Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday’s Forgotten Book: SOME DEATHS BEFORE DYING by Peter Dickinson

Happy Veterans Day to fellow veterans out there, especially to you grizzled old conscripts who risked your lives or at least gave up a goodly chunk of your youth mostly as a result of the lies, blunders, and self-serving interests of politicians in step with the demagogues’ drumming of jingoistic propaganda all around you.


Peter Dickinson’s Some Deaths Before Dying concerns the lingering damage done to some veterans of World War II.  It is an English murder mystery--that is to say, a drawing room mystery, a puzzle.  It is also a period piece of a very different time and place, manners and customs having greatly changed over the last fifty years.

The story is told in the third person but from rotating perspectives.


Mostly paralyzed and hence bedridden, 90-year-old Rachel Matson discovers that one of a set of dueling pistols that she gave long ago to her now dead husband is missing, having turned up on television on the Antiques Roadshow.

With the help of her nurse, she seeks out the mystery and discovers other mysteries unsought in a marvelously plotted novel that reminded me of Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time.

Under the surface story, the novel is a reflection on time, which we experience differently at different moments.

Time speeds up as we get older, and the meanings of the past take on a parallex view.  Although not all of the characters in this novel are old, this novel also qualifies as geezer lit, blessed with Peter Dickinson's well aged asides and insights into human nature.

I prefer the American mystery to the English mystery, but now I may have to give some of Peter Dickinson's earlier works a try.

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