Thursday, November 12, 2015

Caroline Graham. A Ghost in the Machine (2004

     Caroline Graham. A Ghost in the Machine (2004) I picked up this book because I like the Midsomer Murders series featuring DCI John Barnaby. As with all book-to-TV series, the first question I ask, does it work? Yes, with the usual shifts in tone, character, and ambience. The TV Barnaby is a more complex and nicer character than Graham’s, TV’s Sergeant Troy is single, not married and a randy alley cat. Graham’s characters are more black and white, so the inevitable comeuppances and changes are more extreme, too. As for ambience, TV with its visuals has the edge. Graham uses setting primarily to sharpen her character portraits through their reactions to their surroundings.
     So what about the book itself? It’s pretty good. Graham takes a long time to set up the murders. She describes Barnaby and Troy’s investigation well enough, but the solution should not surprise an alert reader (which I prefer not to be, I like the surprise). The extreme contrasts between the good and evil characters create a strong moralistic subtext. We know that the baddies will be punished, that their immoral behaviour arises from a lack of self-awareness, and that this obliviousness will lead them into the kind of stupid actions that can be lethal.
     Several plot lines intersect. Graham handles them well, we never lose track, and the alternation of the narrative snippets creates a pleasant tension. I won’t summarise, except to say that Graham likes to tidy up the loose ends, and does so satisfactorily, albeit by using a separate chapter in which the good get some consolation or reward for their sufferings, and the bad ones are or will be punished. This wrap-up is characteristic of romances, and that’s what this book is, a romance with touches of melodrama, satire, and comic-book style narrative compression. **½

No comments: