No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Monday, June 21, 2010

2010/52: Earthly Delights -- Kerry Greenwood

You have to forget everything you ever saw on Silence of the Lambs and read in Patricia Cornwell. Serial killers aren't masterminds. They're nasty little mean-minded bastards with dreams of blood. They act out of obsession, not out of deep planning ... they're as boring as people who describe the tuppeny Norwegian unfranked blue stamp, except that they're talking about corpses. (p.125)

Having read and enjoyed several of Greenwood's 'Phryne Fisher' books, I was intrigued to discover she'd written a sequence of contemporary crime novels set in Melbourne's alternative culture. Earthly Delights turns out to be what I like to call 'lifestyle crime' -- it's as much about the narrator and her life as it is about the crimes she investigates.

Corinna Chapman is 38 years old, separated from her husband, lives in a mock-Roman apartment building (Insula), owns the titular bakery, adores her cats, and knows some very interesting people. The supporting cast includes a witch, a homeless ex-junkie, a tall dark handsome mystery man, a pair of model-thin teenagers, and a dominatrix. One morning Corinna discovers a heroin addict collapsed in the alleyway behind her bakery, and her cat wanders in with a syringe in his paw. Then there are threatening messages, a dastardly property-development plan, a man mourning his missing daughter, and considerable insight into the Goth / fetish scene in Melbourne (so unlike the home life, etc).

Corinna is a bit of a geek (references to Andre Norton, Red Dwarf, Anne Rice, Discworld) and genuinely interested in people. She also has a good brain for mystery -- though there's one scene where Greenwood deliberately obfuscates a clue, something that tends to annoy me if it's not done subtly.

There is plenty going on in this novel: at least three different, albeit connected, sets of crime, as well as a measured romantic subplot. What makes it enjoyable is Greenwood's eye, and Corinna's affection, for the disparate characters, their lives and beliefs and secrets. I'll probably read more in this series, simply to find out what happens to everyone: crime novel as soap-opera?

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