Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Review: DEAD OF WINTER - Rennie Airth

Title: The Dead of Winter
Author: Rennie Airth
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Published: 2008
ISBN: 978 0 230 73696 2
RRP $32.99 (Aus)
THE DEAD OF WINTER is the third in the the John Madden series. The first novel, River of Darkness took place in England just after World War I.
DEAD OF WINTER is set in London in 1944 when a young Polish woman is garroted on the streets of a darkened city street. She is on her way to visit her aunt. Police begin investigating. John Madden, recently retired from the police force becomes involved because the young woman was living and working on his farm.
The young woman was universally liked and no one can figure out a motive for her death. She wasn’t robbed, she wasn’t sexually assaulted. The case becomes more complex when a prostitute who saw the girl tells the police she thought a man was following her. The prostitute is later found murdered in the same manner.
It ‘s not often that I don’t finish a review book. I feel obligated to read the entire book in order to do justice to the review.
Sadly, I had to give up on THE DEAD OF WINTER. Not because it was a necessarily a poorly written book. I don’t think it is. I have read worse and finished them. So why did I give up at page 197 of a 408 page book? I ran headlong into one of my pet peeves. This particular peeve is when the author pauses the plot to give the back story of a character. It’s all very fine and dandy for a couple of major characters but when the reader is being told the history of minor characters it becomes a major distraction. That’s what happened in this case. Do we really need to know the history of the relationship between the main character and the local village bobby, who up until i stopped reading the book had a very minor role. If this had been a movie it would have been with half a dozen lines.
When that was all I was noticing I decided to call it quits. This may be unfair to the author, but everyone has their quirks and Rennie Airth ran into one of mine.
For a less biased perspective perhaps read Michael Ripley's review on Eurocrime (http://www.eurocrime.co.uk/reviews/TDoW.jpg) or Nick Hay’s review on Reviewing the Evidence http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com/review.html?id=8155


Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks for this review. I agree with you that the central focus of a mystery should be the mystery and the main characters. When the author "wanders off" to other matters, that can really take away from the overall novel.

Sunnie Gill said...

Thanks Margot, I was surprised when I read other reviews which expressed similar sentiments to mine. I thought it was just one of my peeves.

Uriah Robinson said...

This novel is on the six book Ellis Peters shortlist and I am trying to read the four books I haven't read by 28 October. I am now very interested to see my own reaction to it.
The book I am reading now has some annoying features but I am fully involved and these won't put me off finishing.
One pet peeve I have just gone past in the book is when a character says if this were a book or a film or fiction so and so would happen.

Dorte H said...

I think we are many who don´t like that. I may enjoy a novel anyway if the minor characters are engaging enough, but I agree that if you market a book as ´crime novel´, too many digressions are a flaw.

Sunnie Gill said...

LOL So I inadvertantly hit your pet peeve by saying if the character had been in a movie...etc......

Must look up the short list for the Ellis Peters thing. Life has been getting in the way big time lately.

Sunnie Gill said...

Dorte, I can put up with some things - I struggled with THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE because it took the author so long to get to the meat of the story, but not this time.