Saturday, June 22, 2013

Secrets and Lies

I think characters keeping unnecessary secrets is officially at the top of my pet peeves list.  I feel like I'm running into this problem left and right these days; I hate that, because it makes me hypersensitive to it and removes my ability to suspend my disbelief when necessary.  Credit where credit is due, though: Ruby Red redeemed itself pretty quickly.

The Never List, though, involved a nearly-paranoid agoraphobic who doesn't tell her police friend about her plans because she needs to "face things on her own" and feels like police protection would cramp her style.  This is as out of character as it is possible for behavior to be.  There are all sorts of moments when you're actively thinking, "Just call the detective before you do that!  He can help you!"

In most books when you think that, there's at least a nod to the fact that maybe it wasn't such a bad idea after all--things look for a minute like they might go okay, or the trouble you run into ends up being something you couldn't have predicted anyway.  Not here, though.  Here, you get just what you were worried about when you started yelling at the characters in the first place.

Then you have Harry Dresden in Storm Front, who has some legitimate secrets--private wizard information, private information about his past.  But when he's working with the police to solve a murder and figures out what's going on, he then keeps the information from the police, because the bad guys are bad guys, and the police might not be able to handle themselves.  Or they might get overprotective and keep him from getting into further trouble, and wouldn't that be a shame?  His reasons for not telling his police contact what he knows are paper thin.  Lucky for me the story just keeps rip roaring along and I can get swept right past the problem.

I will forgive Jim Butcher for Harry's failings, though, because noir detective stories have a lot of leeway in my book.  Sometimes a private dick just gets in over his head.

On a bright note, Sorcery and Cecelia is a book that depends entirely on communication between the characters, and it does a smashing job.  There are plenty of people keeping secrets here, but they're all keeping them from our heroines, who are telling each other everything in their letters and solving problems together from miles apart via mail coach.  Frequently they point out to the Serious Gentlemen in their lives that if they would only explain things a bit more clearly, our narrators could be of more service.  The gentlemen generally respond favorably to these suggestions, and look now!  The girls were right!  They're very useful when they know what's going on.  This is a charming, charming book and I'm so glad there are already sequels.

Does it seem like I'm still talking about the same books from weeks ago?  I make no excuses--I follow my whims.  Sharon out.

1 comment:

Lianna Williamson said...

People keeping secrets (or just generally not using their words) for no good reason bugs me because it is such a terribly lazy way of generating conflict. This is sitcom-level stuff. Or Romance novels sold in supermarkets in the 1980's. The heroine sees the hero kissing another girl on the cheek in the garden and, devastated by his betrayal, she dresses as a boy and runs off to sea (despite having zero experience with either boats or men), only to be taken by pirates and discovered as a woman, and when the hero comes to rescue her from certain rape she angrily refuses both to go with him and to tell him why she's so pissed. And then the other woman turns out to be cousin or something.

The paranoid agoraphobiac refusing to call for that pesky police backup strikes me as that level of maddening. As someone once said, if you're going to have your unarmed and nightgon-clad heroine go sneaking around a haunted castle because she heard a NOISE, she better have a damn solid reason why that is her only option.