Sunday, July 22, 2007

Book review: Maureen Carter - Dead Old

The second in the series by Maureen Carter featuring her wonderful character DS Bev Morriss is entitled Dead Old.

Like its predecessor, Working Girls, "Dead Old" has an excellent structure with its movement towards its final revelations of the true culprit(s) well-handled and thrillingly written.

I really enjoyed reading this book: I'm a real sucker for a bit of crime fiction and the characters can be mentally projected into the mind's eye within the time it takes to read a few of Carter's words to describe them.

Neatly, Carter is playfully aware of the typical characterisations of detective fiction and manages to stay on just the right side of using those stereotypes while working to complicate them. So Morriss swears, drinks too much, grumbles in puns and goes against protocol, but it never feels like the constantly lazy construction of characters often found in such books (or, more especially, their TV counterparts). It's probably because of the limitations Carter places on weaving the narratives so they are not dependant on such conventions; instead they are regularly commented on and fought against. Morriss is also smart and observant, but gets things wrong enough for her to not feel like a fount of all knowledge 'fighting the system' or 'showing it up'.

What I especially liked in this novel was how secondary characters were so convincingly drawn (though that was already a clear strength from "Working Girls"). She manages to do this for both her elderly and younger characters: from the hapless, manipulated Davy to Morriss's gran, Sadie, it is possible to both visualise and trace the impact of events on these characters through Carter's vividly straightforward prose (I mean that as a compliment: there is no convoluted prose style to distract the reader; language is well-used rather than drawing attention to itself).

So, a second enjoyable read. I'll get the next two when I get back from the forthcoming vacation... Should be good!

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