Sunday, 15 July 2018

Reading the 80s - 1985

Well I had every intention to read Eve's Story by Penelope Farmer, but that went west. In fact I'm collecting a tidy pile of books that I intended to read for this challenge and didn't, and am considering some sort of amnesty period at the end of the year.

In the meantime here are the two books I did read:

Death of a Gossip - M C Beaton

This was Beaton's first book and it's a cosy little murder mystery starring her original series detective Hamish Macbeth, the local constable in the small fictional town of Lochdubh, where a couple of the English run fishing holidays. Unfortunately one of their guests first makes herself thoroughly obnoxious to all and sundry, and then gets herself killed.

As I say, it's cosy. The victim is so horrible there's no distress about her death, the setting is idyllic, and the resolution improbable. It also has a scene at the end where Macbeth (who is not even supposed to be on the case but leaving it to the more senior lot who've been drafted in) gets all the possible murderers in the same room and.. well you know the drill, surely?

There's also a kind of unromantic romance bubbling away which reminded me of other books I've read in this experiment, specifically the way one of the younger female characters whose point of view we spend a lot of time with is defining herself by her relationships with men, more focused on pleasing or impressing them, or what everyone else will think if she makes a good match, than figuring out what she wants.

Beaton even says at one point something like: 'Women's lib has a long way to go before it gets into the heads of girls like X' well yes, clearly it did. Macbeth as well, although a gentle and lazy charmer, has his moments of M C Piggery.

But despite being reminded (again) that the 80s are further away than we sometimes think, I did thoroughly enjoy the book and would seek out the next. It's a gentle comedy as well as a murder mystery, and the setting of Lochdubh is beautifully described.

B is for Burglar - Sue Grafton

More crime, of a different pace. I'm not sure what age I was when I started reading Grafton's Kinsey Milhone series but would make a guess at 13 or 14. At that time they were new and it was easy to read them in order.

In B is for Burglar Kinsey is hired to try to track down a missing sister. Not because her family care or are worried, but because they need her to sign a legal document and she's not answering calls. Kinsey ferrets in a tidy sort of way - contacts the apartment building, checks that out, contacts the other apartment the woman had, checks through bills, talks to neighbours.. and finally turns up a very nasty crime indeed.

The main thing that held my attention though - both when I first read it and again now - are the details. She describes clothes and hair and houses and restaurants and she goes jogging and does her laundry and keeps a gun alternately in her glove compartment and filing cabinet (which doesn't seem sufficiently secure to me, to be honest) and listens to other people's marital insanities (squabbles is not a strong enough word for at least two of the couples in this book) and shrugs and concludes she's better off alone in the tiny apartment she likes exactly because it is tiny. The unravelling of what happens is what keeps the book moving, but the real interest is Kinsey herself, just walking round noticing things.

Anyway - on to 1986. I have no clear plans for '86, so will have to think.

The ones that got away.

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