Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reading in Retrospect: "I, Richard" by Elizabeth George

Elizabeth George is a favorite author of my sister's. Several years ago my mom borrowed this book of five short stories from her, read it, and then loaned it to me, which is unusual since my mom generally can't handle short stories. I'm not saying she's stupid, but I will say she is far too literal-minded and often can't follow a story that leaves too much to the imagination, as short stories so often do. J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories? "They're just weird." But I digress.

Four of these stories are “murder mysteries” (or at least mysteries involving a death). The first three seemed relatively predictable to me, so I was surprised and pleased to be caught unawares by a few twists in the last two stories. I'm so glad I wrote down what each story was about, because although I do have a vague memory of reading the book, I never would have remembered what was in it otherwise. I wrote down more than I'm giving you here, because of course I included "whodunit" where applicable, but I'm doing my best to avoid spoilers for you.

1. Exposure: A group of mostly American, mostly wealthy people take a summer course entitled “History of British Architecture” at Cambridge University. Murder is foreshadowed, but the killer and the victim don’t turn out to be who you might at first expect. I guessed the killer based on access but I was surprised by the thief (in fact, I wrongly thought nothing was actually stolen).

2. The Surprise of His Life: An older man suspects his younger, beautiful wife of cheating on him--and with his brother, no less. This story involves quite a bit of irony of the O. Henry variety, although perhaps less poignant and more horrifying.

3. Good Fences Aren’t Always Enough: A strange old Russian woman moves into a previously perfect little neighborhood and immediately plants English ivy all over her yard, which causes a rat problem that the neighbors take care of. No murders in this one, unless you count the rats.

4. Remember, I’ll Always Love You: A recent widow finds out that she really didn’t know her husband as well as she’d thought, and digs into his past to discover more about him. This one threw me. I thought the husband may have faked his death and moved to the Caribbean. I was way off.

5. I, Richard: Involves quite a bit of history about Richard III of England. A Ricardian apologetic historian (one who believes King Richard III was innocent of his nephews' deaths) has his own devious plot afoot to catapult himself to celebrity using the book he's writing about Richard III in conjunction with a 500-year-old document as proof.

I'm pretty sure this is the only Elizabeth George book I've ever read. Which of hers have you read? Which do I need to put on my TBR list? If is to be believed, most fans of George's novels were disappointed in this book of short stories, so keep that in mind if you're thinking about looking for a copy of I, Richard, but I had no problem with it.

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