Thursday, 6 February 2014

Standing in Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin

He’d made sure he wasn't standing too near the open grave.

A pronoun and some setting. No sign of any conflict here, unless Mr. Pronoun is going to be put into the grave. But the next sentence and paragraph answer that possibility:

Closed ranks of the other mourners between him and it.

A sentence fragment hidden in a book and taken with other sentences around it is barely noticeable and fairly tolerable, but when we separate it and let it stand on its lonesome, it's easy to see it for what it is: poor syntax. Yet there is a question: who died? Whoever it was, was he or she murdered?

This is the forth sentence in the book:

Rain wasn't quite falling yet, but it had scheduled an appointment.

Weather - and rain to boot, which adds a new layer of cliché, considering they're at a funeral and all. I feel like I'm reading every other book that does this - and there are lots with such standard exposition. This prologue is broken up into three parts.Part 1 ends with:

As if rain wasn't bad enough . . .

What do you suppose the ellipsis is for? Tension to come? Am I supposed to be like: "Wow, this punctuation is really suspenseful!" Please see M. R. James on ellipses and how they fail. He ridicules this artless cliché much better than I ever could.

Chapter 1:

He was the only person in the office when the phone rang. 

More pronounology coupled with the phone call opening cliché.

Cowan and Bliss had gone to the canteen, and Robison had a doctor’s appointment. Rebus picked up the receiver. It was the front desk.

First thing said:


Which says nothing about character and conflict and is only slightly better than: "Hey," and slightly worse than, "John A. McDonald," or "john?"

Verdict: Fail

Theodore Moracht

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