I’ve been reading a lot of P. D. James’ later books, the ones I haven’t read because I’d stopped reading her years ago. She’s an elegant writer and a good plotter, but she is strangely devoid of humor. I’m not looking for comic mysteries, just for a writer with wit. Ngaio Marsh comes to mind, as does Allingham and Gilbert and Hill. The British are aces at dry wit that doesn’t ever become outright comedy (well, they’re good. at comedy, too; look at Wodehouse, Pratchett, and Monty Python), but somehow James just doesn’t have it. This may also be why I could never connect with Moby Dick. (Yes, I know Melville was American, but still not a laff riot unless you think Ahab got what he deserved, which I do.. . . where was I?). Anyway, I need wit in my writers, even the grim ones (like Stephen King, who is brilliant but who I cannot read more than once because nightmares. So I went back to Allingham and The Fear Sign/Sweet Danger and there was Albert and Amanda snarking at each other as they defeated Evil and I thought, “Oh, there we go.” Also James is terrible at romance, which isn’t a deal breaker since she writes mysteries, but her hero can’t bring himself to tell the woman he loves that he loves her (and since there is nothing on the page to tell you why except she’s extraordinarily beautiful you do wonder why) so he hands her a letter and then watches from a distance while she reads it. And she’s thrilled, although as declarations of love go, it’s mostly about him. I give up. I mean Albert was ten thumbs with Amanda, too, but I know why they’re together and that they love each other.
What good book did you read this week?