Saturday, November 14, 2009

Persona Non Grata

Persona Non Grata, Ruth Downie

Downie's series continues to be a kind of poor man's version of Lindsay Davis's Marcus Didius Falco books. It mines the same veins of humor and culture while attempting to show the similarities between people then and now -- but only half as successfully. The mystery in this book is spoiled by a very misleading prologue that seems to point toward the guilt of one particular character; since the information is never known to Ruso or Tilla and the character is never suspected, it dupes the reader to no purpose.

My main problem with the book is one that I had with the earlier books in the series. I don't buy the relationship between Ruso and Tilla at all -- for all this great love they supposedly share, they never talk to each other or understand each other at all. And I continue to find Tilla in particular extremely dislikeable.

A Duty to the Dead

A Duty to the Dead, Charles Todd

An interesting new series from Charles Todd, still mining the psychological effects of WWI on the participants. Bess Crawford is a plucky and sympathetic character, and overall the book is an enjoyable read. However, Todd at times seems as hampered by period social conventions as his heroine. The central mystery is easily penetrated, and once you've done that it's not hard to guess the perpetrator -- although I confess Todd made me waver in my conviction once or twice. The ultimate explanation for the crime rings somewhat false.