Dirty cops. A decades-old murder. A gun that shouldn’t exist. Malcolm Fox isn’t a detective, and it rankles from time to time. He’s part of the Complaints, and no one likes the Complaints, especially in Kirkcaldy. Detective Paul Carter has been found guilty of misconduct, but Malcolm and his team – Joe Naysmith and Tony Kaye – aren’t there for Carter. They’re there, instead, to determine any wrongdoing of Carter’s friends on the force. But the case gets complicated when someone involved in the case gets killed, and Fox realizes his detective skills may be rusty, but they certainly aren’t gone.
I’ll just go on record for saying I like this book, in part, because it references Inspector Rebus from Rankin’s famed series. It was a very small reference, but I caught it, and my heart warmed. I mentioned in a recent post about reading for comfort that reading Rankin feels like “coming home,” and it’s true for me. Even though Fox is no Rebus, he’s still a fully-developed character, one with an elderly dad and a frazzled sister, one who feels he doesn’t manage his time all that well and who wants to develop his already-talented team.
As for the mystery itself, Rankin uses The Complaints and their current case to draw out a crime from the 80s when Edinburgh was full of political strife and radicals. Fox shouldn’t be investigating, but the further he pulls at the thread, the more he realizes that those in charge can’t or won’t uncover the truth – then or now. And part of what makes Fox so good in the Complaints – and Rankin so good in general is his obsession with the truth.
I wasn’t sold on the first in this series, The Complaints, but as I mentioned in my last post about Rankin, I believe that was much more my own biases and love of his Rebus series. This book, though, it was solid, and I’m back to playing the waiting game for the newest from Ian Rankin.
Yes, I know she’s a gazillionaire and that her success is beyond what most people can even imagine. However, when Little, Brown announced this past week that J.K. Rowling’s new adult-fiction book The Casual Vacancy had a release date (September 2012) and a synopsis, the Internet went a bit crazy. The synopsis?
When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty faÃ§ade is a town at war.Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowlingâ€™s first novel for adults. (via Little, Brown)
Personally, I loved the Harry Potter series. I didn’t expect to, but I did. Yes, the beginning books were a bit unstable, but the magic? The storytelling? I loved it all. Even at the end of the series, yes, I felt J.K. Rowling made some missteps (I’m looking at you, awkward Dumbledore scene in the train station when Harry is supposed to be dead). However, as a series, as a composite group of work, Harry Potter is masterful.
This novel? It will be different. J.K. Rowling certainly could have published this book under another name and avoided all the drama; however, she chose to place her name on The Casual Vacancy, a markedly-different book in almost every conceivable way.
In 2007, there were rumors that J.K. Rowling met with Ian Rankin in Edinburgh to discuss crime novels. The man himself tweeted me in February, saying she “does love a good whodunnit.” It isn’t being touted as such, but politics and small-town issues put this one in a perfect position for a murder or two. Speculation only, but isn’t that what revealing a blurb this early in the game is all about?
Many vowed to read anything written by the author of the famed boy Harry Potter. Others weren’t so excited:
On Bookalicious.org, Pam says it sounds “boring,” and the comments on her blog tend to agree. The Telegraph’s Sameer Rahim talks about why he’s “dreading” The Casual Vacancy, with the oh-so-original argument that J.K. Rowling sucks as a writer and that kids should be reading Charles Dickens (I’m thinking that deserves a post of its own).
So am I so ensconced in Jo’s camp (yeah, we’re close. I call her “Jo”) that I feel the need to defend her against all this scuffling nonsense? Hardly. I’m sure the woman who has built a multimedia empire can hold her own. However, in terms of J.K. Rowling as a writer, one who created something that has, for many, become legend, how do you move past it?
I, for one, am impressed that a mere year after the last HP film, she has jumped into the fray and is releasing a book. She had to have known she would meet this sort of response as there are some who will be unhappy with anything less than full-on magic. There are still others who have never understood her success to begin with.
Releasing a book so radically different is natural. Had she released anything else about Harry or any of the characters from the series, she would likely have faced much criticism for “milking” the success of the series. There would inevitably be articles written about the watered-down stories, much like spinoffs of successful TV shows. [Who can forget the Friends spinoff, Joey? Or maybe, who can remember it? Cheers boasts the successful Frasier, but it also had a 13-episode run of The Tortellis.]
J.K. Rowling will face a multitude of critics come September (and months before as ARCs are parceled out). The reactions? Disappointed Harry Potter fans angry that Queen Rowling didn’t produce the magic. Devout HP fans who will laud the queen, regardless of the quality of the book. Raging journalists, who have wanted to pounce for years but didn’t want to be attacked, will come out of the woodworks, decrying the death of literature.
Do I feel sorry for J.K. Rowling? Indeed I do. There is no way for her to win here, even if she produced a Dickensian novel, and I say “Dickensian” simply because these days Dickens seems to be the media’s favorite measurement for true literature. Once she gets this first novel out of the way, I think it will be easier for her to continue writing if she chooses to. So get it under your belt, Jo. I’ll pour the tea (with a bit of spirits) come September.
I hope you guys had a great weekend. If it was anything like mine, it was busy busy busy. My students are beginning a big research project and had an annotated bibliography due. I had a rush editing job. There was church to be attended with the fam. And massive quantities of food to be eaten yesterday. All that to say, by yesterday evening, I was exhausted. Like, in bed at 8 p.m. exhausted, but I gave up sweets for Lent, which WHOA. So I think having dessert and eating meat (which I normally do only rarely) made for a not-so-happy stomach.
I grabbed Ian Rankin’s latest book, The Impossible Dead, and read for hours. My history with Ian Rankin: I adore his writing. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but when I finished my Master’s thesis and didn’t want to write anything ever again (fail: I started this blog), I turned to Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series….and promptly fell in love. In fact, Rebus probably deserves his own “Series Obsession” post. That summer after graduation, I read every Rebus novel and probably not much else.
Rankin ended the Rebus series in the last novel of the series Exit Music, and I was kind of devastated. Ok, a lot devastated. So when Rankin wrote The Complaints a couple of years ago, I knew I would pick it up but was determined I wouldn’t love it. I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t even review it because it just. wasn’t. the same. But that isn’t Rankin’s fault. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to follow up such a well-loved series. So, last night. The Impossible Dead. It’s a sequel to The Complaints, and I was glad to come home to Rankin. So happy I stayed up most of the night to read it, start to finish.
What struck me, after this long, long, long-winded introduction was Rankin’s ability to pull me in to his narrative and make me feel at home. It’s not even something I think I can articulate all that well. The prose is clean and clear but without bells and whistles, but there is an elegance to the writing and to the characters that I love.
Because this is a new series, I know it isn’t the characters that feel so familiar, though. Unlike the Miss Silver series by Patricia Wentworth, it isn’t the promise of the same names coming up. Rankin is also not formulaic, and I don’t want to imply that by saying “comfort.” Mac and cheese is a comfort food, but I don’t really go in for the Kraft Mac & Cheese. Homemade, though, I’ll take any day.
So what are the characteristics of a comfort read:
- Familiarity – this might be the writing, the characters, the author, the setting, or the genre.
- Engagement – even if it’s your absolute favorite author, if it isn’t engaging, it won’t work
And I kind of think, for me, those are the only two qualities I’m looking for. What do you think? Are there additional requirements for a comfort read? And what are the books you turn to for comfort?
(Courtesty of random.org)
#44 – Jennifer Orozco of Lit Endeavours.
Congratulations, Jennifer! I’ll send you a message shortly for your mailing address, and please let all of us know what you think of Rankin and my favorite detective, Rebus.
In the meantime, thanks to all who stopped by and entered and retweeted my posts about the giveaway (including the man himself – Mr. Ian Rankin). I hope you’ve enjoyed my bit of Ian Rankin madness this week and that you’ll stop by again in the future.
I’m back to The Complaints, Rankin’s newest book. I’m halfway in and am really enjoying Malcolm Fox, Rankin’s newest character. So back to curl up with my book…I hope each of you has a lovely Saturday.
jenn aka the picky girl