3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Grimes' feral child gets her own series,
This review is from: Fadeaway Girl (Hardcover)
I came upon this book quite by accident at my local branch of the Public Library. The sight of the familiar image of one of Coles Phillips' "fadeaway girls" on the dust jacket was irresistible, even though I'm fairly sure that it is reversed from its original appearanceon on the cover of the old Life Magazine.
The book isn't bad either--not great, but certainly not bad, and definitely a couple of notches better than the latest handful of the author's Richard Jury series of whodunits.
I gather that "Fadeaway Girl" is the fourth in a series of tales about what must undoubtedly be regarded as an incident-filled summer of a twelve-year-old girl, Emma Graham, who lives in semi-rural Maryland. Martha Grimes has become an author who shuns resolution. This book ties off a lot of plot lines that plainly originated in the three predecessor volumes, but just as plainly lays out a tangle of loose ends to be taken up in Emma's subsequent adventures.
In scanning over earlier Amazon U.S. reviews, I noticed that readers have been advised to read the books in order or warned that the amount of background information to be absorbed is a substantial barrier to enjoying this book. Having entered in medias res, so to speak, I find that I don't agree. Starting with Chapter 1, it is clear that a lot of stuff has already happened around Emma, fine, and then more stuff starts happening, equally fine as far as I was concerned.
This is a book of textures not often found in series whodunits. One such texture has to do with place. Emma's world seems to consist of a rough circle of perhaps a dozen miles in radius around her home town, which is by no means the largest of the small towns in her narrowly circumscribed universe. Virtually none of the background chatter that we all endure seems to enter Emma's cloistered world, not sports, not politics, not even weather.
There is the matter of time, another texture. When is this summer of wonders taking place? Innocently opening the book, I had no reason not to assume that Emma's time was my time--until Emma gives a cab driver a fifteen-cent tip. Emma is clearly not residing in my twenty-first century! Emma tells us that a kidnapping took place over twenty years earlier, at a time when Veronica Lake was a major Hollywood star and occupying.a prominent space in Photoplay Magazine. Emma also lets us know that she is a fan of the Perry Mason TV series. Using those two fixed points, Emma's floreat must be somewhere between 1962 and 1966, a very curious time-period for even a twelve-year-old to be so entirely oblivious to the world at large.
And why am I so sure that it is summertime? Well, the weather is pretty good in Emma's Maryland and neither she nor her brother nor her young acquaintances are in school, nor does anyone expect them to be there. Summertime, and the livin' is easy.
The final texture I'll mention is Emma herself. Emma is the central figure in the four published novels in this series. But it should be plain to anyone who has read the Richard Jury series that Emma has appeared in every book. She appears under a different name each time and very occasionally as a boy, but she's always there: a wise-beyond-her-years, undisciplined, unregimented, food-and-drink-handling feral child. Emma-of-the-thousand-masks. In the current series, the ubiquitous child has even divided amoeba-like into the front-and-center Emma Graham and her slightly older, theatrically-inclined brother, a background figure--so far.
Like all of Grimes' feral children, Emma is effectively without family ties. I assert this even though Emma's mother quite regularly turns up on the pages of the book. But just consider those appearances. Emma's unnamed mother is almost always distantly called "my mother." Emma's mother is always working as a cook in the hotel where they live. Her comments to Emma as limited entirely to matters of food preparation and serving. Emma praises her mother's cooking, but nothing else. The mother-daughter relationship is expressed in strictly pro-forma terms.
The appearance of a feral child in a book is of no significance in itself. The repeated appearance of that child in book after book, culminating in a lengthy series built around her strongly suggests that she represents a matter of huge importance to Martha Grimes. On the one hand, I am curious as to what it might be; on the other, I hope I never find out.
If your taste runs to character-driven mysteries with a leisurely--to say the least--attitude toward tying up loose ends, this is the book for you. For myself, I enjoyed the book and I'll read the next entry in the series when it comes out, although I don't think I'll bother with the earlier books.
Four feral, undisciplined, yet oddly fascinated stars.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Mar 2012 19:24:50 GMT
Agua Dulce says:
Just for the record, Emma's mother is called Jen Graham. Her name IS mentioned in Fadeaway Girl, but perhaps this point is not apparent to someone who is reading the books out of order.
In reply to an earlier post on 23 Mar 2012 09:24:41 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Feb 2013 08:33:30 GMT
L. E. Cantrell says:
Thanks for the heads up. I missed the name entirely. "A little learning is a dangerous thing; / Drink deep, or taste not the Sweetwater Spring," as Pope did not quite say.
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