Sherlock Shinobi

I am not getting a whole lot of reading done, and considering how much I anticipated the new Russell&Holmes adventure, "Dreaming Spies", by Laurie R King, it has taken me an uncharacteristically long time to get through it. The last quarter, however, was so exciting I sacrificed a few hours of sleep for it.

Our detective partners are just come home from their latest adventure in Marocko ("Garment of Shadows") and finds Mrs Hudson puzzled about a rock that has been delivered and carefully placed in their garden. The Holmeses do not take this as a puzzle to be solved, so we understand that they know what this rock is and why it has been given to them. Russell goes up to her house in Oxford, where she is met by an intruder, asking for her help. And so starts a lengthy flashback of their round-the-world trip and visit to Japan, one year earlier. (This would have taken place between "The Game" and "Locked Doors".)

One of the things I really like about King is how well she seems to understand the context in which she places her protagonists. Japanese culture - that whole thing about loosing face - is usually incomprehensible to me (I recently read an article in the paper about a Swedish exchange student in China who got into trouble with the police when trying to stop a fight in a nightclub, and how his attitude - perfectly understandable to a European - caused him a year of grief with the justice system, until he swallowed his pride and was promptly released after having begged forgiveness for something he hadn´t done) but King explains it well through the situations she puts the husband/wife team in.

This is the first of the novels where Russell and Holmes are really one hundred percent comfortable with each other as working partners - there is a higher level of trust and confidence, and a natural and easy division of labour - and I like how King has let her characters evolve through the series. She is, as always, very humouristic, sometimes slapstick funny. And again, she gives the most interesting and complex roles to the women of her cast; not that one really notices, as she is never overtly feminist.

Well, you can tell, I find it hard indeed to find fault with King´s work. I have realized that this series is not to everyone´s taste, although I can´t really understand why, but there it is. I do wish, however, that every reader finds a few series that he or she can relish as much as I do this!


The Man with a Load of Mischief

I rarely buy real, physical books these days, stopping when my asthma was really bad a few years ago. However, the asthma is better (so is my general health and well-being, which I attribute to better sleep) and I have started picking up the odd paper book when there is no e-book alternative. Certainly, art-books are hard to come by in a decent electronic form, and I have been buying quite a few of those lately - though they have not made it onto the blog, not actually being literature, I think.

I have also been drawn to detective stories, preferably long series of well-drawn characters that one can get to know and like. Comfort reading, I realize, but sometimes that´s what´s called for. I have finished the entire Dalziel&Pascoe-series by Reginald Hill years ago and he will not be making any more, sadly, being dead and all. Laurie R King is alive and well, but is hardly turning out a new Russell&Holmes adventure every year (though her Stuyvesant-series is good too). I have plenty of Lord Peter Wimsey left to read, but am in no hurry to get to the end of them.

After a favourable review by Divers and Sundry, I ordered this one via amazon from a second-hand book dealer in the UK, for a penny, I think. "The Man with a Load of Mischief" is the title of not just the novel, but also an inn where the first (or so it seems) in a series of murders takes place, by Martha Grimes, an American author writing a whole series (23 books!) of whodunits (all named after pubs, I understand) with Scotland Yard Inspector Richard Jury as the investigating sleuth.

A bit of googling (imdb knows nothing about this) revealed that the Germans have adapted this to television in 2013, English countryside and all (but those white cliffs suggests they may have moved the action from the Yorkshire countryside a bit). It turns out to be on DVD and as I feel that we don´t see enough German television, I have ordered it. The reviews were mixed, but I don´t care; it´ll be a lark, I´m sure.

To return to the book, I have to say, I am not in my most critical mood here. It is the first of a long series (published in 1981), and considering the spectacular development of Reginald Hill´s authorship over the years, I am forgiving of certain flaws in a first novel. Like overdescribing - Grimes does not hesitate to stop the action to linger for an entire page on how prettily the snow has fallen on the thatched roofs, etc - and not being entirely British in her vocabulary - I think, for instance, that Inspector Jury would not really reflect much on the cut of a man´s pants, as they would not be visible to him (pants are underwear in Britain, trousers are outerwear). Also, I did figure out who the murderer was much sooner than the good Inspector, but you know, it didn´t really lessen my enjoyment. I like the characters and I look forward to seeing what she will make of them. With 22 books ahead of me (and perhaps more coming, she is 83, but turned out her latest in 2014) I hope I have much to look forward to.