Monday, November 18, 2019

92. The Glass-Sided Ants' Nest by Peter Dickinson

I'll have to ask my parents exactly what their take Peter Dickinson was.  I remember they always liked him and we had a lot of his books at the house, but they never encouraged me to read him.  Though my dad read my sister and I the Weathermonger.  I think, after having read this one (which I picked up at the Concordia book sale), it was because he is a bit too sophisticated a writer.  You have to pay attention and even when you do, things are hinted at or presented in the vernacular of the thinker or speaker and you may miss something because you are not familiar with a reference.

The detective in The Glass Sided-Ants' Nest is Superindent Pibble of the Scotland Yard, a good detective, but one who suffers from a bit too much sensitivity and insight and tends to get the "little, kinky" jobs.  I believe he is a recurring character. He carries some baggage of past cases.  Here, the murder is of the chief of an obscure tribe from somewhere in New Guinea, the Kus.  Most of the tribe was massacred by the Japanese during WWII and the survivors were brought to London by the anthropologist daughter of the missionary who had also been included in the massacre.  She was raised with them and is part of them.  She lives with them in a large, well-built apartment that she owns and they try to maintain their tribal culture inside.  A lot of the book is learning about the past of the tribe and picking apart their strange status of trying to maintain their culture inside a London flat.  I guess this is interesting, but it's not really my thing, so I didn't totally get into it.

There is a lot of other stuff going on around the Kus, including a British soldier who was sort of the reason for the massacre (the Japanese were searching for Allied soldiers) and now lives in the same building.  He is involved in some villainy and that connects the tribal plot with some typical London underground activity, which part is quite well done. 

So a solid book, just not my style.  The ending is quite rough and abrupt (which I don't mind) and tinged with melancholy (this part not so much my style).  I'm glad I read it.  I would like, though, to read another Pibble book with a case that involves mostly London villains. I think that could be quite good. Oh sheesh, I just did my research and realized this was his first published adult book and the first in the Pibble series.  Interesting, it really read like we were well into a career.  I am now more intrigued to read the others.

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