Friday, April 02, 2010

Book Review: The Progress of a Crime

Julian Symons
Awards: Edgar
Rating: ★ ★ ★ – –

This book is not a stereotypical murder mystery with a lot of drama and gore. As advertised, it follows the progress of a crime very closely and realistically, from the murder to the trial of the chief suspects. You experience the investigation from the point of view of several people trying to figure out what happened – reporters, policemen, and lawyers. Sometimes they get information through good detective work, and sometimes they get it accidentally. You find out what they know as soon as they know it, and you put the story together with them.

The story had twists that I did not expect, precisely because the twists were caused by what would happen in real life – people being confused, people saying things inarticulately, people not knowing quite what they want or what they are doing.

The story is set in a small city outside of London. A gang of youths acts rowdy and gets thrown out of a dance by a prominent local citizen. A short time later, amid the confusion of a Guy Fawkes Day fireworks and bonfire celebration, the youths come back and manage to stab the prominent local citizen to death. It so happens that Hugh Bennet, a reporter for the local paper, was covering the Guy Fawkes Day bonfire when the murder happened. He thus simultaneously becomes not only an investigator of the crime but also a witness to it.

Bennet isn’t a typical lead character; he is unsure of himself and gets confused like any normal human being. He is a relatively new reporter and tends to romanticize his editor, his job, and his co-workers. He becomes disillusioned with them when a big-time reporter from a London paper comes out to cover the case and gives him a little more perspective. Then, in turn, he gets disillusioned by the big-time reporter as he learns more about his world.

Bennet’s girlfriend is a real person as well; she gets frustrated and doesn’t always act in the best or most attractive way.

The lead detective on the case, Twicker, mishandled a previous case and Scotland Yard has given this one to him as a sort of a test. I thought the whole time it was going to be a stereotypical Hollywood-type story where he was going to pull it out of his hat and dramatically redeem himself to the Yard but, as with everything else in this book, things don’t always go exactly as Hollywood would have you expect.

The lawyers for the prosecution and the defense are charismatic characters but they're not superhuman or brilliant like the ones on Law & Order. They have moments where they shine and moments of trouble, and none of them care particularly about the boys they are prosecuting or defending; they care primarily about their jobs and reputations.

The case does make many of the characters reevaluate their lives and their careers, especially Bennet. But it doesn't tie up neatly or end terrifically happily for everyone. Things come out better for some, worse for others; some find their resolution depressing and others try to make the best of theirs. Just like real life.

No comments:

Post a Comment

HTML Tag Instructions

Bold: To make text bold, tag it as follows:

<b>text you want to appear in bold</b>

Italic: To italicize text, tag it as follows:

<i>text you want to appear in italic</i>

Links: To add clickable links, like say to a Wikipedia article on baseball, tag it as follows:

<a href="">text you want to link from</a>

Related Posts with Thumbnails