Friday, May 1, 2009
Barbara's thoughts on The Stargazey
I don’t often read mysteries, so it was somewhat exciting to launch into a book destined to be a “who done it?” I was not disappointed in that regard.
I actually think Martha Grimes’ greatest strength was in her character development. She told us enough about each character, from Melrose to Linda Pink to the Fabricants, to allow us to create a fairly good mental image of them.
But there were so many characters and I often forgot some of the more minor ones as the story progressed and then they would reappear. Whereas Out Stealing Horses might have been criticized for having too few characters, The Stargazey possibly errs in the opposite direction.
I found myself longing for certain characters, like Father Noailles or Linda Pink or young Sophie, to take a more leading role in the denouement, whereas they simply dropped away and in Sophie’s case turned out to be fabricated.
I really loved some of the descriptions of scenes, like the men’s club in London and the home of both Mona Dresser and Ilona Kuraukov.
From the beginning, we see the killer Dana as a ruthless woman who lets no one get in the way of her objective. She kills with no remorse. And yet she lets Melrose and Jury off with hardly a scratch when she had ample opportunity to kill the only two people who had figured her out.
In the end the mystery is explained, but the villain(ess) gets away with the goods. I suppose that sets up the scene for a sequel, but it seems a little unfair after 400 pages to let her get away.
Then there’s this business of stars. They are everywhere in the book:
-- The Stargazey (pub)
-- starry-gazey pie (a real thing)
-- Diane’s interest in stargazing
-- the magical Stardust shop in London with its night wood scene
-- Father Noailles as the amateur stargazer with a telescope in his room
-- Kate McBride (the fake) sitting at an outdoor cafe in Brussels where there were so many stars
-- “It wasn’t in the stars” for Jury to follow Kate (the fake) onto the palace grounds.
-- Jury’s dream of Chief Superintendent Racer at a fun fair at the top of the big wheel, stuck against a black and starless sky
One would think with all this mention of stars, they would have something to do with the plot itself. But as far as I can tell, Martha just seems to be fascinated with stars.
The comment on the art itself was so accurate. The wonderful pieces of Bea Slocum were being totally overlooked because of Ralph Rees’ “Snow” pieces.
I’m afraid there were parts of the plot that I simply could not follow. By the end I sort of knew what happened, but there were many connections I had missed. Perhaps a second read would point them out. In a way, the false leads had somewhat obliterated the real ones, and of course one doesn’t know the difference the first time through.
The Stargazey was nonetheless a good read. I will keep my ear out for news of Dana and the smuggled Chagall.