The Plot Against Roger Rider by Julian Symons
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
A friend of mine has forever been raving about Julian Symons' classic British mysteries so I decided to try one, to lighten my mood after finishing J.M. Coetzee's "Elizabeth Costello". Quite randomly, I chose "The Plot Against Roger Rider". Unfortunately, I find the novel rather disappointing. It is totally unexceptional - average in writing, slightly above average in characterization, and below average in plot development. Maybe I chose the wrong book out of about 30 mysteries by Mr. Symons. One day, I will give him another chance.
Roger Rider and Geoffrey Paradine have been friends since their youth. Roger was a big boy who protected the smaller Geoffrey from bullying at school. Now Geoffrey works for Roger, who has become a tycoon. However, when Roger hires a detective to spy on his wife, he learns it is the timid Geoffrey that his wife sleeps with. This is just the beginning of a complicated plot that includes disappearances and murders, and which takes place in early 1970s in the UK and Spain.
The three aspects of the novel that I like are occasional sharp observations of motives of human behavior, the well presented portrayal of how politics influences police work in Franco's Spain, and the Sheila and James' thread. The major weakness of the book is that the plot development depends on several major coincidences. Sure, coincidences happen in real life, but in mystery novels they signify sloppy design. There are also three major "twists" at the end of the novel, and I find the last one strained and contrived.
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