Monday, August 07, 2023

Welcome Change of Pace

 by Thomas Kies

I apologize for missing my blog deadline two weeks ago.  I was putting the finishing touches on my latest manuscript and lost track of time.  I’ve sent it to my agent and my editor and I’m waiting.

That’s the hardest part. Waiting to hear what they think.

In the meantime, I’m catching up on some reading.  

My neighbor loaned me The Searcher by the popular Irish mystery writer Tana French.  It’s about four hundred and fifty pages long and I’m two hundred and fifty pages into it.  It’s beautifully written.  

An American cop has retired to a small village in Ireland and is recruited by a young lad to help find his missing brother.  It took over a hundred pages just to find that out. It’s a little slow.

Now I’m about halfway through the novel and frankly, nothing has happened.  The prose is delicious, the dialogue realistic, but the action is…well…slow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really enjoying it.  It’s just different from what I’m used to 

I don’t like to be overly broad, but I find a lot of mystery writers from the UK to be that way. 

American writers, on other hand, cater to a different type of audience.  If you don’t grab the reader by the throat by the first paragraph, they’ll move on to the next novel on the shelf in your neighborhood bookstore. 

Margaret Atwood had this to say about the difference: 

“Their [American] world was fast-paced, sharp-edged, and filled with zippy dialogue and words I'd never heard pronounced—slang words like "gunsel", fancy words like "punctilious." This was not the Agatha Christie sort of story—there were fewer clues, and these were more likely to be lies people told rather than cuff buttons they'd left strewn around. There were more corpses, with less importance bestowed on each: a new character would appear, only to be gunned down by a fire-spitting revolver.”

Now, Scandinavian mystery writers are a breed all to themselves.  Dark, brooding, sometimes shockingly violent, they’ve found a wide audience.  I know I’m a fan.  Stieg Larssson got me hooked with his Lisbeth Salander series starting with Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Kerstin Bergman, a researcher in comparative literature at Lund University in Sweden recently talked about three reasons for the genre’s popularity: 1: “One is the very strong focus on social and political criticism. International people are often very curious about the Scandinavian welfare states and that is something that they can learn a lot about from reading these novels.” 2: “We have a very strong focus on setting. To a lot of people in the world, the Nordic landscape and nature is very exotic, with the cold dark winters and the summers with the midnight sun and things like that.” 3: “We have so many strong women characters in them and that is something that makes them unique.” 

To close, if you’re looking for a good mystery, I recommend The Searcher. It’s a welcome change of pace to slow down and enjoy the scenery, the nights at the pub, and learning about the rich tapestry of characters.

And right now, while I’m waiting to hear back on my manuscript, it’s nice to just relax with a good book. 

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