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17 February 2014 @ 11:01 am
Evenin' all  
I seem to have been all about police and murder mystery stories lately, so now I have some reviews for you.


The new police drama, not to be confused with Babylon 5, the epic SF drama. This has just started and I've just watched the first episode. Very modern-British, in the sense that it started with comic full-frontal male nudity and the most commonly used word in the show was fuck, in all of its conjugations and declensions. It's about internal politics in the Met, the police's media relations and the levels of chaos and organisation that exist between the Met Commissioner and the PCs and PSCOs on the street - a police procedural with no detecting and lots of office politics. Very self-aware, funny in places, very political and satirical. It's trying a bit too hard to be clever to have any heart, but it's good enough that I'll give it another episode or two.


Now that was top-notch drama. It's a fairly realistic murder mystery, at least realistic from the perspective of what the family of the murder victim goes through during the investigation, and it's absolutely excellent. I have to say I could have done with someone other than Tennant playing the lead, because honestly I don't care that much for him and there was a shade too much emphasis on his manpain and him standing at the top of a cliff looking broody, and I think it would have worked better for me if it was anyone other than the Doctor doing all that. But it was a fantastic murder mystery. And as a mystery, it's excellent too, and I won't say a word about whodunnit except to advise you that if you want to know how many episodes it is, don't do what I did and check the Wikipedia page, because right at the start of the summary of the final episode it tells you in big letters who the killer is, and it's definitely something you want to be unspoiled for. (It's 8 episodes, to spare you.)

I thought it was a bit of a cop-out making the killer a weird paedophile in the end, I was hoping after the Jack plotline that it would be something else, like that he was a drug kingpin or a serial killer. Also, the story relies on confession instead of detection to solve the case. I also thought Tom knew or suspected and was covering up for his dad, so the explanation for what he did was a bit less interesting after that. And the Nigel poaching storyline kind of melted in the last episode, though the adoption plot was superbly done. But he certainly is a good unlikely suspect. I don't know if I'd have guessed if I hadn't been spoiled for it. Nigel does an excellent job of acting guilty, but really he's far too stupid to be a good murderer. I was a bit suspicious of the vicar, but perhaps that would have been a bit too obvious.

Bill Slider series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

These were recommended to me by the lovely nnozomi and I'm having a wonderful time with them. They're fun and readable and the mysteries are well-constructed and the police procedure seems reasonably good. I rather suspect that the author has got all her literary quotations by way of Sayers, though - I don't think she ever references anything obscure that isn't in Sayers. Also, all the characters are punsters and tend to make terrible wordplay jokes at the slightest provocation (one from the latest book I've read: 'as painfully hip as a hospital waiting list'). But I like the complexity of Bill's romantic relationships and the relationship between Bill and Atherton, and I'm also enjoying the glimpse back at the late 80s/early 90s. It's also unexpectedly good for having a lot of gay characters, generally at least one per mystery. I'd recommend these to lovers of the Cadfael books. They don't share anything in terms of setting or structure or formula, but they're at similar levels of cosiness and the characters are likeable in similar ways and the murders, while unpleasant, are not dark or grim or full of maggots, and they're both easy to read without making you feel like you're losing brain cells in the process. I binge-read the Cadfael books in the weeks after Mods as mental escape and decompression, and these books are getting me through three weeks running at DEFCON 1 in the domestic department.

I've also started the first Bryant & May book, Full Dark House, but I think it's going to be one of those books where I don't know whether I like it until I get to the end. The author is doing lots of complicated things and I'm not sure yet whether I trust him to pull them off in a way that satisfies me and makes me want to read more in the series. It's interesting how the first book you read from a new author is all about trust: do I trust this author not to suddenly turn around and whack me with something spiky, do I trust them to make sense of this story and not leave it in a tangled mess, are the characters people I want to spend time with? I had a bit of this with the first Bill Slider book, because practically the first thing he does is cheat on his wife and it made me think maybe this wasn't the book for me, but the author sold me on it by the end of the book. And I'm hoping Fowler will sell me on what he's doing with Bryant and May, but he hasn't quite got there yet.

Crossposted at http://philomytha.dreamwidth.org/113451.html. There are comment count unavailable comments there.
shimotsuki: booksshimotsuki on February 19th, 2014 03:41 am (UTC)
Ooh, recs! I'm a Cadfael fan (actually gilpin25 has recently gotten me started on the Inspector Felse series by Ellis Peters as well), so I'll make a note about Bill Slider. Summer's coming in only, what, four months now? ;P

do I trust this author not to suddenly turn around and whack me with something spiky

Ha! That's a very apt way of putting it.
philomytha: Beam me upphilomytha on February 19th, 2014 02:53 pm (UTC)
It's funny, they're not especially like the Cadfael books except in being murder mysteries, but they appeal to me in the same sort of way that Cadfael does.
nnozomi: nodamecellonnozomi on February 22nd, 2014 01:33 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm glad you're liking the Slider mysteries! I think you're right that they make satisfying comfort reading--I enjoy rereading them even after I know who killed whom why, because of the dialogue (including all the witnesses, suspects, etc. of voluminously varied class, race, age etc.) and the characterizations of Slider and Atherton and Joanna and company. I hope you continue to have fun with them, and that the domestic department has attained some calmness.
(Sorry this comment is so delayed, by the way--just returned from my last school trip (as a teacher) ever thank you very much. Yes, I can tell you exactly how many days left until I quit my job, did you want to know?).