Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Book Review: Finally off the Jane Austen Kick

Hello folks. Yes, I did actually read installment's five and six in the Jane Austen mystery series (Jane and the Stillroom Maid, Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House). They're quite good, but I figure you guys have had enough of that.

Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding--6
I read this one over Christmas break. It's like a cross between Bridget Jones's Diary and Ian Fleming. I'm serious. Olivia is almost as nervous and self-conscious as Bridget, but she also figures out how to navigate an international spy situation. The mix is odd, but it does make a great backdrop for action and romance. The fact that Al-Queda plays a major plot role is also interesting, if weird, given the lightness of the other material. I keep getting the feeling that Fielding really wants to be a foreign correspondent journalist (witness the Thailand drug dealing part of Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason, and Fielding's debut book, which featured African refugees) rather than a chick-lit novelist. Her compromise is contrived, but still fun.

Cavalcade by Walter Satterthwait, 3rd in the Phil Beaumont/Jane Turner mystery series--6.5
This installment puts our favorite Pinkerton detectives in early 1920s Germany, just as Hitler is building his Nazi party. Phil and Jane are hired by the Nazis to investigate an attempted assassination attempt on Hilter. As Phil and Jane become familiar with the party leaders, the detectives discover far more about the disturbing anti-Semitism and militarism of Nazi ideology than about the assassination itself. This mystery is a bit odd, in that solving the actual crime is not the primary focus. (Indeed, that aspect is resolved rather hastily in a couple paragraphs at the end.) This is instead an exploration of the evils of Nazism, and the ways in which it could attract both scary psychos and seemingly normal people. This atmosphere very well rendered. In addition, we get some great character development of the Jane/Phil relationship. Satterthwait also sounds an ominous final note, hinting that other western governments allowed Nazism to gain power because they viewed the alternative, communism, as even more dangerous. I have heard this theory discussed in history courses, and there is probably a grain of truth in it. But then, we have the benefit of hindsight. Governments probably make such "bargains with the devil" every day. It's just that they usually don't turn out quite so horrifically.

1 comment:

jessie said...