I’m back

It’s been a while. I know. In my defence, I don’t seem to be capable of writing more than one blog at a time, and at various stages I was (intermittently) producing this stuff on living abroad and (less intermittently) this travel stuff.

Now, however, I’m back in the UK, and even back in the world of full-time employment. More to the point, I’m back in the world of borrowing things from my local library. These days I can borrow both print books and ebooks. Woot. (Though I’m not overwhelmed by the e-book offerings at the moment: too much ‘xxx for Dummies’ and too little fiction. But I’m sure they’ll improve.)

So I need a reading diary again, if only to prevent me from borrowing things by authors I’ve decided I don’t like but then forgotten the name of. Which brings me neatly to the other reason I’m moved to start this up again: once again irritation is the fuel.

Unusually, I’ve only read one chapter of this book, and I’m already irritated enough to want to vent. I realise that this may possibly lead to the next post being full of grovelling about how I totally misunderstood the genius of the author and came to realise that his story-telling style was in fact nothing short of eye-opening thought-provoking brilliance. But it seems unlikely. The book in question is Peter Turnbull’s ‘Gift Wrapped’, a 2013 police procedural murder mystery set in Yorkshire. I’d link to the author’s website but he doesn’t appear to have one. This doesn’t surprise me, as chapter one includes police detectives discussing the need to call in a translator to deal with the words ‘Der Mord’, ‘assassinio’, ‘meutre’ and ‘homicidium’. Google doesn’t seem to occur to them.

Chapter One begins with an old-fashioned ‘In which postcards in many languages lead the police to a murdered man and Detective Constable Reginald Webster is at home to the dear reader’. Now I don’t mind this sort of chapter heading. Done well it can be entertaining. However, I did get a slight twitch at the ‘dear reader’. I got another twitch further down page one when a kindly middle-aged woman was described as having dilated pupils, as if this was a sign of a compassionate and trustworthy person. Maybe it is, but the reasons for pupil dilation that immediately occur to me are drug use and arousal, so I started wondering what it was I supposed to assume about this individual.

The dialogue is in keeping with the chapter heading, in that everyone sounds like they’re in a Victorian novel. Or maybe trying to use as many impressive words as possible to wow an interview panel. Or deliberately using language that’s as staid and formal as possible because they’re trying to suppress a deep-seated desire to leap up and start swearing and ripping their clothes off. “I too think I have seen the sort of file about which you speak,” says the pathologist. Two detectives calling on a witness announce “Mr Hennessey is our boss, and we are part of his team. We are the two officers he spoke of.” The witness in question, describing her missing husband, refers to him as a ‘mild-mannered accountant’ (if anyone is now thinking of Hong Kong Phooey, you are not alone). Someone uses the word ‘thusly’. No, really. And just when I’d forgotten about it. the whole ‘dear reader’ thing made an arch reappearance: “Any further discussion about the influence of colours upon the human psyche between our two heroes, was, dear reader, prevented by the opening of the front door.” (No, I wouldn’t have put a comma there either.) Any further willingness on the part of this dear reader to allow the author the benefit of the doubt and take this book seriously was, dear blog viewer, completely bloody scuppered at that point.

To add a slight touch of inadvertent comedy, all this rather stifling language is occasionally interrupted when the police refer to themselves as  ‘coppers’ or talk about a ‘mis-per’ instead of a missing person.You can imagine every time that they’re inwardly patting themselves on the back and congratulating themselves on being cool.

I promise I’m not always going to be this negative. I feel better now.

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