Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stormy weather

Well, April showers have begun, and hopefully they'll bring May flowers. I had a scare last week, though, when I was out in a rainstorm that I didn't think was severe. Then I got a weather alert that a tornado was in the county. The tornado didn't hit, but there was a lot of hail and I had to hide out in a restaurant for a while before a break in the storm, when I decided to go home. Oh well.

I finished the first Bess Crawford mystery A Duty to the Dead, and was very disappointed. Bess is a great heroine with depth and courage, and also a charming recklessness that leads her into trouble. The book explores interesting themes like soldiers suffering from shellshock, and people being shut up in mental asylums for bogus reasons. Really nice period detail, and Bess even talks to the servants a lot because that's how she grew up in India. The rich Graham family show that there's even more ways to deeply screw up brothers and that powerful people can buy silence. But the mystery turned out to be about finding a serial killer, even though they don't call it that. I hate serial killings, but I had to continue reading to the end. I had to know that poor Peregrine Graham would be saved.

Just like in the other Bess Crawford book I read before, the solution of the mystery is incomplete. It's like people think that serial killers need no explanation. They just are inevitably mad, and all you need to do is catch them, not ask "why?" or "how?" or anything. When the murderer's exposed, nobody asks, "What the hell was the motive? Fulfilling the childish dare about six times, or rationally trying to cover up tracks?" No, nobody tells us a damn thing. I think it also unwisely reinforces the idea that normal, sane people are never driven to murder. That it's too horrible a line for them to cross. That's poppycock.

Plus we spent so much of the book on one of the victims, the shellshocked soldier Booker, but after he's dead and attributed to the serial killer, nothing is said about his family or why the killer picked him. I hate mysteries that don't resolve anything. Perhaps that's how messy murder is in real life, but I don't read mysteries for real life. Even in Sherlock Holmes stories with shitty endings like the Five Orange Pips, ACD tried to at least suggest that fate or God did something so that justice would prevail. If I can't have that, and this Charles Todd author (really a mother and son writing team) is going to always leave unsatisfying loose ends, then why should I keep buying the books? So goodbye, Bess Crawford. I'll learn about historical British India some other way.

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