Stories (1) O Jerusalem

I was going to call this thread “Books” but I realised it was really about the telling of stories.  I was going to start the thread as I have started my other threads, by anticipating where I was going to go with my rants and setting up the appropriate background.  This thread will be different.

I admit to being a very slow reader, and one who spent much of his reading budget on non-fiction; I allowed video to be my primary medium for fiction.  My family reads together and discusses stories; this has boosted my intake of fiction.

We read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice  by Laurie R. King (LRK) and liked it somewhat.  I had not read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but had gotten quite a few stories via movies.  After reading this one together, I went off to read some of canon from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (SACD).  I found this latter day extension (fan fic) to be a slight improvement on the original.  This is damningly faint praise, for the hundred years between the two sets seems inadequately expressed as improvement.  The canon (that I have so far read) is not up to modern standards, yet for each predecessor to show the way to SACD there have been many hundreds for LRK to look to — and her work does not show that much improvement.

Nonetheless, we followed the first in the Mary Russell series with the 5th, O Jerusalem, which interestingly is set in the middle of the first.  In many ways, this installment is an improvement on that first one, specifically in the story continuity, the character development, and pacing.  Yet overall, the product was lacking.

I found myself a little distracted in the middle of the story by what I saw as mistakes in her representations of some weapons.  I expect that it would bother few readers.  What was ruinous to the story, so much so that I fault the editors for having allowed it, is the complete inadequacy of the final chapter.  The plot is resolved by a cheap trick played out so as to violate the nature of the characters, without providing a justification (the villain’s purpose), followed by a complete lapse of reason (and corresponding incongruity of personality) by all the major characters in the closing scenes.  It is as if LRK was tired of the story and ended it as quickly as possible; a miserable ending to an otherwise fine bit of story telling.

We will probably read more from LRK, even more in the Mary Russell series, but we are left unassured that those stories will all be worth the time.

The publishing industry has changed so much.  So few authors can earn a living from their books.  Given this constraint, we have to ask what is the author’s motivation if not to tell a well crafted story.