Kay: Book Squee! Sort of….

I’m reading Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century, a 2011 New York Times bestseller, which I received as a Christmas gift. Peter Graham, the author, is a retired barrister who worked in Hong Kong and now lives in New Zealand.

Anne Perry is an 80-year-old writer of murder mysteries, who, in 1954 when she was 15, participated in the murder of her best friend’s mother. Perry’s family was set to return to England from New Zealand, and while Perry’s father, a distinguished physicist, went ahead to look for work, she and her mother planned to stay temporarily with friends in South Africa. The girls conceived of the murder plot as a way to stay together. (That idea didn’t make sense then or now, but so it was.)

Because they were juveniles, Perry and her friend, Pauline Parker, served five years for the crime. Perry returned to England and has lived what seems to be an exemplary life ever since, taking up writing as a career when she was 39 and producing, by my count, more than 100 works so far.

Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century is well written and thorough—some might say exhaustive: 320 pages of text, an additional 32 pages of pictures, an index, and a recommended bibliography. If you want to know anything about Anne Perry’s life from two generations before she was born (I now know the maiden name of her maternal grandmother) to the time of her trial, this is the book for you. Both girls kept detailed daily diaries of their actions and thoughts, and Graham received permission to use these as well as trial transcripts and other original source materials. Sometimes he veers into interpretation that I dislike, but for the most part he sticks to actual diary entries, letters, recalled conversations, and interviews with survivors for his narrative. He even uses ship manifests and genealogical searches, for example, to describe the family’s movements and background.

So here’s the thing: I knew about Perry’s murder conviction. (There was a movie! Heavenly Creatures starring Kate Winslett and Melanie Lynskey.) And once you know about the murder, there’s not a lot else to say about Perry’s life that’s all that interesting. And the writing of this book, while more than competent, is not especially gripping. I’m not exactly enjoying it.

And yet, I cannot put it down.

What’s with that? I’m reading more detail than I want to know about these two families, I’ll never remember even a tenth of it all, I know the outcome, and yet…I keep reading. I’m feeling a bit like one of those drivers on the freeway that slows to a crawl the better to observe the car wreck in the next lane.

Of course, I’m not the only one. The book was a NYT bestseller, so lots of other people couldn’t put it down, either.

How about you? Did you get books for Christmas, and are you enjoying them? What are you reading now?

6 thoughts on “Kay: Book Squee! Sort of….

  1. You just made me realize I did not get any books for Christmas. I got a Wizard of Oz purse by Coach, which is beyond cool and a ticket to see Hamilton in New York on March 2nd.

    So, despite not getting any books, I feel like I won the lottery. 🙂

  2. I think I’m going to have to give that book a pass, but I’m interested to hear that not only has it kept your attention, but it’s a best-seller too. Guess it just shows that there are a wide range of readers out there with an even wider range of interests.

    I, sadly, did not get any books this Christmas (well, if you don’t count the ones I bought myself). I did give my Son Hamilton tickets , along with a book all about the production though. It has the song lyrics, among other things, and he and I were reading through it the other day, so I would have a better idea of what is going on in the musical, once we see it.

    Like Jeanne, I kind of feel like I won the lottery too 🙂

    • Sounds like you both got great stuff. Tickets to Hamilton—well, who wouldn’t love that.

      My cousin gave me the book because, I think, Anne Perry is her favorite author and she’s hoping to get it after I’m through with it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  3. That doesn’t sound like my kind of book, but I must ask my husband if he’s read any Anne Perry. At the moment he’s reading a murder mystery series that he says he doesn’t rate–he keeps complaining about all the emotion and backstory angst he’s skipping over–yet he keeps moving on to the next book in the series, so there must be something holding his attention.

    I didn’t get any books for Christmas. I got peace and quiet, a long walk on Christmas Day, a nice dinner and a great bottle of wine. I felt like I’d won the lottery, too 😉

    I haven’t read anything since the beginning of December, because I’ve been tweaking my GH entries and couldn’t afford to let myself get distracted. Thankfully the deadline is tomorrow, which means I’ll have to stop rearranging the deckchairs. I have an unpublished romantic suspense manuscript to read/critique this weekend that I’m really looking forward to. After that I think I’ll re-read Bujold’s Wide Green World books in anticipation of her upcoming novella 😀

    • Anne Perry writes mostly historical mysteries; I think her longest series is set in Victorian London. I read one or two and enjoyed them enough, but they didn’t really grab me. However, I believe she has other series from different time periods, and I haven’t tried any of those. It’s funny about your husband continuing to read a series he complains about. I guess the plots must be compelling enough that if he skips over all the emotion angst, he can keep going.

      Good luck to you and all the Ladies on your GH entries! May you all win big.

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