Saturday, November 12, 2011
The Yellow Room Conspiracy: Review
Once upon a time I read a book by Peter Dickinson. I don't know what it was, except that it was a mystery. I don't have the title logged. The only thing I have noted by Peter Dickinson's name is "NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" One might wonder then why I decided to read The Yellow Room Conspiracy by Dickinson when I found that I needed one more book with word beginning with "Y" for my Monthly Mix-up Mania Challenge book list. After all, there must be lots of other books with a "Y" out there. Well, somehow the title floated into my range (I can't remember if someone mentioned it out in the blogging world or on Facebook or what). But what I heard/saw was interesting, so I did a search for it online at my library. And discovered that it was by Dickinson. And thought, "Uh-oh." But then I read the synopsis and was hooked. I decided to give him another try. After all, was it really fair to judge an author based on one book--especially when I can't even remember what it was?
I'm glad I gave Dickinson another chance. Not that this is an awesome mystery in the strictest sense of the word. It's not. And maybe that's why I had a severe reaction to Dickinson last time. Maybe I was a bit more of a purist when it came to mysteries then. What this is, is an awesome character study of people during the late-30s through the mid-50s. The story begins with an elderly couple--Paul Ackerly and Lucy Seddon. Lovers and partners--never married, but living together. Paul is out in the yard preparing plants for his garden when a radio quiz show comes on and begins to ask the players questions about the "Seddon Affair." Lucy has heard it on the radio inside as well. We're not told the extent of the "Affair" right away, but we do learn that Gerry Grantworth--Paul's friend and Lucy's passionate obsession--was killed and each believed the other to be responsible. When they realize that neither of them was the culprit, they decide to record their memories separately and see if they can piece together what really happened. The remainder of the book is given to us in alternating reminiscences as they slowly work their way to the fateful day when Grantworth died.
I was never really caught up in the who-dunnit part of this book. That's why it didn't wow me as a mystery. But the voices of Paul and Lucy are so clear and their stories are so well-told that I didn't mind. In this book, Dickinson really knows how to give us people and a sense of place. I really felt like I was getting to know all of these characters. There were people that I really like and rooted for and there were people that I know would never have wanted to meet. And I really felt like I was there in the British countryside. As a historical period piece, it's a wonderful bit of writing. Three and a half stars...nearly four.