Monday, August 4, 2008

Channeling Evil

As a homemaker/household engineer/WHATever that sometimes it can be challenging to channel a sinister mood. Communion with the dark side is important if you’re creating murder. But it can be especially hard to channel if you’re in between laundry loads and oven timers and looking to write for 15 minutes. Nothing very foreboding about the house…well, except for the spider that sneaked under the hutch in the dining room. Or maybe that stain on the 6 year old’s cute new Kelly's Kids skort that you have a sinking feeling won’t be coming out.  You KNEW you shouldn't have let her wear it to Bible School.  They used paint there and it WASN'T the washable kind. 

This is when it’s useful for me to close my eyes and conjure up something scary. It's build-a-mood. Things like the Anderson County Fair--the 1970s version of it, anyway. Oh my. There were some scary looking folks that both attended and worked there…especially the fellow who wouldn’t stop the double Farris wheel ride, even though my little sister was about to puke. I mean, come on--we were the only kids on the ride, anyway…would it have killed him to have stopped it? He grinned a gap-toothed grin and ROUND we went again a few more times.  Terrifying.  

Fairs still scare me. They’re loud and I'm a quiet person.  The flashing lights are alarming if you’re prone to migraines. The huge stuffed animals you win are frighteningly hefty if you lug them around for a couple of hours before you leave. The amount of money you pay to ride the rides, eat the greasy food, and park is also scary. There are hordes of people there and I'm an introvert. The nausea-inducing rides are absolutely diabolical (paired with tortuous shrieks). I used to run for the animal/agricultural areas to detox from the overstimulation.  This blog has become a tribute to a phobia, but point being, the memory of the fair can transport me to a menacing place that sets the mood for murder.

A Quickie Review: Ruth Rendall’s Not in the Flesh. I have  to admit to a bit of ambivalence here with this book. I’m a Rendall fan, but I had a tough time getting into this mystery. One complaint: the sheer number of characters. (I counted 15 by page 45 and the number accelerated from there.) As a mom, my reading time is spotty and frequently interrupted and it’s hard to flip back in the book and see if I can place characters. There was a body found in the woods by a truffle-seeking dog (nice touch, there) and then we went into neighbors and people who HAD lived there 11 years before and all of their relatives. There was also a foray into a women’s rights/human rights issue that seemed forced to me. It was a side-plot, not even really a subplot. Rendall brought up  an important subject, but one that didn’t work in her mystery.

Once I got past all the characters and all the confusion with the parallel plots, it started getting good. Another body is discovered. We start focusing on only a few of the large cast of characters. Rendall’s characterization is as strong as always--I loved the portrayals of the eccentric Tredown family. One other complaint, though---I’d solved the mystery little more than halfway through. And I try not to do that because it spoils my fun.  That being said, I have enormous respect for Rendall and can unreservedly recommend most of her books.  Go find 'em--there's a ton out there. 

Next week’s read: M.C. Beaton’s Death of a Gentle Lady.  I’m expecting more of the same with Beaton’s book: the same characters, same Scottish locale, same plot rhythm. But….I love it. It works for me. I love Hamish Macbeth, the Highland police constable. I love the oddball residents. I love knocking off the tacky newcomers. Welcome to Lochdubh!

Cool website for cozy mystery fans: .  There you'll find book reviews, blog and author links, and reference information.  While on the site, I discovered a great link to free e-books of Golden Age/Classic mysteries (via Project Gutenberg):  .  You just have to get used to reading online (I have to copy/paste the text into Word and put it in a font and size that is easier for me to read), but it's wonderful to have the full texts of some great books that are out of print and no longer in the library stacks.  Right now I'm reading The Spiral Staircase by Ethel Lina White. 

'To Do' list for the next couple of weeks:  Read Beaton’s book.  Finish Spiral Staircase. Write two chapters while channeling utter depravity.

Elizabeth Spann Craig

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