I just finished reading this. It was a surprisingly and satisfyingly dense read– stuffed full of detail. And I admit, I’m one of those people who reads the end of books, all books. The endings aren’t spoiled for me if the books are good. The way I figure it, if I can read the first few pages and the last few pages, and I still want to read the pages in between– then it’s worth buying. On the other hand, if by reading the last pages I know what’s going on and the ending is ruined– chances are the rest of the story in the middle isn’t that great.
I feel the same way about TV spoilers. For example, I loved Six Feet Under, but we didn’t have HBO. We didn’t have Netflix yet, either. We kept going to the Blockbuster store to rent disc after disc, and then eventually there was a missing disc! We were crushed. What did the next episode hold in store for our characters? Covertly, because I was ashamed of what my husband might think of my lack of willpower, I turned to Television Without Pity. Their recaps are really detailed. So detailed, each one is like a little mini-dissertation on the episode.
At first, I felt I was cheating myself out of the new experience of watching the episodes. But as we were able to rent the next few discs, I found that because of the show’s excellent writing, it really didn’t matter if I knew who lived and who died and who broke up and who slept with so-and-so. By reading the recaps, I was able to satiate the part of my brain that needed that fix, that was chasing the episodic plot dragon. But the plot was nothing compared to the character development. Had the show been a book, I would have read the last few pages and I still would have wanted to read the middle of the book.
So, after reading the first few pages of Bleeding Heart Square, I did my usual thing and skipped to the end. Oddly, I did this at home. Usually I do this at the bookstore. Knowing who did it didn’t really matter. I wanted to see how the author got that unlikely character to that unlikely place.
This isn’t my most favorite mystery ever. My favorites are the Dorothy L. Sayers golden trio of Wimsey: Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, and Gaudy Night. To be honest, I don’t even bother comparing more modern writers to Sayers. I mean, it isn’t fair. It’s a whole different style, and I have such an emotional attachment and attraction to the era and that detective. To compare any recent mystery writer to Sayers and Wimsey isn’t really making a fair or honest comparison.
But I learned a lot from this guy, Andrew Taylor, about plot, and about clue- dropping. Also, about how much historical detail to include and not get sillycrazy about it. I enjoyed the storytelling a lot– but I did find myself wishing quite often that he had been a bit more lyrical. I’m not sure if that’s a fair criticism, though, because I get weary and snarky when there’s too much lyricism in my mysteries. One false note muddling around in there, and the whole picture is marred, kind of like when you go on a date and the guy makes a comment that changes how you view everything he says in a different, and often negative, light. Okay, so that’s a big digression– but not really. In the brain– in my brain, anyway– the process is the same.