Saturday, 6 September 2014

Patterns in the Dust by Lesley Grant-Adamson

published 1985






The fridge made her think about food. It ought to be time to eat something but her mealtimes were out of kilter and she wasn’t hungry yet. Instead, she bathed, changed from jeans, blouse and sweater into a vivid knitted dress, coloured tights and low blue shoes. Then she sat and read another chunk of the rector’s history of the village. When she judged she’d waited long enough, she set the book aside and picked up her shoulder bag. The day had been rather full of Robin Woodley already but she had to see him again…

[Later] Rain allowed good time for the General and his wife to be admitted. Then she left Withy Cottage. Her knitted dress and coloured shoes and tights would have to do. She had packed more formal clothes, because one never knew, but she had decided bridge with Peppy’s mistress hardly qualified for them.



observations: I recently wrote a piece for the Guardian about character names in books – the usual prejudiced rant, but one I feel strongly about. The topic put me in mind of this book, which is a good solid murder mystery from the 1980s, and not one deserving of much criticism. Except… the heroine’s name is Rain, and I really think if your protagonist is called Rain, you shouldn’t fill your book with rainfall – there is a huge amount of precipitation as the story unfolds. And I also think you ought to avoid the following sentences, all from the book:
Rain flushed the WC.

Raindrops were sighing down the wide chimney.

October was dying.

Rust was devouring a lorry parked inside and the area was littered with the debris of the trade.

I felt that October, Rain and Rust might be a sinister set of sisters. I also liked
The cistern flushed distantly
-- as if ‘flushing distantly’ is something you do when you are embarrassed.

This is just me being mean-minded, because this is an entertaining book – now republished by those nice people at Ostara Crime. It is a traditional mystery with a real sense of the 1980s. Of course there are no mobile phones or Googling, but there isn’t even a photocopying machine in the newspaper office she visits, and she quaintly queues in the Post Office to buy writing paper and envelopes. (We used to use them to write letters, children). And gets clues there, see, she wouldn’t have got them if she’d been at home emailing.

And Grant-Adamson has a good eye for social exchanges – during a discussion of jogging:
Rain said: ‘A kind offer, but no thank you. I get as much exercise as I want in the morning just getting out of bed.’ She correctly judged that was just the sort of banal response that was required.
And a good eye for 1980s clothes – her outfit above is perfect.

So ignore my pedantic name complaints: if you are looking for an enjoyable 1980s village murder mystery, this is the one to go for.

18 comments:

  1. You really made me chortle Moira - somehow I will never be able to think of doing anything 'distantly' in the quite the same way :) The annoying part is that, i think, i read this but just have no real recollection - darn, the 80s really was a long time ago!

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    1. Yes it was. I can easily read a book from the 1980s and have no idea whether I read it at the time or not.... I don't think it was a great era for crime fiction, different genres hadn't sorted themselves out, I think.

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  2. Moira, I was amused by your "unprejudiced rant" about character names and a name like "Rain," I suppose, can be open to some kind of character assassination. I come across some really strange character names in western fiction where they don't seem as out of place as they might in other fiction.

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    1. I can see what you mean Prashant - there are all those manly names in Westerns aren't there - Stud and Brick and Chet and so on. I would find that much less troubling.

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  3. Moira - I do know what you mean about character names and what that does (or should do) to the rest of the writing in the book. Still, this does sound like a solid mystery. Sometimes it's nice to read a story that takes place during the modern era but before you could do everything online.

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    1. Yes, I liked the book because it was very much contemporary - not trying to pretend it was still 1955, which some village mysteries of the era did.

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  4. Moira: I do not get as excised as yourself about names. As a lawyer I have seen more names spelled more ways than I ever dreamed. So basically any name is plausible to me. There was a family in Melfort whose first names for their last three children were "X", "Y" and "Z".

    In the last year the most unique new name for a sleuth was in A Cold White Sun by Vicki Delany. Her sleuth is Moonlight (known as Molly) Smith.

    With regard to "Rain" there is a series by Barry Eisler with Japanese American assassin, John Rain. The books work "Rain" into the titles. I do not remember if there were plays on rain in the books. There was lots of violence.

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    1. It's one of my foibles Bill - I guess we all have the little things that bother us. I read my first Vicki Delany book this year, and I loved it, but I loved the name Moonlight Molly even more, I agree with you, what a great name for the heroine.

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    2. and also - can't believe those first names! Those children must go through life explaining their name to every single person they ever meet. 'Yes but what does it stand for?' 'No that's my name.' 'but isn't it just your initial?' 'No....'

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  5. The excerpt does sound very good. I know very little about this author and have never looked for her books. Maybe I just haven't run into them. I will put her on the list of possibles.

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    1. they've been out of print a while, but now available in ebook, but you might just find a vintage paperback. I met the crime editor at her original publishers, and the editor had never heard of her, didn't know of her at all.

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  6. I get irked by names, too, but sometimes just laugh, especially if names are pretentiou, prim or precious. But often I think the author is spoofing other works of fiction or something societal, perhaps taking a jab at the wealthy or arrogant.

    I must say that the name Rain doesn't bother me. I know a woman by that name, and another named Meadow, and so many other names. Living in my very multi-cultural city, names can be a blend of culture or have an Anglicized first name with a last name from another culture or language. I actually enjoy this.

    I like to smile when I come across names that are parodies or that poke fun at the pretentious.

    And I really wonder about "sighing raindrios." How does that happen? What does that mean? That is a bit over the top. And "October is dying." I guess that means it's almost over, but strange. Plants, trees, leaves die, n ot months.

    However, I love that outfit. It seems timeless.

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    1. That outfit IS rather nice, and you could wear that today couldn't you? I may like to tease about names in books, but I quite like unusual names in real life, and it certainly cheers things up if everyone doesn't have the same names. I used to love looking over my children's class-lists to read all the unusual first names.

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  7. It's really something in New York to hear children's names in school. A friend of mine's grandson had a best friend named Faust. One parent was German, I recall.
    And so it goes.

    My next-door neighbors made up names for their children, related to boxing! They're adorable.

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    1. I'm trying to imagine what boxing names might be, and failing....

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  8. I do like my 80's crime personally. Most of it US-based. Not one for me today.

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