Most popular fiction is meant for speed-reading – skimming over words to get the flow of the story (like watching a soap opera every alternate episode). A great read is where the reader savours each word, squeezes out the essence of each phrase and each dialogue, eagerly anticipates the twists & turns and needs to contemplate the linkages of various events in the narrative. I have read many authors which sadly fall in the first category (leading to hurriedly-finished books but an unsatisfied aftertaste).
For an engrossing and rewarding read, I would recommend one of these three writers (and their series):
Brian Freemantle – and the chronicles of the old-school British spy Charlie Muffin: Even though the Cold War is over, his endeavours still resonate in the fresh environs. More human but more scathing than le Carre, the outcomes of the plots spin on the turn of phrases as detections & deceptions are carried out via inflections, cadences and contents of the dialogues. One often tends to go back a couple of pages and say ‘aha’ when one finally understands a wrinkle careful laid there. Apart from the scruffy Muffin, Freemantle has other worthy arrows in his quiver – his “The Holmes Inheritance” is one of the better Sherlock Holmes novels I have read.
Lindsey Davis – and his enterprising Roman sleuth Marcus Didius Falco: provides a sense of mirth and danger in equal mix, with on-goings of the ancient Rome setting up a mosaic background. Falco’s tongue-in-cheek insolence towards Roman royalty and the strangely ludicrous circumstances of his relatives makes for an enchanting read. The subtle interplays with his “wife” would hit closer to home for many couples. Davis occasionally allows Falco to roam across ancient Europe lending depth to the narrative – and remains firmly ensconced at the top of the heap of historic mystery writers comfortably above the likes of Anne Perry & Ellis Peters.
John Mortimer – and his indomitable legal defender Horace Rumpole: combines the best of PG Wodehouse and Henry Cecil, but lends self-deprecating humor and legal dexterity in its own endearing way. Not as repetitive as Plum (sacrilege, sacrilege), Rumpole, with his faith in innocence unless proven otherwise, pushes the readers gently along towards the light at the end of the tunnel, with them ending up asking for more. Though the plots have become contemporary, Rumpole steadfastly retains his old-world charm (with his small cigars, Chateau Thames Embankment and “She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed”). Mortimer’s non-Rumpole books never felt the same to me – probably I never got the hang of them.
I would have liked to add Stieg Larsson to the list, but tragically his body of work is too small to provide reading pleasure over a period of time.
Can you suggest other authors who ‘endeavor to give satisfaction’, so we can add them to above short list.
I have veered off my usual track (of taking pot-shots at politics and sports) to mark the six-month anniversary of this blog (hurrah!!!). Don’t worry, the cynical blogger will be back soon.
An interesting sidebar on the topic of this blogpost: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_three_(writing)