Fourteen members were present at this month’s meeting held at The Cloisters on the evening of Thursday 12th April at 7.30pm with apologies received from six other members unable to attend, but who provided some of their comments on the book so these could be added to the discussion pot.
The evening was and did indeed prove to be extra special as we also were able to welcome our guest Jo from the Library together with Jonathan. Brenda first explained how we ran our meetings and then opened the discussion of the book by asking what members thought of it as a Murder Mystery. Several members initially voiced their dislike of the story due in part with its make-up, a story within a story, feeling there were far too many complicated characters involved making it not particularly an enjoyable read as many found they lost track of who was who and had to make notes whilst reading which in itself did not help with the flow of the storyline and spoilt it for them.
Some also thought, although very cleverly written, it felt like a bit of a jigsaw, with the first story within the book reading like a script with one member who normally enjoys reading crime fiction, describing the original story as very bland and disappointing and quite boring. Comments included: there were too many red herrings; not a proper investigation; not really written as is usual in this type of book, as either character led or plot led; a bit of a slog, contrived to fit, seemingly with the characters being “placed to order” in both the stories making them at times rather unbelievable. For example, how did Editor Susan Ryeland survive being knocked on the head and almost blinded, kicked in the ribs and left virtually unconscious in a burning building with her fiancé turning up at just exactly the right moment to rescue her ?? Phew!! And why was the victim having breakfast at the top of the tower, with its unstable and low balcony, in Suffolk (does it always have such good weather to be able to do this?) on that particular morning???
Although several other members did enjoy the book, on the whole, most agreed that it was far too long, cumbersome and frustrating with an intricate clever concept. They enjoyed working out the unexpected twists and turns with the very different styles of writing, the hidden “quirkiness” of the detective Atticus Pund and even wondering initially whether the missing chapter of his book was perhaps a deliberate ploy and written for the reader (perhaps to even win a prize for guessing the “whodunit”!!)
Most agreed the book was not as predictable as an Agatha Christie and more of a homage to her, made you use your brain, cleverly written but was a bit laborious at times making you work hard at it, perhaps too lengthy and definitely confusing and complicated but was enjoyed by a stalwart few!!! The ends tied up nicely at the end – too nicely for some!
A discussion then evolved on the various characters (luckily we had notes on who was who!! Thank you Chris!) but no-one really stood out for us or was particularly liked but all agreed that Susan Ryeland (the Editor) was left with Hobsons choice at the end but really who wouldn’t want to live in very Sunny Crete?? We also chatted about if it was to be made into a film which actors could have starring roles as Anthony Horowitz had already said he had based Atticus on Ben Kingsley!!
So in conclusion a very mixed review this month. Around one third of members did enjoy the book with nearly everyone agreeing that the book although cleverly written, frustratingly was really too long and involved too many characters to be able to relax and enjoy the book without referring to a notebook to keep track of who was who so I suppose a “Whodunnit” for many reasons!!!
So with such a mixed review there will be copies of this book left in bus shelters, charity shops and maybe one or two given to a friend!!