September 24th, 2008

The Mermaids Singing

Val McDermid is pretty good. They're televising one of her novels and I enjoyed the first episode so much I turned right round and read The Mermaids Singing- the first of theTony Hill novels.

I like my detectives emotionally disengaged- and Hill- with his erectile disfunction and his phone sex- certainly ticks that box .

The setting is the fictional city of Bradfield- but if it has districts just like Manchester's and a gay village that's the second biggest in the country and is within half an hour's drive of the Yorkshire Dales then it is Manchester. I wish writers wouldn't do this. I like my novels to be set in real, visitable places. If it's good enough for Balzac- who had no qualms about gifting real French towns with entirely fictitious mayors and bishops- then it's good enough for everyone else!

Did I guess the ending? No. Did I find the ending convincing? Pretty much- within the conventions of the genre. So, tick, tick.

I'm not into torture porn. Neither, I think, is McDermid. She does her best, but her descriptions of perfectly frightful things being done to the living human body have a perfunctory air. I guess she's read Silence of the Lambs- and thinks that's what the punters want.  Well maybe. Only not this punter.

Will I read more? Probably. But I'm not in a tearing hurry. I emerge from a book like this (bestselling, page-turning, reasonably well-written, not entirely untrue) with a faint, greyish consciousness of having been strong-armed into wasting my time.

And if you waste your time, what does time do back to you? Precisely.