Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Harper's Quine by Pat McIntosh

I quite like historical mysteries. In fact, I probably read more of them these days than anything else.

This is a book from an apparent newcomer, and while it's not a bad first effort, it's somewhat lacking in a lot of areas. It's set in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1492, and the main "detective" is a lawyer/clerk soon to be priest named Gilbert Cunningham.

He ends up discovering the body, along with a French mason, and the two for reasons that somewhat elude me, try to solve the crime.

The crime is somewhat interesting. A woman who had fled her husband, and was now living as a harper's singer (sleeping with the harper, who was blind).

The trouble is, most of the characters are bland. Gil, the main guy, has no personality whatso ever. His love interest, "Alys", the mason's daughter, is almost a "Mary Sue". Really though, the somewhat stereotypical woman in these books when written by a woman - sort of a "super" woman, that is, super smart, super learned, super independant, not really what you would expect from the typical mason's daughter. Don't get me wrong, they existed then as they do now, but it seems like the same basic character is in all these sorts of novels (generally when written by women, thus my Mary Sue remark).

Similarly, the ending is just too neat/pat. Also like a cliche of a detective novel. The detective gathers all the suspects, then confronts them, tricking a confession out of the guilty part, who then faces a very heavily foreshadowed death.

So, basically a medieval Scottish version of Murder She Wrote.

Lastly, it's somewhat marred by a lack of glossary. The novel uses a lot of Scottish terms, many of which will not be obvious to people outside the UK. The author at least tried to explain a couple in the book itself, by having a character ask what they meant, but while helpful, it also didn't seem to fit the book itself.

Missing Monday (June 2004 Berkley Horror/Penguin) - Mini, mini, mini review

The premise behind the book is somewhat interesting. The main character, "Janna", discovers that she has missed a day. Except, according to everything she can discover, she didn't, she went about her life as normal on that day.

Unfortunately, that's about the only original thing about the novel. The book actually turns out to be something of a cross between "Scanners" and "They Live". Very very cliched.

Much of it is also implausible, including that one of the main characters in the book, the closest thing there is to a hero, is a congressman from New York. A Democrat, too. Though he is likeble.

Probably not worth buying, but if you can't find anything else to read for an hour or two (like me), it's decent enough, though rather unsatisfying in the end.