Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Too Much of a Good Thing

Book Review: The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths

In the third book of her "Ruth Galloway" mystery series, The House at Sea's End, author Elly Griffith presents us with a complex set of characters: half a dozen buried corpses, three new murder victims, and a host of potential suspects -- all being trailed by a team of law enforcers assisted by a score of secondary characters. It's enough to make your head spin:

"Nelson gets Judy to fax through the list of titles (Ruth is almost the last person in the world still to have a fax machine). Ruth reads through the names while Nelson plays peek-a-boo with Kate. Ruth wishes Clough could see him."

... three sentences reference five characters, two of whom aren't even in the room.

I enjoy character-driven fiction, and I appreciate that even fictional characters have friends, but sometimes less is more. As DCI Harry Nelson says, "Don't make things too complicated." I realize that I read an Advance Readers Copy (prone to typos), but at least one minor character changes names in the middle of the story, and it wasn't a plot device. Too many details can play heck with continuity. Locations and timelines in many cases were confusing or even contradictory.

I am a fan of the classic English mystery; Griffith has the setting, the characters, and the crime down pat, there is just too much and the story's readability suffers. The House at Sea's End sets the stage, but gets lost in the scenery changes.