Library Book Sale Finds: The Grail Tree

It’s that time of month again, Squiders. I’ve dug into the library book sale books from this summer and read another, and now I’ve come to tell you about it.

(One might ask why the library book sale books are still sitting on their own on the floor in front of the book case instead of being put away, but to that I say, uh, look over there!)

The Grail Tree tells me it is the third of the Lovejoy mystery novels. Now, my father is a big fan of British mystery series (Rumpole of the Bailey being his favorite, I believe) and I can remember watching Lovejoy with him when I was much younger, which is why I picked this book up. Nostalgia! Except I don’t really remember anything about the TV show except I think Lovejoy had long, curly hair.

(I have looked it up on Google now, and it’s really more of a mullet, in retrospect. Also I was apparently four when the series premiered.)

Title: The Grail Tree
Author: Jonathan Gash
Genre: Mystery
Publication Year:
1979

Pros: It was short? And the writing pulls you along well.
Cons: Highly confusing at points, main character occasionally is too unlikeable

I’ve never really run across a book before where the phrase “I am obviously not the audience for this” has been so true. This is first person from Lovejoy’s point of view, and Lovejoy comes across as kind of a sexist jerk that doesn’t seem to think well of, well, anyone. As I said, I don’t really remember the TV show too well except for the father/daughter bonding time, but maybe it wasn’t as apparent in the show because television, through the very definition of the media, adds a layer of distance between a viewer and a character which you don’t normally get with a first-person narrative.

(Also, now I have been to Wikipedia, and it says they toned down the lechery and violence, so there you are.)

If you are unfamiliar with Lovejoy in either book or TV form, the character is a rogue-ish, normally down on his luck, antique dealer. He also has an almost supernatural ability to tell if an antique is real or not, or merely a clever forgery. That’ll get you pretty far.

The premise for this particular adventure is that Lovejoy has been contacted by an elderly gentleman claiming to have the Holy Grail, because he wants Lovejoy to look at it and see if it’s the real thing. Whether it is or not, it’s certainly a valuable antique, so of course the poor man is offed before Lovejoy ever actually sees the thing.

I found the story very confusing in places–there’s a lot of female characters, most of whom occasionally dally with Lovejoy in some manner or another, and aside from three or four I found them impossible to remember, and of course there’s no introduction. In other places the book gets so caught up in antiques lingo or other specialty dialect that I just literally could not tell what was going on. And, as I said, Lovejoy is sometimes too much of a jerk for me to sympathize with him at all.

So! Not for me. I shall see if my dad wants the book when I see him next Saturday. If you like mysteries, and you don’t mind a bit of sexism and generally unfriendliness in your main characters, you might like this, but otherwise I’d give this a pass.

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