I struggled with this topic. I wasn't sure which two books I was going to write about ... but then it came to me. How about two books written by the same author, dealing with the same story line? The topic then became a lot less difficult, and I was eager to write this post. As with everything, writing is all about perspective, isn't it?
I read. I read a lot. The genre I seem to be most drawn to is southern lit, or southern fiction, but, in all honesty, I really like a lot of genres. Mystery, young adult, even horror when the mood suits. Back before kids, back before I was serious writer, back before I owned my own editing business - you know, back when I had spare time - I used to go to Barnes & Noble and peruse the shelves and shelves of books. I'd decide on a section and I'd just pick a book. I'd base my choice on the title, and then - even though you're taught at a very young age not to do this - I'd look at the cover. I'd find something that intrigued me by an author I'd never read and I'd buy the book. That's how I found Elizabeth George.
The book I picked up was one of her Inspector Lynley novels. Out of the twenty she's published, I've read fifteen. These are crime/mystery novels. Inspector Lynley works for New Scotland Yard. He and the rest of the cast of characters are gritty and colorful, and the setting is always intriguing. To keep with the topic of this post, however, I have chosen two books in which I want to write about.
The Book I Love - With No One As Witness
This is the thirteenth book in the series, and George has spent a great deal of time introducing her characters and getting her readers acquainted with them. We've learned about these people, have seen their good and bad sides, and have decided whether or not we like them. I don't really want to throw any spoilers out there - I really hate spoilers - but someone dies. Rather, this someone is murdered, and it's a huge shock to someone like me, someone who has read all the previous books in the series. It, like the rest of George's books, is so well written, and I felt anguish, and anger ... and shared the heartbreak for the other characters. This is good story telling. I mean, yes, it sucks that a beloved character has been killed off ... but it's a mystery/suspense novel. That's what's supposed to happen! The death of this character continued to propel this series forward, and I was incredibly eager to get my hands on the next novel.
The One I Didn't - What Came Before He Shot Her
The title is a spoiler all on it's own ... but I will continue to save for you the 'her' and the 'he' that shot her.
I had such high hopes for this novel, and when I began reading, I was even more excited to find that it basically took the whole timeline from the book before it and told the story again - but in the perspective of the killer. Genius! What an excellent idea!
Only when I found out who the killer was - and then the story behind the shooting - my excitement was greatly diminished. Perhaps I wanted her death to mean something. Perhaps I wanted more of a mystery, more of an unveiling ... an intriguing tale to explain the reason for such a horrible act. What I got instead was a story that made me feel a bit deflated. There wasn't any intrigue in it ... the events that brought the killer to his crime, and what happens in his life both before and afterward, just made me feel sad. Sad and disappointed. I had grown accustomed to the way George tells a story, and I was relying on the twists, turns and revelations I'd encountered in her previous books. I knew from past experience that when I cracked open What Came Before He Shot Her that I was going to be rewarded with a 'why' that would make the previous book even better. While her writing was every bit as good in this book as it was in the others, I didn't get that 'why'. I didn't get what I was hoping for.
I'm a writer, so I know from experience just how hard it is to keep readers happy. I don't have nearly the following that George has, and I have never written a mystery/suspense novel. I imagine the intensity in which one has to work to keep that tension, that surprise intact is incredibly taxing. George is very good at it. Just because I was looking for something different than she delivered doesn't make What Came Before He Shot Her a bad book. I don't know what other readers thought of it. For all I know, the fault lies with me and unreasonable expectations. I'd be more than willing to shoulder the blame for this one, especially considering George's impeccable track record for writing a boat load of bestselling novels.
I would (and often do) recommend Elizabeth George to anyone looking for a great mystery. She's a spectacular writer. She's written a young adult series, and has several other works published as well. If you're interested in a list of her books, this one is from her official website.
If you read these two novels, I'd love to get your take on them. I'd actually be quite happy to hear that the disappointment I felt was self-inflicted, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the incredible writer who penned them.