Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Ann Cleeves - Too Good to be True

Ann Cleeves' Too Good to be True is an entry in the Quick Reads series. I read a couple of titles in the series when it was first established, but I've not seen the books - which are much shorter than conventional novels and also cheaply priced - around so much in recent times; perhaps I've not been looking in the right places. But this one was definitely worth tracking down, not least because it's an addition to the Jimmy Perez series. And it only costs a pound.

The driver behind Quick Reads is a sobering fact. One in six adults finds reading difficult, and many never pick up a book. This is a tragedy. When I, and I'm sure all readers of this blog, reflect on how much our lives gain from reading, the thought that many people feel deterred from sharing this pleasure is truly depressing. In this positive initiative, leading writers are commissioned to write stories that are, in effect, novellas, told without the use of vocabulary that might seem intimidating.

Apparently, in the last ten years, 4.5 million Quick Reads books have been distributed. An impressive figure by any standards. The books are available from libraries as well as retailers, and over three million library loans have been registered. This is a reminder of the value of our library system, and why closing libraries is a Bad Thing (I talked recently about the campaign to save Lymm Library - this is being pursued with vigour, though the outcome is impossible to foresee with any confidence).

Back to Ann's book. Intriguingly, she has Jimmy leave his Shetland base to respond to a cry for help from his ex-wife, who is now married to someone else. A local woman has committed suicide - but Jimmy soon becomes dissatisfied with the official view of the case, although his personal link with his ex complicates his investigation. Ann's crisp and concise style is very well suited to the Quick Reads concept, and I'm sure that this is the kind of story that will indeed encourage people who aren't natural readers to get into this most enjoyable of habits.


Fiona said...

I bought this for my Kindle as soon as it appeared, being a great fan of Ann's Shetland books. I thought it excellent - I enjoyed learning something fresh about Jimmy's past, the crime was well plotted and plausible, and I wasn't even aware of a restricted vocabulary!

Bill Carlin said...

I will look out for this one, Martin. As always your enthusiasm for the genre shines through in any recommendation you make. By the way I must add that your article in the current issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine was most enjoyable. I'm not surprised that it's a magazine which you've loved for so many years.

Martin Edwards said...

Fiona, agreed. It's skilfully done, and as always with Ann, the skill is unobtrusive.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Bill, much appreciated. Yes, I'm a huge fan of EQMM, as you've gathered. An American national treasure!

Anonymous said...

Hi Martin,

I caught Ann Cleeves on Monday (17th October) at a Chester Literary Festival event at Chester Town Hall. She was on tour promoting a new Shetland mystery, ‘Cold Earth’, her 30th novel in 30 years. And she knocked her large audience for six.

She spoke about her Quick Reads novella ‘Too Good to be True’ in response to a question I put about short stories versus novellas and novels in crime fiction, commenting, very interestingly, that when she goes away on holiday, she doesn’t send postcards, she writes a short story instead!

But of course she had much to say about her new novel, her crime writing career and her method of writing. She likes to create characters she can believe in and doesn’t know how a novel will end when she begins. The writing has to be fun, and this means finding out what happens as she goes along.

Sadly, her next Shetland novel may be her last as she’ll have said everything she wants to say about the Isles. I just hope she won’t kill off Jimmy Perez as he’s a most engaging character and she might like to return and see how he’s getting on sometime, as you did with Harry Devlin in ‘Waterloo Sunset’.

It was altogether a most engrossing and entertaining presentation and I shall remember it with pleasure as I read the books Ann signed for me.

My very best,


Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Paul. I was sorry to miss Ann's event, as I was out of the country, but I'm glad, and not at all surprised, that you enjoyed it.