Tuesday, December 30, 2008

53. The Lizard in the Cup by Peter Dickinson

My parents have always been big fans of Peter Dickinson. He wrote a mysteries and children's books, the latter of which were often in fantastic or sci-fi settings. He was quite popular in the 60s and 70s, but you don't hear about him as much these days. Perhaps in Britain he still holds a place on the bookstore shelves.

One of the great scandals of my childhood was when my dad was reading Dickinson's The Weathermonger nightly to my sister and I. I was around the age where I was reading everything and at some point, long before my dad had finished the reading, I snuck the book and finished it on my own. I can't remember how it got found out, I might have admitted it. I might have even blurted out the ending just as we were getting there! In any case, it caused a bit of an uproar, probably mostly spurred on by my sister, who never wasted an opportunity to get me in trouble.

I've always meant to start reading him and my dad recommended The Lizard in the Cup as the best place to start of the three titles by him we had. Dickinson's detective character was James Pibble and this is, I believe, the penultimate book in that series. Here he is on a Greek Island at the request of a tycoon. The latter wants to build a hotel there, but has received information that suggests he might be stepping on some mafia toes. Pibble is brought in along with a bunch of other toadies of the tycoon to figure out if this is so and how to deal with it.

This probably wasn't actually the best place to start. Ultimately, it's quite a good book, but the reader is assumed to know a lot about the protagonist. That knowledge doesn't impact on the plot, but it would have helped to have a better idea of his past and his personality, as they both come into play. It took me a while to catch on to the style of the prose and Pibble's behaviour and inner thoughts. Once I did, though, and the nature of the narrative became clear, I quite enjoyed this book. It's richly and subtly written, with lots going on and implied. I think you could label this as an "intelligent" or "thinking man's" mystery.

Pibble himself has a very conservative, pro-law and order core (not unlike Gilbert, but a bit more explicit in the main character), which surprised me a bit, considering my parents political leanings.

It gave me a good taste of Peter Dickinson and I'll keep an eye out for his stuff in the future.

1 comment:

Buzby said...

Another cool sounding book, I remember his stuff vaguely from when I was a kid. Damn, my on deck shelf is getting longer and longer!