Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lady Antonia Turns To Crime

It's been a mad week. Radio Four's daily book has been Lady Antonia Fraser's description of "the joy of life with Harold Pinter" which features sample sentences like "after lunch with daddy (Lord Longford) I was surprised at the duck pond by Harold in leather biker's gear. We kissed openly and carelessly."

This madness reminded me that I've got one of Lady A's crime novels unread on the shelf. Her first book (Quiet As A Nun) was rather good. Her second (A Tartan Mystery) also featured "Jemima Shore, Investigator". In this book Jemima was looking for a bit of peace and quiet in Scotland and kept sleeping with the local laird because he was a powerfully built man. It wasn't anywhere near as good.

So I put off "A Splash Of Red" for a while. Well, I've only started it this week. And it's AWFUL. For a start everyone constantly calls Jemima "Jemima Shore, Investigator" as though that's her name. Yet again Jemima is trying to get away from it all, this time by hiding in a friend's London flat. Soon it becomes apparent that she's Just Too Famous to have a quiet life, and her friend is dead and she just can't help being attracted to all the powerful male suspects - now matter how ugly they are, she just can't help by carnally respond to the masculine power. *rolls eyes*

So, within the first half she's been beaten up by an Irish Artist and promptly makes him coffee and responds to his powerful sexuality. Then she finds another of her friend's lovers (a tubby old architect) and dubs him "The Lion Of Bloomsbury" before deciding that his balding locks look like Devil's Horns.

Finally there's Adam Adamson the annoying squatter who says things like "I slept, I read Dante, then some Plutarch", and who casually pinches her nipple. When Jemima inevitably has sex with him, he leads her through to the bedroom and takes off his clothes. Let's quote the whole passage shall we?

His slight body looked quite different naked. Not vulnerable, but powerful and triumphant.
"Godess," he said facing her, "it's your turn to worship me."

Jemima is supposed to be an independent, strong woman of the 70s, but she spends so much time being beaten up, patronised and generally carnally pleasing the various suspects that it's a wonder she manages to solve any crimes. When she's not admiring masculinity she's mourning her recently departed cat, which probably died of shame.

It reaches the stage where even her dirty phone caller ("Shall I come and give it to you? How would you want it, Jemima Shore?") appears in with a chance if he treats her with enough brutal masculine power.

There's also some hilariously weird descriptions of people. The world is seemingly controlled by powerful people. Jemima's friend is a policeman who is embarrassed by the constant fame brought to him by a single appearance on a late-night cultural review programme. Similarly, Jemima is worried by Isabelle, the all-powerful editor of a magazine called Taffeta and her fiersome powers of gossip "in Tasha's or Dizzy's or one of the other smart discos for the young".

I just don't know what to make of it. I am carrying on reading it because it is a murder mystery and it must be solved. But I am also annoyed by it.

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