- Paperback: 346 pages
- Publisher: Chomu Press (21 April 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1907681078
- ISBN-13: 978-1907681073
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2 x 20.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,869,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Dying to Read Paperback – 21 Apr 2011
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The most striking problem is Elliott's use of commas, which is so sparing that one is left to wonder whether there was a shortage of them in Twickenham at the time of writing. That may sound petty, but it isn't really. Commas are vital to the way the brain interprets compound and/or complex sentences, and their absence where they're expected trips up the reading experience. When confronted with a sentence like "Like other clients he seemed concerned about the state of his hair for he ran his fingers twice through the thick silver locks which surmounted his still boyish face before his hostess appeared," the mind needs to stop and process all the information that's being provided, which interrupts the flow of the narrative.
Generally the problems of prose in Dying to Read come from these efforts to squeeze more into a single sentence than it can reasonably be expected to hold. Others, though, feel like the work of a writer who knows enough to attempt a stylistic flourish but not enough to achieve it. The result is wit without elegance, dialogue where you can see the joke but are too distracted by the woodenness with which it's expressed to be amused. Expressed in such language, philosophical rumination and emotional reflection feel less profound than they actually are.
Which is a shame, because the central characters, for all their foibles, are roundly-drawn, and the mystery itself is satisfyingly complex, taking in lectures on cynicism, the underworld of spanking fetishists, a talking parrot who may or may not know something useful, and a cross-dressing elderly detective who thinks the best way to solve a murder is to find a piece of fiction that follows a similar pattern. Events move at a fast pace, and while much of what happens is irrelevant to the investigation itself, germane twists do come up often enough to make the novel compelling despite its stylistic limitations. There is, I think, no prose sufficiently awful that a worthwhile concept and solid execution can't make up for it, and, for all its frustrations, the prose of Dying to Read is nowhere near awful. For readers who enjoy whimsical-satirical mystery, it's well worth a look.
Like the craftsman he is Elliott presents us with a carefully worked plot populated by a rich cast of characters ranging from the frankly improbable to the entirely believable. Early on it had seemed the story might be over-populated by finely drawn personalities. It is a great credit to the writer that there is never a doubt about who is who and how they relate one to another.
There is no temptation to reveal the denoument of the story here. It is so delicately worked out that only the original text could do full justice to its complexity.
The only mild criticism is that some of the similies are a bit laboured whilst others may not have stood the test of time. Here and there Elliott does tend to wear his scholarship on his sleeve. However, these are but modest asides on a book which provides a rich diet of fine writing, engaging mystery and above all honest to goodness entertainment.
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