Friday, 16 November 2007

Sick-bed reading and thrillers that really thrill

No post yesterday as I was unwell. Pause for sympathy. Thank you.

The Other Half knew I really wasn’t well when she got home and saw that the laptop hadn’t been switched on all day. Never mind not posting a blog, I hadn’t even read any of the blogs I am addicted to. Still, it was nice to have a double dose this morning.

I spent nearly all day reading Val McDermid’s The Distant Echo and a very satisfying day it was too, curled up on the settee under a blanket with Ms McDermid and her characters. The ending was satisfyingly climactic but also – given the work that had been done in shaping plot around characters – very believable. And you could have worked out who dunnit before the end, I just didn't. I blame being unwell...

A very recommendable read.

Then, I started David Baldacci’s Absolute Power. Mr Baldacci seems to be everywhere at the moment. He arrived in our house when the OH came home with Absolute Power which she had nipped out and bought one lunchtime as she had nothing to read with her sarnies. He’s also featured on Scott Pack’s blog Me and My Big Mouth and today on Dovegrayreader Scribbles. So…

Thrillers for me fall into two classes – the adventure kind (Tom Clancy et al, plot-driven, starring strong-jawed heroes who can’t be killed, women either hotly fanciable or don’t even go there) and the more thinking kind (populated by real people who feel things even (do I mean especially?) when they kill others and who are shaped and changed by events rather than just confronting them). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising Mr Clancy and writers like him, what they do they do supremely well - look at the sales figures – and I have page-turned with the best of them when in the mood. But for a book to really grab me I have to be able to relate to the characters and what they feel; I have to be swept up with them but also by them into the events they take part in, not sit passively watching, knowing that it will all come right in the end, at least for the strong-jawed hero.

I don’t know how Absolute Power is going to turn out but its characters have got me hooked already and I’m less than a quarter of the way through. And Mr Baldacci toys with his reader and with conventions very nicely. For instance, the first character we meet at the beginning of the book is a burglar. Often with this kind of set up on page one you know that this character is destined to die by about page twenty-five just to illustrate how ruthless one of the main protagonists is. Not so here, though we do see, through the eyes of said burglar, just how nasty the book’s fictitious President of the United States is.

Gradually, it becomes clear how this burglar is related to others – probably destined to be more major players – in the book. Given that one of these is a lawyer, when the burglar realises that he needs legal advice we suspect that an introduction to his old friend is being set up for us, and that he is going to unburden himself about the Presidential goings-on that he has witnessed. But no, that rug of assumption is pulled out from under us again; the burglar is making his will and goes to see a bottom-end attorney, worlds away from the high-finance corporate law his friend practises.

In fiction, I like it when I’m wrong. It makes me think I’m dealing with somebody cleverer than me, which makes the whole act of reading even more pleasurable than usual.

Good start, Mr Baldacci.

1 comment:

Leigh Russell said...

Hi Alis - really briefly thank you for your commment on my blog. I'll be back soon. Leigh