22 July 2007

The Post-Mystery Mysteries and Sundry Other News

I got through quite a few books over the holidays, and a lot of those were mysteries. And they raised some interesting questions. Not just who and how and why but: how do you review a mystery without revealing anything crucial to the plot? And should series of mystery novels which aren’t really sequential be shelved in alphabetical or chronological order? The latter question is largely inconsequential, but solving the first was hard. When a mystery only has 200-odd pages, there’s not a lot you can say without hinting at the identity of the corpse/s or the killer, or contributing to the process of elimination by mentioning characters in such a way as to show that they’re not the corpse or the killer. But it does make for an interesting writing challenge.

For the most part, these holidays have exemplified a saying I came across in a book recently and now can’t remember where: “If not for bad luck, she’d have no luck at all”. It really hasn’t been my fortnight-and-a-half. (Though it could have been worse; that stubborn cold could have struck during exams.) I’ve managed to hit a personal best - er, worst - in library fines and now owe the BCC $7.80; and am now crossing my fingers that they’ll have another amnesty where fines are waived in exchange for a can of food to donate to charity. It started on the day I had planned to take The Looking-Glass Wars back. My mother and I decided to hit Toowong together, and on reaching the station were told by the stationmaster that he had no idea when the next inbound train would be arriving or how far it would go when it did. Apparently - and unbelievably - a construction worker further up the line had dropped a piece of concrete onto the overhead wires. So we were obliged to retreat and try again the next day (when the train was on time but occupied by a loudly and volubly whingeing Pom). Also apparently and unbelievably, I assumed either that The Blue Room and Skylight Confessions weren’t due back that day, or they’d been renewed. BIG mistake; they were, and they hadn’t. But by the time I realised this I was laid up with the aforementioned cold and not up to doing anything more strenuous than turning the next page. When I finally did manage to make the trip to the city, I walked to the station to get the nine-thirty train and ended up turning round and walking straight back home. It is never a good sign when you see a train stopped across the level crossing and all three emergency services in attendance. I felt sorry for the passengers who were stranded in the suburban middle of nowhere for an hour and a half, and sorrier for the train driver and the people who had to clean up the mess. I did manage to get to the city - and for free - when the couple of ancient charter buses finally departed at ten-thirty, and then spent the return journey being plagued with questions about the morning’s incident by a pair of brats. Almost worth it, though, to give their harried father forty minutes of peace. But judging by yesterday’s expedition to the Gold Coast, the public transport hoodoo is over. I actually managed to get a seat on the so-called ‘Bombay Express’; a proper seat, too, not the luggage rack like last time. And the bus back to the station showed up early for perhaps the first time ever.

Even without Queensland Rail, winter holidays aren’t fun because they always bring a birthday with them. I’m not a fan of birthdays; just another reminder of how much time has passed in which I’ve achieved precisely zero. Plus the realisation of just how few people have remembered. I’m trying to look on the bright side: not getting a card from my grandmother means not having to look at proof that in twenty-three years she still hasn’t bothered learning to spell my name. I did, to my delight, discover that I am predictable enough to receive the latest Stephanie Plum; by the time my mother and I had both read it the house had heard more laughter in three days that it normally would in three weeks.

Now on to the good news. All the wishes of good luck I received before my exams must have worked, because I got straight High Distinctions, with my lowest mark 88% and my highest a whopping 99%. (Don’t ask me how I pulled that one off, because I have absolutely no idea.) And I am at last noticing an appreciable dent in the level of books in my TBR box.

My first class is tomorrow morning, so I’ve come up with a little wish list for the semester:

- Another set of straight HDs.
- Graduation in an academic gown that doesn’t make me look like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. (Mental note to self: go to Lincraft and get some double-sided tape.)
- A job at the end of it. And not one of the killing-time-behind-the-checkout-at-Woolies variety.
- No more overdue books!
- Complete and utter ignorance of all things related to the seventh Harry Potter.
- Library availability of the first Harry Potter.
- No more near-freezing nights; at least not before the mornings when I have to catch a train at quarter to seven.
- No breakdowns, suicides, accidents or power outages on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday mornings or Thursday afternoons. (Delays on the way home I can live with.)
- Punctual completion of all reading challenge books, a perenially up-to-date blog, and an (almost) empty TBR box. Well, empty until the next Bookfest, that is.
I’d better get busy reading Swift, or that last will be shot in a week!


Anonymous said...

Ooh I love reading mysteries, but I know what you mean about reviewing them.

Well done on your exam results and good luck for this year as well!

Chris said...

That's an ambitious list but I'm sure you can do it.

Btw, I tagged you for a meme.

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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776