Saturday, June 28, 2008

Book Review: The Drowning People by Richard Mason

"The Drowning People", by Richard Mason (NY: Warner Books, 1999)

Boy did this book have a hook. Here's the opening paragraphs:

"My wife of more than forty-years shot herself yesterday afternoon.

At least that is what the police assume, and I am playing the part of grieving widower with enthusiasm and success. Life with Sarah has schooled me in self-deception, which I find--as she did--to be an excellent training in the deceiving of others. Of course I know that she did nothing of the kind. My wife was far too sane, far too rooted in the present to think of harming herself. In my opinion she never gave a thought to what she had done. She was incapable of guilt.

It was I who killed her."
So of course I had to read this book.

And it was a great read, full of psychological intrigue, an island castle in Cornwall, moldering aristocrats, concert pianists, art auctions and coffeehouse arguments in Prague, murder trials, suicides and an intricate, twisting plot. The writing had an old-fashioned flavor, reminiscent of Daphne DuMaurier, and was very evocative. Great comic relief is sprinkled throughout to liven up the melodrama from a minor character, James' witty, patrician dressmaker chum, Camilla Boardman.

My only complaint is that I felt that even though the main character, James, narrates the book in circumspection about events leading to his wife's murder, I never felt that his character is completely fleshed out. The reader understands that he is a celebrated classical violinist and is attractive to others, but I never came to understand why he was so beguiling. He has passion, but that doesn't seem enough to have at least two other characters in the book become wildly besotted.

The book was Mason's debut novel, and finished up while he was a twenty-something Oxford student, so I look forward to more from his pen. He certainly described obsessive love quite well.

Recommended for mystery mavens, lovers of things Gothic, literary fiction fans and anyone who thinks Daphne DuMaurier was not prolific enough.


Geek Girl said...

definitely sounds like I should check it out. BTW, I like the new blog look!

raych said...

Wow, what an opening! How do you say no to that!