Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

Book #115: The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, somehow, is my first encounter with the Sherlock Holmes books. Obviously I’ve watched Sherlock and some of the Holmes movies, but I’d never gotten around to reading any of the Holmes books.

The Hound of the Baskervilles was surprisingly fun to read. I don’t always enjoy the turn-of-the century writing style, but I liked Watson’s voice and the story was compelling without the writing getting in the way, as sometimes happens to me.

I didn’t have that strong a reaction to this book, however. I really enjoyed it and I want to read more Sherlock Holmes books, but I find that I don’t have that much to say about it.

Read it, if you haven’t somehow. It’s a well-constructed mystery and a great story. It’s a really quick read and moves along at a good pace. It has the right amount of tension and suspense, without feeling drawn-out or over-written. It also doesn’t feel gimmicky or cliche at all – though I suppose that could be because this is one of the originators of all the detective story cliches that have followed.

Rating: *****
Up Next: The Cancer Ward

Super-Speedy Alias Grace

I’m coming at you from the free wifi in the airport as I wait for my flight.

I don’t have a ton of time, so this is going to be quick. I just want to get something out because I don’t know how much time I’ll have to write updates in the next few days.

I’m officially a Margaret Atwood fan. I read and liked The Handmaid’s Tale, but I’m always hesitant to make blanket statements about authors if I’ve only read one of their books. But now that I’ve read Alias Grace, I feel more comfortable saying that I like Margaret Atwood.

What struck me most about Alias Grace was how little I cared about the central “mystery” of the novel. The driving force behind the plot is probably supposed to be figuring out what actually happened when Nancy and Mr. Kinnear were killed. Doctor Jordan is unraveling some of the enigma that is Grace Marks. Usually when I read books where there’s some major question or mystery like that, I read frantically because I want to know the answer. That wasn’t the case here.

I found myself not caring that Grace hadn’t yet told us what she remembered of the day of the murders. I was just interested in her story. I could have read even more about her life as a servant and her changes between employers and not cared a bit. At one point I even forgot that there was a murder “mystery” (in quotes because the book isn’t really a murder mystery) that the plot was working towards resolving.

Oh man, flight boards really soon. Let’s see. Specifics.

Grace Marks was a real person. And she really was in prison for allegedly killing (or helping to kill) her employer and the housekeeper (who was her employer’s mistress). In real life she was an enigma. No one was sure of her sanity or guilt. Atwood does a great job of moving the book toward resolution while still keeping Grace enigmatic. The wrap-up is really, really cool, I think.

I don’t want to spoil anything, so all I’m going to say is that I read the “Spiritualist/hypnosis” chapter at 1 a.m. before bed. It was SO FREAKY. Wow.

What else?

I was struck by how well Atwood wrote the dream scenes in the book. A lot of times when characters in books dream, there’s really obvious symbolism that seems sort of forced or convoluted. Obviously in a book where a psychiatrist is talking to a murderess about her dreams the dreams mean something. But I don’t think Atwood made them overly obvious. At least, at no point during those parts did I sarcastically say, Gee, I wonder what THAT could mean…, which is a thing I do when there’s really obviously symbolism or foreshadowing in a book.

Overall, I’m a huge fan of Alias Grace.

Rating: *****
Up Next: A Home at the End of the World

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