Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Murdery Mystery: What a Genre!

I love murder mysteries. What I loved about In the Woods by Tana French is that it is a shining example of what mass market murder mysteries could be if only the writing were good, or at least if it resembled something bordering on the literary. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Patricia Cornwell and Mary Higgins Clark as much as the next person, but they verge more on brain candy than on literary B vitamins. In the Woods, however, is more literary fiction than airport bookstore. It is told from the point of view of Detective Ryan, a detective on Ireland's Murder Squad, who with his partner is investigating the murder of a twelve year old girl. The girl is found dead on an archaeological site outside of Ryan's hometown, which is also the site of the disappearance twenty years earlier of two other children. The twist is that Detective Ryan is the one child who was found when the other children had vanished. He was found with his arms wrapped around a tree, blood filling his shoes. In the Woods is thrilling, suspenseful, and a true page-turner (I had to force myself to put it down and turn off my light every night). However. Mass market murder mysteries always have a satisfying ending, right? If you read In the Woods, just remember that this is no mass market murder mystery. And that's all I'm going to say about that. 3 1/2 out of 4 Bananas!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Great Read About a Terrible Topic

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess recently won second place in the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award contest. It is the story of Meredith, a fourteen year old girl who was repeatedly raped by her father until he injured her so badly that she had to go to the hospital. Her father was arrested, imprisoned, but was released after having served only three years. The book begins with Meredith's father returning to her life, much to the delight of her mother, who is desperate to hold onto her marriage, even though she knows what he did to Meredith. Incest is a very difficult topic to stomach, even in fiction, but Wiess handles it with an appropriate amount of honesty, outrage, and just enough details to make it wrenching without being too graphic. On her official website, Wiess comments on writing Such a Pretty Girl, and how she extensively researched incest's effects on victims, the way incest crimes are prosecuted, and case studies of various perpetrators of incest. She felt so outraged by what she found that she felt compelled to write this novel so that people could have some sense of what the victims go through. The ending was a little strange for me, but because it is a short, well-written book with a lot of impact, I'm giving it 3 1/2 out of 4 Bananas.