I don't normally read genre fiction. I haven't admitted this before, for fear of being thought a snob. At last, however, I must come out. I am a raging literary snob. I don't read crime fiction, science fiction, detective fiction or Chick Lit. I am not even sure whether there is generally seen to be a distinction between crime fiction and detective fiction. I hazard the theory that in crime fiction, the vile deeds are the central focus of the story, whereas in detective fiction it is the character and relationships of the key detective which are the main theme, and the crime is just a scenic backdrop against which these relationships are played out.
Terrible things are going on at my office in Cambridge. The Board have literally cut the staff salary budget in half at a stroke, without any consultation, and the staff are still waiting to be told exactly where the axe will fall. My daily trip to the Charity Shop at the end of the road has become an even more essential lunchtime therapy than before. I HAVE to buy something each day. It assuages my pain. Previously I have only bought books, but in these difficult times I have started hoovering up bric-a -brac as well. It provides a brief moment of anodyne pleasure, compounded by the knowledge that it is all in a good cause. I've bought three brooches, a calculator, a plant pot holder, a cream jug and matching sugar bowl. I have had to physically restrain myself from buying a mantel clock and some faux pearls.
In this new spirit of abandon, I moved away from my ususal choices -the classics and Booker prizewinners - in the endless cornucopia of the book section, and ventured on a prize-winning detective author, Elizabeth George. Apparently, many of her Inspector Lynley stories have been made into television series. I wouldn't know, as I am a terrible TV snob as well, restricting my viewing to those well-known classics "Downton Abbey" and "The X-Factor".
The book was good train reading, being 550 pages long and easy to pick up and put down. I don't think I'll read another, though, even if things go from bad to worse at the office. The overall effect can be compared with eating a large, cheap meringue. It's nutty, crunchy, and full of things to chew on. At the end however, it all just crumbles away to nothing, and I was left with a dry, dusty taste in my mouth.
The characters were many and varied, albeit given the most ridiculous names. This author is American and set "Careless In Scarlet" in Cornwall. She gives her local, working-class Cornish characters names like "Cadan", "Madlyn", "Kerra", "Benesek", "Dellan" and "Santo".
The characters all have something major wrong with them, and a theme running through the book is that of parents finding it difficult to connect with their adolescent offspring. This is so common that it almost seems like a cliche by the end of the book. The murderer is never caught, at the end, which left me unsatisfied.
So, back to my preferred area, books that almost no-one else has heard of. My next book, dinner-table reading as it is an old hardback, and therefore not to be taken on a train, is a memoir by Barbara Wootton, called "In A World I Never Made".