A Decent Mystery

As you may know, I am a great fan of the Russell&Holmes-series by Laurie R King. It came to my attention that she has written another, more modern series of crime novels and that in one of them she connects her modern day heroine with Holmes - as you might imagine, this is something I really want to read. But I decided to get aquainted with her Kate Martinelli-character first. The first book is "A Grave Talent" (Swedish: "Farlig begĂ„vning") and I´m not sure what I think.

First I should say: I know how well King writes. This translation is at times very sloppy. And generally, I don´t like reading books that are set in England or the US, full of dialogue, in Swedish. I tend to translate the dialogue back to English in my head, and it takes forever to get through. Of course, not all translation is sloppy, and not all books are as culturally specific. For example, I will gladly read Coetzee in translation or in English, it doesn´t matter. Reading Reginald Hill in translation is physically painful, particularly the first ones, where some poor sod tried to turn Yorkshire dialect into some Swedish yokel-ect. No, no, no! (Waving garlic braid.) King is, I believe, very exact about how she says things. The most charming character in this book is a young girl, a precocious child, who is very precise (shockingly so, to some adults) with her words. Here, I sense King herself.

The plot is ok. Children are murdered (but not in a shockingly splattery way, thank you very much), new detective Martinelli is paired with oldtimer Hawkin, they get along (both being intelligent creatures - I can´t imagine King making up a fool), there is some secrecy about Martinelli´s personal life, hints made, and so on. For the longest time I thought the victim would turn out to be the killer after all, but no.

I have to say, King does not even by a stretch reach the level of the Russell-books here. But then again, this is her very first published novel. (Though I think she wrote "The Beekeeper´s Apprentice" before this one.) I don´t think she is pouring nearly as much of herself into Kate Martinelli as she does into Russell (and Holmes, for that matter). It just doesn´t have the same charm. Martinelli never really comes to life for me. Perhaps it´s the crappy translation, I don´t know.

That said, compared to most other average detective stories I have read, it measures up more than well. (And she won a prize for it.) If you want a really good novel, perhaps I would not recommend it. If you want a good mystery for your Easter holiday or weekend in bed, I will. And I will go on with the series myself. I like King, I´m loyal to her and I´m expecting Martinelli et al. to grow stronger.

And sometimes, all you want (and need) is a pageturner, not a text that will turn your life around. Which reminds me of a great quote by Stanley Elkin that I think I will share with you: 
I don’t believe that less is more. I believe that more is more. I believe that less is less, fat fat, thin thin and enough is enough.

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