The Black Tower or Murder of a Lady

Murder of a Lady

The past few months I have found it most difficult to settle down with reading. I would choose a title, then put it back and pull another from the shelf, only to have it lay listlessly on my night table inducing guilt. Through sheer luck I passed by my neighbor who was loading the boot of her car with boxes of books for recycling. Knowing no graciousness when it comes to the written word, I bluntly asked if I could look. She, on the other hand, graciously stepped aside. Without any sensitivity to my patron’s sensibilities in reading, I assessed the goods, and grabbed two, concluding with, “These are the only ones of interest to me.” Clutching my almost-stolen goods, I blithely waved  a “thank you” (please note!) to scurrying home, leaving her there, I am sure, with the impressions that I am not only rude, but a poor reader.

To my delight, the Adam Dalgliesh mystery title, The Black Tower, did help me settle in with reading. Of course, I simply cannot read one book at a time, so I scuttled down the street (unfortunately my bookish neighbor was nowhere to be seen) to our local library for another mystery. The cover of a quality paperback caught my eye. Having never heard of the author, but loving the setting in the Scottish highlands, I hurried home to begin the second adventure. Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne (pseudonym of Robert McNair-Wilson (1882-1963) held promise with the opening plot, and quickly disintegrated into a dreadfully dull read. This is only one of his 27 newly republished works, but I am not yet brave or bored enough to tackle another.

These two writing styles are polar opposites. Where James gives the reader visceral imageries of settings and weaves in the complexity of her characters with their flaws and brilliance, Wynne characters are flat, and smack of caricatures of  “the doctor,” the Scottish lord,” and the “the bumbling inspector.” James’s vocabulary is stellar along with her ability to layer tension on multiple levels; Wynne’s style  is mundane and predictable of the most elementary of aspiring writers, with a feel of the abruptness apparent in many Agatha Christie books.

Lesson learned: Do not judge a book by its cover. (Although I may need bibliotherapy to deal with this habit!)


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