Thursday, May 9, 2013

Nook updated

To my surprise, Barnes & Noble added Google Play to its Nook tablets, so my Nook HD got an update without me doing anything. I've started to check it out and download some apps, but I'm not sure I'm liking the Chrome browser. I may start using Firefox there instead. My Nook seems to be overheating lately, and I'm a little worried. Maybe I need to figure out how to turn off location services and stuff I don't want. It's getting cluttered, and I don't even do Twitter or Facebook.

Anyway lately I've been reading the books of American author Anna Katherine Green. A pioneer mystery writer, she predated the Sherlock Holmes stories, and was praised for clever plots. However, I don't think I like her novels that much. (I've read The Leavenworth Case and Agatha Webb.) I find the Victorian sexual and moral politics of the characters hard to understand. In the Leavenworth Case, for example, two female cousins are suspected of killing their wealthy uncle who is their guardian, and the narrator Everett Raymond (a gentlemanly lawyer) is forever tediously protesting that such beautiful women can't possibly be guilty, and that he doesn't want either of them to be arrested. He talks about how once a woman's reputation is stained, she's ruined for life. Even the police detective Ebeneezer Gryce delays making any arrests for weeks, despite considerable circumstantial evidence. In a modern novel, I'd be fine with having either woman arrested so as to prompt the guilty party to make a confession to save her, but the detectives seem to regard even an arrest as too horrible and ungentlemanly to commit.

Gryce says he's reluctant to arrest just because of the suspect's beauty; only later does he finally mention that there was a bit of evidence that bugged him for not making sense. Even another woman in the novel seems to fall in love with or have a crush on one of the nieces, being her "slave" even when she does selfish and terrible things. I don't like how all the women characters act strangely and stubbornly when they try to protect each other or themselves. I don't much like the lawyer Raymond either, because he thinks it's ungentlemanly when Gryce asks him to be a mole and spy on the household. It's murder for heaven's sake, and somebody's guilty secrets have to be discovered, by evidence or confession. However there is an interesting character called Q (whose actual name seems to be Morris) who works for Gryce and dons disguises so well that Raymond doesn't recognize him as a female tramp. More Q please, and less mooning from Mr. Raymond.

Meanwhile, in Agatha Webb two brothers James and John Zabel are secretly poor and starving in a small town, yet they never admit it or ask for help from their friends. That's the crazy power of Victorian pride and honor to make a person rather die than be ashamed. Also the mystery solution was just so unlikely and weird that I couldn't take it, nor understand it when a bunch of letters left by the victim were supposed to explain it all away. So while Anna Katherine Green was a successful novelist at the time, I as a modern reader find it difficult to relate to her books. I might try one more novel, just to get more glimpses of how the American criminal justice system operated back then. Like in Britain, they apparently held immediate inquests and pulled jury members at random off the streets. This and the details in the Pinkerton cases create an interesting picture of police procedure.

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