Friday, July 17, 2009

What? Me Compulsive?

Last April I read Kate Ross's Julian Kestrel mysteries. I liked the first, enjoyed the second even more, and galloped through the third and fourth. Unfortunately, there are no more -- Ross died at a very young age. Except there was one more short story, and so I asked my library to get Crime Through Time for me. This anthology has mystery stories from many different authors, from the first story set in ancient Egypt to the last story set in roughly modern times. I read the Julian Kestrel story, then let the book lie around until I realized it was almost due (our library gives you twelve weeks) and then plowed through the rest.

The problem with short stories is that any mystery has to be fairly gimmicky -- there's no time for character-driven plots. So the best of the stories are a puzzle locking together, and the worst a feeling that most of the pieces came glued together. It doesn't help that I have a prejudice against using famous characters in a story, which many of these do -- Tutankhamen, Prince Albert, Charles Dickens, Sherlock Holmes, Caruso, and maybe a few others. On the other hand, the structure of the book, with the time line moving forwards, gives the book an overall arc that lifts up the energy level of all the stories. Most of them were fun to read, even if I felt snooty about the name-checking. It's a good vacation book -- a feeling of progress without having to remember an intricate plot. B-.

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