RogerBW's Blog

The Resurrection Man, Charlotte MacLeod 19 September 2019

1992 cozy American detective fiction; tenth of MacLeod's novels of Boston Brahmin Sarah Kelling and art investigator Max Bittersohn. An old friend turns up working in an atelier styled after a Renaissance guild, restoring damaged art; but quite a lot of it seems to get stolen shortly after it's been returned to the client…

I think MacLeod may have had a new editor, because unlike any of her earlier books this one is full of comma splices – and by "full" I mean that most pages have at least one.

She was hungrier than she'd realized, she finished the first roll and took another.

It's dispiriting, because given MacLeod's track record at this point (25 novels over 13 years) I find it hard to believe that an editor could have put them in over her objections; it seems rather more likely that they were in her writing all along, and this time she either overrode the editor or didn't object when they weren't fixed.

Still, as I grit my teeth and continue, what of the story? Well, Sarah and Max are both in it and have things to do, which makes a pleasant change from some of this series; there's casual patronising racism which would probably have been mostly acceptable in 1992 though it was starting to grate a bit even then; but this is more a showpiece for quirky characters and situations than it is a detective story, and as such it works reasonable well.

Until, in the closing chapters, it suddenly goes all Mysterious East and Hidden Pasts and shades of Wilkie Collins. Really, as a mystery it's a complete failure; there's no way one can work out what's going on on the basis of the information given, even if one can finger the villain. And it only works if person A utterly fails to recognise person B whom he knew very well when they were both children. It's weak scaffolding on which to hang the character stuff, which is a great shame because some of the character stuff is pretty decent.

I can't recommend it, even so, unless you've read the previous volumes and are hoping for more of the same. Even then it's not great.

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Previous in series: The Gladstone Bag | Series: Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn

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