P is for Ponderances on Problem Novels

As well as the Cadfael series,
Ellis Peters wrote the George Felse series.

"P" is full of prolific writers whom I think I've read (except I haven't) simply because they ARE so prolific: Patterson, Picoult, Plaidy, Pym.

As for the ones that I have read:

Pargeter, Edith is the given name for Ellis Peters (see below)

Paton, Alan wrote Cry, The Beloved Country, a fine novel.

Paton Walsh, Jill is best known now for her sequels to Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey-Harriet Vane novels. I quite like the first Thrones, Dominations. The others are okay. However, I strongly disagree with Paton Walsh's portrayal of Charles Parker in the The Attenbury Emeralds. Charles Parker is one of my favorite characters of all time.

Paton Walsh is a fan of Wimsey, and she has him take point on this, the first case of his career (or at least the first where he works with Scotland Yard). I consider this incorrect. From the history provided in other books, it is clear that when Charles and Wimsey first meet, Wimsey was (to borrow a modern term) a trifle spastic: hovering on the edge of a break-up and breakdown, at loose ends with his life. Charles supplied a stable point in Wimsey's post-War experience. He was the detective who showed Wimsey what the job of detective entails. He was not the hanger-on.

This is one problem with fan fiction: the main character, who attracts so much fan attention, is portrayed as perfect, untouchable, the same person at the beginning of the series as at the end. But even heroes have to grow!

I've read a number of Anne Perry's mysteries and occasionally pick up one of her Christmas mystery novels. I think she is a good writer in general with a powerful comprehension of the Victorian Era. I'm not a bigger fan for two reasons: (1) the confrontational endings. (2) Monk and Hester's marriage.

(1) The confrontational endings. Perry uses a type of ending common in many mysteries where the good guys not only expose the bad guys' crimes but the bad guys' sins. This is similar but subtly distinctive from Poirot or Miss Marple's end-of-case summaries. Poirot and Miss Marple use their psychological insights to explain the crime. Other mystery writers use psychological insights to create a confessional moment. I have a difficult time believing in the confessional moment, just as I have a hard time believing in criminals who confess on the stand.

The confessional ending is similar to the endings of
Matlock episodes. The difference--Matlock is pure
camp while confessional endings expect to
be taken seriously.
Confessional moments in literature remind me of Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead. Card is another skilled writer who nevertheless presents a rather improbable idea (in terms of human nature). A "speaker for the dead" presumably shows up and speaks THE TRUTH at a person's funeral. This SPEECH OF TRUTH supposedly cleanses the community.

Eh. I think it is more likely that 1/4 of the community would totally agree with the speaker's "truth" and take it to heart; 1/4 would agree, then promptly forget what the speaker said; 1/4 would completely disagree; and 1/4 would say, "Honey, I thought this was supposed to be a short service?"

The reality is that most criminals (people) will go right on believing they are justified, no matter how much confessional-inducing psychology is thrown at them. NCIS captures this quite well in "Caged." An inmate, who has accepted her guilt, says the following to McGee:
First few years here, I was angry at everybody. Blamed the world for my crappy childhood. Then I got in a Prison Program, training seeing-eye dogs. One day I'm training this puppy, and it hits me. I killed an innocent person who didn't do any harm. Now I can't wait until the day I die. So I can find that soul and apologize for the terrible thing I did. Look, I don't know if Celia did what they say. But if she did, I don't know what it'll take for her to face up to it.
A way more realistic speech than a dozen sobbed confessions provoked by outraged speechifying.

(2) The Monk-Hester marriage. 99.9999 percent of the time, I'm in favor of the hero-heroine's marriage. Unfortunately, I don't believe in the Monk-Hester union.

It isn't precisely the "two tough people in a marriage will have fireworks" problem. I completely accept the Wimsey-Vane relationship. I find the Devlin-Hero (C.S. Harris) marriage enchantingly believable.

The best audiobook reader
--bar none.
Monk and Hester, unfortunately, strike me as both too diffident, too remote, and too critical (of themselves and others) to successfully surmount the problems raised when two tough people with baggage decide to join forces. Monk is aloof. Hester is combative. Neither seems to have the fundamental, objective humor of Wimsey, Vane, Devlin, or Hero.

I do like them individually--and as friends. 

More mystery authors follow:

I discussed Peters, Elizabeth when I addressed "M"s.

Peters, Ellis: The excellent writer of the Cadfael series! I recommend her lesser known George Felse novels that begin in the aftermath of World War II. The first book is Fallen Into the Pit; the first Felse book I encountered, however, was Death and the Joyful Woman, read by the astonishing Simon Prebble. I loved it.

Poe, Edgar Allan is a true master. He deserves the homage by Richard Edgar Alexander Rogers Castle, whose "books" I have not yet read. I have read Edgar Allan Poe; his classic "The Tell-Tale Heart" is one of those short stories that gets assigned in literature courses--and it deserves to be!
 
Potok, Chaim is best known for The Chosen. However, my favorite book of his--lent to me by my college roommate--is My Name is Asher Lev.  I now own my own copy.

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