25 January 2004

Six Feet Under

Back in the early 1980s a co-worker recommended the Anne Perry Victorian mysteries starring Inspector Thomas Pitt and his wellborn wife Charlotte to me. I was immediately enchanted by the 1880s atmosphere and Perry's excellent writing. When she began a new series of books, taking place earlier in the century and featuring the dour William Monk and ex-Crimean War nurse Hester Latterly, I was drawn into their world as well.

I didn't think Perry could write a bad book, although her Ashworth Hall--I think it's Ashworth Hall, anyway; the one about the "Irish problem"--seemed interminable and it took me a while to read.

And then I picked up her newest, No Graves as Yet, a new series beginning at the opening of World War I. The protagonists in these books are two brothers, Matthew and Joseph, a secret service agent and a theology professor, respectively, who must solve the mystery of their parents' murder--and then Joseph must cope with the killing of one of his favorite students.

Sadly, Graves gives a new definition to the word "dry." I wondered if it were just me, but found many concurrent reviews of it on Amazon.com. I did get severely ticked off at one reviewer who said she didn't like it because there were "pages of details about a cricket match" and Perry used unfamiliar British terms. I guess this woman ranks up there with the nitwit who thought Harry Potter had to be translated for Americans. (And the "pages" of cricket details turned out to be about a page and a half.) Talk about the type of person who makes Americans look stupid and self-absorbed! I'm sure this woman won't be giving herself a treat by reading any Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey books in the future--too many "foreign" words and references, I'm sure!

If you must dislike Graves, do so because the characters are all paper dolls and if you took out the agonizing over upcoming war, social problems, and next moves, and Perry's interminable habit of describing every woman's attire and how she looks in it, the story itself would be about 75 pages long. But because it uses unfamiliar British terms? Gah.

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