting and the people that it didn’t really matter all that much.

Gosford Park is a whodunnit of a sort, too, and I saw that Saturday. Beautifully done, with an amazing cast, wonderful props, costumes and cars, lovely lines abounding and an invaluable addtion to the portayal of upstairs/downstairs life. But again: there were no surprises. It was obvious who the murderer was, how the murder was done and what the motives were. So disappointing. On the other hand, you get Altman’s inimitable touches of reality twisted, so despite the obvious solution it’s a picture well worth seeing. And you never know, you might not think it all too obvious…

Adding to the disappointments, I finished listening to Ian Carmichael reading The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers yesterday. Delightfully read, Lord Peter was lovely company as usual and Sayers isn’t normally one to disappoint. But. I actually guessed at the «murder weapon» in the very first few chapters – granted, by the time the body was found I had forgotten about this (it was a few days later, my time). However, when the puzzle was almost solved but the weapon still a mystery, of course I remembered again. And it was so b****ing obvious! Fair enough, a little specialist knowledge helped, but I can’t believe that Lord Peter (who should, judging from the rest of the story, have more knowledge on the subject than me) would take weeks and even months to come up with the solution. In this case, then, as opposed to the others, the problem wasn’t so much that I guessed the solution, but that the sleuth didn’t. And in some ways I think that’s worse. I really do not want to be steps ahead of Lord Peter. Really.

All in all, as you see, I have been a bit too clever this Easter. Problem is, I don’t really think I’ve been too clever, I think the authors haven’t been clever enough. I still think I’ll read those other Nesbø books, though. And I’ve just started Lord Peter views the Body (same narrator), so I haven’t given up on him, either.