Thursday, May 03, 2007

Jed Rubenfeld, Rosie Thomas, Theodore Dalrymple

Having finished reading Jed Rubenfeld's thriller The Interpretation of Murder, I find that it's not the main characters – Dr Stratham Younger and Nora Acton – I cared about most. The character who captured my interest was Jimmy Littlemore.

"The detective was twenty-five. Neither tall nor short, Jimmy Littlemore wasn't bad-looking, but he wasn't quite good-looking either. His close-cropped hair was neither dark nor fair; if anything it was closer to red. He had a distinctly American face, open and friendly, which, apart from a few freckles, was not particularly memorable. If you passed him in the street, you were not likely to recall him later. You might, however, remember the ready smile or the red bow tie that he liked to sport below his straw boater."

Why did this man make such a strong impression? Why, at a point in story when it seemed he was out of the action permanently, did I feel horrified? And wonder if I could go on reading?

Maybe because none of the rest of the characters seemed quite real and Littlemore did.

For me the book's second strength are the riveting descriptions such as this -

"The Manhattan Bridge, nearing completion in the summer of 1909, was the last of the three great suspension bridges built across the East River to connect the island of Manhattan with what had been, until 1898, the City of Brooklyn. These bridges - the Brooklyn, the Williamsburg, the Manhattan - were, when constructed, the longest single spans in existence, extolled by the Scientific American as the greatest engineering feats the world had ever known. Together with the invention of spun-steel cable, one particular technological innovation made them possible : the ingeneious conceit of the pneumatic caisson."

The author then goes on to describe these caissons and weave them into the plot in a most gripping way. None of the men in my life are engineers and I've never been particularly interested in engineering before, but Rubenfeld has me hooked.

The book's third strength is his presentation of Sigmund Freud, but I'll write about that tomorrow.

Rosie Thomas's award-winning novel

You may already have read Grumpy Old Bookman's review of the novel which won the Romantic Novelists' Association £5,000 Award last week. I made some comments on the book on 14 March this year, since when I've been waiting to hear news of Ms Thomas's website.

Theodore Dalrymple's new column

This week one of my favourite writers has started a new column in The Spectator. Worth keeping an eye on.


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