As reading is the easiest way to stick to my new year’s resolution, I’ve taken to it again like a duck to water. Not to enlighten my mind; although I have plenty of heavy, depressing, but excellent books about the state of the world to get to, my constant perusal of new sources every day keeps me up to date, and the fodder for further research is all around if I am so inclined. No, this reading is for pleasure, and it takes me back to my memories of reading as an escape, both literally and figuratively, from a normally boring but sometimes tumultuous childhood.
I stopped reading fiction a while back; in the past ten years I’ve had so much to learn, and so much catching up to do, that fiction, besides rereads of Jane Austen and Harry Potter and maybe the Chronicles of Narnia, seemed just like so much candy in a world of hearty steak. But since my 2015 resolution requires me to spend 2 hours a day doing something creative, including reading (which admittedly is quite a stretch of “creative”), and I couldn’t imagine spending any more time every day educating myself about the sorry state of current affairs, my thoughts turned back to fiction.
Granted, I could reread all the above again in an endless circle, but instead I branched out into a new genre for me-murder mysteries! Until now I’d never had occasion to realize that “mystery” came in all kinds, including espionage, courtroom drama, et al, in fact, mystery to me was something to watch on TV. In the past couple years, the homicide drama/character studies Bones, and then Castle, entered my world as late afternoon reruns. Both of these shows involve brilliant but flawed heroines, and the men by their sides, and both attracted and held my attention. Then I had occasion to read Agatha Christie, and see Mousetrap on the stage, and my interest was piqued.
I didn’t delve into Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle however; I hankered for something up-to-date, contemporary, with well-fleshed out characters in an ongoing series. For some reason I started out with Elizabeth George and her Inspector Lynley series. Maybe they were a perfect way to start given that my search commenced immediately after my arrival home from six weeks in the UK, and her books are all set in various locations the United Kingdom, and are full of descriptive passages and meticulously researched, taking me back to some places I had visited, and some I will get to eventually. I haven’t finished the series, though-it seems even books can and do “jump the shark”, although I will probably go back to her at some point.
Right now I am barreling through the Miss Fisher novels by Australian Kerry Greenwood, and they are absolutely delicious. The setting is 1920’s Melbourne, and the heroine is a gorgeous, indomitable figure with a varied and colorful life. The books are much better of course, but there is a TV show based on the stories and characters. I became familiar with the show watching mysteries on PBS; other murder mysteries shown there are Midsomer Murders and Rosemary and Thyme, both of which I enjoy thoroughly. Midsomer Murders is based on the Inspector Barnaby series by Caroline Graham, which is next on the list for download to the Kindle. I also picked up Death Comes To Pemberley by P.D. James at Books a Million the other day-another name for my list.
So why murder mystery? The genre certainly isn’t an escape from human life, as the most absorbing mysteries showcase the best and worst of human behavior. But they do offer an escape from the everyday horror of our world today; where so-called leaders set out to deliberately destroy their countries and people, and totalitarian ideologies do their dirty business both overtly and in the shadows. Murder, plain ordinary murder, inspired by the textbook motives, seems clean and safe when compared to world events right now. As of now I don’t even really try to solve the murders; no I just hang on for the ride. Are all of the endings a surprise to me? No; there’s always a thread that leads back to the killer, and although I imagine I’ll get better at predicting the killers the more I read, it’s not a contest or a race to win. Just plain old enjoyment in books again.
After all, there’s only so many times one can read Harry Potter and Jane Austen, or even C.S. Lewis, in one year.
Do you like murder mysteries? Who are your favorite authors?
Thanks for reading.