Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Broken Teaglass

I'm a mystery lover.  Have been ever since my mother started passing her Sara Paretsky and Patricia Cornwell novels to me as a teenager.  And I'm a lover of words.  It feels childish, but whenever someone compliments my writing or remarks on an unusual word I use when speaking, I get a little thrill of pride.  So The Broken Teaglass seemed like a can't miss for me-a combination of mystery and word worship.

The Broken Teaglass, by Emily Arsenault,  is set in the offices of the Samuelson Dictionary Company.  The main character, Billy Webb, is just out of college.  He accepts a job as a junior editor at the company, and soon finds himself working in a silent, slightly depressing cubicle.  One day, while working on updating definitions for a new edition, he comes across something interesting in the citations file.  It starts out like any other citation, except that it is longer than most, and appears to be from a book about the very company he works for.  He takes it to a co-worker, who gets sucked into the mystery when she searches for the book the citation is from, only to find that no such book was ever published.  Their curiosity sends them on a quest to find other citations from the same book.  With each one they find, they are drawn deeper into a murder mystery that involves the very people they work with each and every day.

As mysteries go, this one can't exactly be called a thriller.  But it is definitely a quirky little novel, that gains momentum almost imperceptibly until I found I couldn't put it down.  Part of it was the fascination of seeing how a dictionary is compiled.  Yes, I said fascination.  I love words, and anything to do with words.  There is something beautiful about the idea that even a dictionary, the very thing that we use to define our language, is as fluid and changing as the language itself.  The overall mood of the book is pretty dark-everything I pictured in my mind was in gray-scale.  The silent offices, the cold streets, the empty apartment that Billy went home to every night, provided a blank slate for the emotions provoked by the mystery itself.

I suppose that every whodunnit type of mystery is a puzzle to be pieced together, but this one is like one of those puzzles that is printed on both sides.  Because before Billy and Margot (or you as the reader) can put together the puzzle, they must first find and interpret all of the pieces, which are scattered among thousands of citations according to a system that they themselves must decode.  I felt such relief when all of the clues were finally revealed, and frankly the actual resolution was almost a let-down by comparison.  But it was worth it.

Monday, October 08, 2012

George R.R. Martin and I Are in a Fight

Of course, since he has no idea who I am, that probably doesn't mean very much, but still.  I recently finished the audiobook for A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series.  I was willing to forgive the length of the books because of the amazing amount of detail that he puts into the fictional world he  has created, even if it meant that I have to listen to them on audiobook instead of reading them in my all too precious free time.  And I know that part of my issue is the fact that this book and the fifth, A Dance with Dragons were originally supposed to be one book, until it grew to such behemoth size that it had to be divided.  But I'm miffed.  Thirty-plus hours and no mention of some of my favorite characters.  Plenty of mention of some of my least favorite, which is fine, I suppose.  And then lots and lots of new characters and new history and new families and new settings and new politics to learn.  And NOW, I've started A Dance with Dragons, hoping to find the answers to the cliffhangers set up in A Feast for Crows, only to discover that the two books are CONCURRENT?  So yeah, George R.R. Martin are in a fight.

That said, I'm completely sucked into the whole Game of Thrones universe.  I can't stop reading them any more than I can stop watching the show.  As far as the book itself goes, A Feast for Crows was an awful lot of exposition and not a ton of action, but it is worth it in the end when one of the most evil characters in the series appears to get what is coming to her.  Of course, I'll have to wait to find out, because instead of writing a continuation of the story in A Dance with Dragons, I have gone back in time to catch up with the characters that were excluded from A Feast for Crows.  But at least now I know where Tyrion ended up, and what was happening on the Wall after Sam leaves.  But I'm going to be really ready for book six.