Thursday, August 12, 2010

[pre-review] This Body of Death

I can't take it anymore.

This Body of Death, latest endeavour from Elizabeth George, is up to par with her fantastic writing. Normally, her books start with an opening chapter which leaves you wondering which one of the people are going to bite it before Chapter 2. This opens in a totally foreign style, quickly identifiable as a formal report. Being about a group of 3 twelve-year old boys and a toddler, who is implied to be the victim of some horrific events. Chapter 2 comes. We still don't have a body or any police. We have, however, gotten a chapter which seems much more as expected. But no body. Back to the little boys. No body. At this point, I'm ready to ask "so where's Death, dammit?" Finally a body appears. But it is clearly an adult victim with an equally adult perpetrator.

As the plot progresses, it keeps popping back to the criminal report of the three boys and toddler.

I am at the point where I simply cannot read that part any more. The implication seems to be that the older boys killed the younger one with premeditated horror. If I knew the little tyke lived, I'd be okay with it. The writing is so bland and emotionally detached that I simply can't take it. Sure, the style is appropriate for some sort of review-report. But the sheer lack of emotional contact is driving me nuts.

Yet my response "why isn't anyone dead yet?" was in expectation of an adult victim. What's wrong with me, if the expectation of an adult dying is okay (in a literary sense), but a very young child completely horrifies me?

The new character on the force at Scotland Yard is an alcoholic woman, who like any alcoholic expends a lot of energy to avoid being revealed as such. An interesting approach to character is that she is far more worried about the vodka than in whether or not she's getting respect from her male subordinates, although if asked would claim the sexism was the biggest problem.

An Adult screwing up her life, and screwing up other Adults' lives, is much more emotionally palatable to me than trying to read something piecemeal that I just know is going to be truly horrific (as the report-author keeps stating). I think it's just the victim's age which is bothering me; I wonder, however, what my response would be if it was an adult. George's book With No One As Witness had a psychotic killer luring teenaged boys to their death; for some reason that wasn't so bad. In that situation, though, the kidnapping and murder were only mentioned distantly with details coming out only with the police investigation. This just drags out and out in excruciating detail, leaving me in fear for the child's life. Obviously this is extremely well written to provide such a strong response. Nevertheless ...

Sorry, Ms. George, I just can't take it. I am certain the two plot lines will merge; if the toddler survives, I might go back and read the whole thing when I re-read the book eventually (which I'm sure I'll do).


Anonymous said...

Ah, I think I might have a different response to the "report" about the children. I might suspect that the adult perpetrator was actually one of the children, especially if George doesn't specify a date for the report. If she does, and it's at the same time as the adult's murder, then I'd wonder about the kids witnessing the murder, having some role in it, or being related to either the victim or the killer. But then I could be totally wrong and she's written parallel stories, one showing the brutality of childhood and the other how nothing much changes in adulthood.

Keep me posted on what happens. I'd like to know if I'm right or not.....(smile)

Anonymous said...

Oh, and the title could actual refer to "body" in terms of body of work. Death's body of work.....

Gopher MPH said...

'death's body of work' ... I really like that idea

the report about the children was much earlier ... I was left assuming one of the earlier children was the murderer. That assumption changed a bit. Then I decided to just skip over the older description and see where they met (as I assumed they would). They did - and one of the children was the murderer. However, the way this came about was interesting.

I just finished Three Stations, the most recent Martin Cruz Smith novel including the Arkady Renko character. It definitely wasn't as good as the earlier ones. [Gorky Park is still the best, followed closely by Polar Star.] It centered around a missing baby. The first thing which popped into my mind was George's novel. Thankfully only a chapter or two verged into the 'oh god, I'm going to skip this': I skimmed over it.

I do wonder if my total abhorrence to this topic is due to my transmogrification into a mother.