Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The SuspectThe Suspect by Laurali R. Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

L.R. Wright's "The Suspect" won the prestigious Edgar Award for "The Best Novel" of 1986. It is quite a good book, with a captivating plot, thus the latter part of this review explains why my rating is much less than stellar.

78-year-old George Wilcox kills 85-year-old Carlyle Burke, whom he has known for many, many years. The killing is described on the first few pages. The rest of the novel reaches deep into the past to reveal the reasons for the killing. "The Suspect" is a very good police procedural, or rather a "Royal Canadian Mounted Police procedural", as the events take place on Canada's Sunshine Coast. We learn how Staff Sergeant Alberg and his officers gradually get closer and closer to the solution of the case. The denouement is logical and mercifully lacks silly plot twists.

The novel is extremely readable; the term unputdownable fits really well. Thanks to my insomnia, I have been able to read it in one sitting. Yet "The Suspect" is all about the plot, while I love to read books for the writing. When I read "serious" books by, say, Coetzee, Pynchon, Joyce, etc., I read them for the magical "Wow!" sentences and passages that reveal deep wisdom or the beauty of the art of writing. But even in the "mystery genre" works by great authors such as Nicolas Freeling, Denise Mina, Hakan Nesser, Karin Fossum, and many others have depth and incredibly skilled writing in addition to the engrossing plot. I prefer books that I have to read slowly, books in which I enjoy rereading sentences and passages many times to appreciate the author's literary talent or wisdom. Reading books fast because they are interesting is not exactly my thing.

Moreover, there are too many coincidences and connections between people in "The Suspect", too many goings-on in a soap opera style. The romantic thread is well written, but a bit too sweet for my taste. Another complaint: how can a good writer - which Ms. Wright undoubtedly is - concoct the following monstrosity of a sentence: "His body had become a horrified, garrulous commentator on calamity", and - to make things worse - put it in the very first page of the novel? To me, it is a worthy contestant for the Worst Sentence of the Year Award.

Obviously I am very far from qualified to be an Edgar Award judge, but I checked their database and out of the 61 books awarded the best novel distinction since 1954 I read 13 and I would rate six of them with five stars. Definitely not this one, though.

Three and a quarter stars.

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