Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce

It’s Christmas Day. The long-lost daughter, vanished these twenty years, shows up on her parents’ doorstep; she appears no older than when she left, though ragged, exhausted and weary…and she claims to have been abducted by faeries.

The parents take her in, are gentle and caring. avoid pressing her for details…and don’t believe a word of her mad tale. She’s sent to a psychiatrist, is shouted at by her brother, now a father of four, but she sticks to her story, despite the lack of proof. She ran off with a Fairy Man, not realizing what he was, and has stayed only six months in that other world. She has no explanation for the discrepancy in time between the two worlds.

Is she schizophrenic? Or was she really taken by the elf folk?

Interesting! I know there were a number of reviewers on Goodreads who weren’t as taken as they thought they’d be, but I suspect that’s because they were expecting more about the faeries (or however you prefer to spell that). I’m not sure that’s the point of the book. There are more than a few stories, some ‘real’ insofar as oral history can be proven, and some overt fictions, about people taken by the Fair Folk who stay for what seems to be a day, a night, seven years, and return to their home only to find that some horrifyingly long span has elapsed. But do any modern folk really believe those tales? Would you?

And I think that’s what Some Kind of Fairy Tale‘s really about: what if someone today claimed to have been taken by the fairies? Believe them? I don’t think so. Instead, we’d do pretty much what the family did: assume the person was mentally ill, help them seek treatment, treat them gently and lovingly…but believe them? NEVER!

Well, hardly ever. Tara sticks to her story, although we see this through not only her family’s eyes but that of her psychiatrist, who breaks it down into terms of someone who’s gone through (I think) a nervous breakdown, interpreting her tale in terms of the underlying psychological underpinnings of folklore as seen through the eyes of someone who has retreated from reality.

Yet there’s the dentist, who insists that her teeth are that of a much younger woman, and suggests that the family test her saliva with a new technique that can determine someone’s age. She’s being stalked by a man whom she claims is the fae who stole her, and brought her back, and who beats up the long-ago boyfriend in a quite convincingly real fashion. The old woman living nearby claims to have been herself abducted by the fairies; is she telling the truth, or is this another example of mental illness? Certainly she was treated for just such a problem, though with very different techniques than those used on Tara. But she’s on the ball enough to not only send an email for the first time but also recognize that the cat whom Tara’s nephew brings to her is not her own—another subplot implies he’s shot her moggie and is trying to make amends. After Tara vanishes, the (ex) boyfriend sees a revival in his musical career, composing and singing as if he’d been given…well, a fairy gift.

In the end, Tara vanishes in a puff of taxicab exhaust, and we’re left only with a brief scene in which Tara’s brother sees his wayward eldest daughter speaking to a man who matches Tara’s description of her abductor. The brother, a farrier doing quite well for himself even in this day and age of modernization and mechanization, comes over, but the stranger is gone before he arrives.

What actually did happen to Tara? We’ll never know. But I do appreciate the ambiguity in the Otherworld which Tara presents to us. On the one hand, these fae of hers are no dainty sprites, small enough to sleep in the bluebells they so love, but the size of humans, and seemingly without moral scruples about sex or nudity. On the other, it could have been a commune or psychopaths.

S.J. Watson’s Before I go to Sleep

Just a short entry, to get back in the swing of things, and sadly it’s for a book that I can only recommend with reservations. Although I love ‘unreliable narrator’ stories—Don’t Breathe a Word and An Example of the Fingerpost are among the 1% of the books I’ve read in the past three years that I bothered to buy—I couldn’t bring myself to like this one.

What would it be like to wake up, each morning, next to a complete stranger who claims to be your husband of twenty-two years? Horrifying? To be sure. Christine has a combination of forms of amnesia, which, together, means that she can neither form new memories–she can’t transfer information from her short- to her long-term memory–nor can she recall anything of her past life. The story begins in media res, and preceding events are revealed to the readers, as they are to Christine, through a diary that her psychiatrist has asked her to keep.

Re-reading the diary, and consulting with the psychiatrist, Christine begins to recall memories of her past, fragmented, confusing, frightening. Her husband’s told her she was hit by a car, which, among other things gave her a concussion which caused the amnesia. In the end, there’s a twist…but I’ll stop there.

On the plus side, I finished Before I Go to Sleep; that may sound like damning with faint praise, but I have no qualms about setting a book aside if it doesn’t pass the ‘fifty page test’.

There are more than a few minuses. Starting a book like this in media res is always difficult, since it gives astute readers clues about the underlying truth from the get-go. I started figuring out the plot twist about halfway through the book, and I’m terrible about figuring out plot twists, or why I love whodunits so much. I’ll try not to explicitly give the ending away, just say: We have only the husband’s word that he is her husband. No neighbors come to call, no friends visit. The psychiatrist has never met him, only spoken to him on the phone. Perhaps most perturbingly, there are no photographs of their early life together, before the accident that stole Christine’s ability to form memories.

Oh, and especially don’t read this if you’re fussy about medical accuracy in fiction. In fairness, Watson did work for the NHS in their health services branch, so he’s not entirely uncognizant of such things, and he does admit he combined different forms of amnesia deliberately herein; he didn’t err from ignorance.

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelley

Through the framing story, the readers know from the beginning of The Poison Tree that Something Horrid has Happened to the narrator–she’s picking her husband up from his release from prison; he’s spent ten years in jail for something he didn’t do, or anyway isn’t wholly responsible for. For the weeks leading up to Rex’s release, Karen’s had hangup phantom harassment calls…not to mention the stranger in sunglasses parked outside her cottage at all hours of the night or day. To cap things off, there’s an obscure secret about Alice’s birth; Karen is worried that her daughter may be taken from her custody. None of this is mentioned to Rex, however. Karen and Alice struggle to fit Rex back into a life and a cottage that hasn’t included him physically since before Alice’s birth, nor his life their presence.

The phone calls and the anonymous observer circle closer, and through flashbacks, we the readers begin discovering what Karen’s past history is. In her senior year of college in London, Karen is considering her options. Academically bright, she’s got the opportunity to move farther up and away from her family’s middle-class with pretensions background; her linguistics ability has gotten her a spot in a graduate program in Switzerland. In the summer between her graduation and her continuation on to graduate school, her housemates decide, as a group, to go work on the estate of one of their relatives, leaving Karen as de facto house sitter while they’re gone. Karen, at a loose end, is in search of something to both keep her occupied and to earn some money towards her graduate school expenses, falls in with another student, Biba Capel, who is working towards becoming an actress and needs to learn German pronunciation for a role intended for her student portfolio.

Biba, and her brother Rex, suck the innocent and naive Karen into the maelstrom of their emotionally, familial and financially complex life with an almost frighteningly rapid pace. They’re living in a house the size of which Karen cannot imagine–a multi-story, single family dwelling, complete with servants’ quarters in the basement, of a size which would be divided up into multiple apartments for the people that Karen has associated with thus far. Drugs abound. Liquor flows freely. Relationships shift like quicksand and are rarely formalized with so much as an engagement. All this is intoxicating (aside from the chemical effects of what they may be ingesting) to the ignorant Karen, who has until now lived a staid and more than slightly repressed life in the suburbs with her lower-middle-class parents. She is enthralled by and fascinated with her new BFF, Biba, and with Rex, and with all their friends…until the father and stepmother return to Rex and Biba’s lives. Things spiral downward from there until Rex, Karen and Biba are involved in not one but two deaths relating to their activities and the house in which they’ve been living.

While it’s a reasonably well-written book, there are a few plot holes that bothered me. While it’s true that the police and courts give a considerable amount of credence to a heartfelt confession from someone who’s backed up by corroborating witnesses AND whose fingerprints are on the gun used in the murder, I don’t recall much investigation into the crime on the part of the law. While I acknowledge that’s not the point of the book–it’s a relationship book rather than a police procedural–I’m left with a few questions. Why did the father not do anything with the house he owned in London? I can see leaving it vacant for a short time, but to be so oblivious to the condition of a valuable property, simply by virtue of its location a urban area with sky high property values, that you do not know there are squatters on the property for months and even years? Nope, don’t believe it. Would someone overlook a brownstone in the Upper East Side? A house in Edgeware? Didn’t think you’d believe it either!

I’m still not entirely sure what to make of the ending, but am reluctant to go into why for fear of giving away spoilers; all I’ll say is that this is either bad plotting or one heck of a twist: who’s the naif and who the manipulative ****? Self-absorbed to the point of blowing off one’s friends and relatives? Consciously pushing others’ buttons to get what one wants? Given it’s told from Karen’s perspective, she’s going to come off sympathetic, but having slept on it, I’m not so sure. Biba and Karen could fit either role. Not bad for a debut novel, but I’ll wait for the author’s subsequent novels before declaring this an author worth watching. I’ve read rather a lot of “brilliant first novels” in the past eighteen months and before to think otherwise.

Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg

Stricken with amnesia, Valentine finds himself approaching the city of Pidruid on the continent of Zimroel just before the festival celebrating Lord Valentine’s1 ascent to the position of Coronal. Our protagonist’s memory is all but gone, leaving only vague fragments of his past but little of the “now”, ranging from knowledge of the value of currency up to a purpose to drive him toward his future. Shanamir, a young boy bringing ‘mounts’ into Pidruid to sell at the market accompanying the Coronal’s festival, takes this mazed man under his wing, explaining currency, arranging for a place to sleep in the overfilled city, making sure Valentine’s fed, and so on.

Wandering the city while Shanamir’s at the market, Valentine falls in with a troupe of jugglers—six of the larger-than-human, four-armed bearlike Skandar and two lithe humans. Valentine proves to have an innate talent for the art of juggling, sufficient for the Skandar to take him into the troupe in order to fulfill a new law of the new Coronal’s: that all businesses must number at least one-third humans, and with only two humans in their troupe, the Skandars are short the necessary number. Having no idea of who he is or where he ought to be, travelling with the juggling troupe seems as good a purpose as any, and Valentine accepts the position. As they move from city to city and performance to performance, Valentine inadvertently reveals more of himself to his companions than he realizes, and at last comes to understand who he is, and guess at what has happened4: he is the true Coronal, somehow switched out of his own body, the dark heavy one now inhabited by the spirit of the usurper, into this strange slender blond man.

The remainder of the novel concerns Valentine’s travels across Zimroel to the Island of Sleep, where his mother lives, and on to Alhanroel and Castle Mount, where the false Coronal and their erstwhile father, the Pontifex, rule the world of Majipoor. Four hundred pages, carving his way out of a sea dragon, and an all-out battle later, he succeeds in ousting the usurpers to gain his kingdom and winning his lady, while still leaving a hook sufficient to support three sequels.

Normally I try to avoid spoilers, but in this case I’ll make an apparent exception: revealing Our Protagonist’s identity isn’t actually a spoiler. Trust me. Valentine’s true identity is telegraphed so obviously, so heavy-handedly, and so early on in the novel that Silverberg might as well have just inserted a statement to that effect in the introduction5. I’d guess that’s not the point of the book, though; I’d say rather it’s about Valentine learning more about the people he will eventually rule and the world in which they live. The Coronals and Pontifexes have been in deliberate and self-imposed isolation on Castle Mount during the last several millennia, and have in many ways lost touch with the planet. Admittedly, we’re talking a huge planet with several times the population of Earth at the time the book was written, but the planet’s rulers have done little to familiarize themselves with their subjects.

Overall, Majipoor resembles a pre-Industrial Revolution Earth–allowing for the fact that there are a number of alien races2: people travel on foot or “horse”back3, by wind-powered ships or in wagons. There is, however, a significant underlying technology, far more advanced than that on Earth today. Travel between stars is commonplace enough that the Majipooreans do not bat an eye (or the equivalent) at meeting someone from another planet, though Majipoor is rarely visited thus. Vehicles are “horse”-drawn, but rather than rolling on axled wheels, they float invisibly supported by tapping into the magnetic field created by Majipoor’s rotation. The climactic scene in the novel involves halting the machinery controlling the climate on the mountain from which the rulers of Majipoor…well…rule Majipoor.

Brilliant literature? No, not by a long shot. It has the same flaw I’ve noticed in a number of well-known science fiction novels: how to balance the usual requirements of a novel set on Earth—plausible plot and believable characterization—with the additional issue of a science fiction novel: creating and describing a world that is alien to readers, yet complete, cohesive and plausible. Unfortunately, a good many authors fumble one or the other—either the world is not believable, or the plot or characters are cardboard. Occasionally, later books in a science fiction series are a bit better in this regard; the author’s gotten all the necessary world building out of the way in the first novel or two and, having set the scene, can get back to the more usual plotting and characterization. I’ll have to give later novels in the Majipoor sequence a try before judging how well Silverberg managed it. Charitably, I’d also add that literary styles change; Lord Valentine’s Castle was written over thirty years ago and modern science fiction differs in many ways from something this old. The Flying Karamazov Brothers are still performing, though. Thankfully.

1yes, that’s foreshadowing. Keep an eye on the other Valentine as well.
2both in the sense of “non-human” and in that of “non-native to the planet in question”
3the riding (and draft) animals are not fully described, although they’re clearly not the equines we know on Earth; they are, however, four-legged, tailed and approximately the size of horses
4don’t worry: this isn’t as much of a spoiler as it sounds. Read on.
5although he does acknowledge a troupe of jugglers I quite like: The Flying Karamazov Brothers. They don’t fly, their name isn’t Karamazov, and they’re not brothers, but they’re both amusing and good showmen

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

I’m including this as part of my answer to the question “But what are you comparing [insert subset or genre of fiction here] to?” Tastes vary, of course! Not everyone’s going to like this series, any more than we all like the same mysteries or mainstream fiction.

As the series begins, the three Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, are orphaned when their parents and mansion burn to the ground in a horrendous house fire. The executor of their parents’ estate, a persistently coughing banker named Mr. Poe, places the children in a progressively less appropriate series of foster homes, one per book, until the children reach a pivotal stage of development in book seven, and take matters into their own hands, as best a trio of pre-teens can manage their own affairs. (And indeed, the three do a better job of things than their caretakers.)

The first caretaker is the dread Count Olaf, a third cousin four times removed or a fourth cousin three times removed, who attempts to force Violet into marriage with him through the diversion of a play in which two characters marry. The children escape through a legal loophole to the much pleasanter home of their relative, Montgomery Montgomery…but Olaf and his henchmen catch up with the Baudelaires, and follow the three through the subsequent books and caretakers: a nervous grammarian, a lumber mill with dubious child labor practices, a boarding school with inadequate facilities, an excessively fashionable couple back in the Baudelaire’s home town, and lastly a village (on the theory that it takes a village to raise a child). It is in the seventh book that the Baudelaires realize that Mr. Poe will not be able to help them, if indeed he ever could, and so beginning in the eighth book, the children strike out on their own in search of the mysterious V.F.D., a group with which their parents were affiliated but an uncertain purpose. (The significance of the initials change with every book.) They pass through a hospital, a carnival, the burnt out headquarters of V.F.D. on a snow covered mountaintop, a submarine and a brush with the Medusoid Mycelium near the now ruined home of their deceased Aunt Josephine, a hotel in which they are flaneur concierges, and lastly an island now inhabited by a group of sheep (human and ovine) but which contains some of the Baudelaires’ family history.

Each child has a specific talent which serves them well during their struggle to survive until they’re old enough to live on their own. Violet is a clever inventor, though her skills come to the fore when her hair is tied up in a ribbon. Klaus is a skilled researcher, producing book knowledge upon which Violet can base her inventions. Sunny can bite through anything she sets her mind and teeth to–as the series continues and the children mature, she expands her gnawing from separating rope into usable lengths to producing gourmet meals from a handful of random ingredients and tools, none of which include a heat source.

The first seven books follow the same basic pattern: the children are sent to a new caretaker or home, which proves untenable as Olaf finds them and cooks up progressively more ludicrous plots and disguises through which no adult can pierce. The seventh book is pivotal in many ways, largely in that the Baudelaires now begin to take matters into their own hands, realizing that Mr. Poe can do nothing to help them (if indeed he ever could). The books are not miserable across the board, and the children develop genuine friendships with some of the people they encounter; while there are well meaning adults, these prove ineffective. In the end, in The End, it is the children themselves who must learn to rely on and care for themselves. As the series ends, they sail off into the mysterious future with a baby whom they plan to raise as best they can; Olaf is no longer a threat but the wide world and the V.F.D. members on the other side of the Schism oppose them…but which is the “right” side of V.F.D.? Snicket never tells us and indeed in the real world, people are too complex to be called truly good or evil.

The series is reminiscent of a number of genres and writing styles. There’s a bit of steampunk, though there is no set time or era for the books; and technology does not place the books: at one point the children send a telegraph in Morse Code but the general store from which the message is sent sells fiber optic cable. I’m not quite sure what else to suggest once one has finished the series, and can even easily see how people might not like this series! The “author” and narrator, Lemony Snicket, frequently stops the narrative to explain some backstory or his own memoir. He stops to define words as they relate to the narrative rather than providing a neutral definition, and carries on about how brave the children are.

Drood by Dan Simmons

Would you trust a junkie’s description of even the simplest sequence of events? Me neither. Drood is a decent example of the “Unreliable Narrator” subset of literature, though not for the squeamish or faint hearted.

As the book begins, the train upon which Charles Dickens is riding becomes involved in an accident; the railway is working on a track and the train cannot stop in time to avoid the gap. The train’s speed is such that the locomotive and baggage cars vault the gap, leaving the first class carriages dangling from a connection not meant to take such strain. Dickens scrambles out, assisting his companions to safety then descends into the ravine below to see if he can aid the passengers who fell there during the accident. In the ravine, he spies a man of ghoulish visage, who appears to be doing something to the accident victims lying there…and the people so attended subsequently die.

Readers get a hint of the “unreliable narrator” theme with this introductory scene. Dickens’ retelling of the scene puts himself as the central character and most noble rescuer, diffidently modest about his status as famous and beloved novelist. A railway employee’s description of the exact same events presents Dickens as a pretentious pompous self-absorbed busybody, with whom the railway employees are exasperated to the point of being quite sharp with this upper class ponce as their attempts at helping the accident victims are being thwarted by his efforts.

For a Gothically overblown, laudanum-tinted phantasm of an 800 page novel, this is actually fairly easy to describe. There are two intertwined subplots in Drood, as long as readers keep in mind that the whole thing is being narrated by Drood.

One subplot, which at least at first appears to be the primary one, concerns Dickens’ quest for and attempt to eliminate Drood, and Collins’ attempt to work with a private detective, who is attempting to reinstate himself with New Scotland Yard by himself capturing this dread serial killer. The other is simply Collins’ friendship with and admiration of Dickens, who served as his mentor for many years; the two collaborated on a number of works, acted together in their own plays and socialized a great deal over the years. Indeed, Dickens’ daughter married Collins’ brother, providing yet another knot in the web of interrelationships among the upper classes in Victorian England.

As Collins becomes more embroiled in the search for Drood as the first thread winds up to a denouement, he becomes more distrustful of Dickens’ own motivations in the matter and by about 100 pages from the end of the novel, concludes that the only avenue of action left to him is to tip Dickens over into a lime pit thereby ensuring the dissolution of England’s most beloved novelist. The remaining few pages of the book winds down the thread that most readers have by this point (I hope) decided is the more reality-based one, with the death by apoplexy of Dickens, and his secret burial in Westminster Abbey.

The narrator, author Wilkie Collins, progresses deeper into his addiction to narcotics, and with that increased opium (and derivatives) usage comes an increase in the number and complexity of his hallucinations sufficient to render even the more straightforward portions of the novel suspect—as it all seems real to Collins, it’s hard for readers to know whether he’s describing events neutrally and objectively or merely relaying his own hallucinations…of which there are several. At one point during one of Dickens’ stage performances, Collins suddenly sees the audience transformed into corpses being held at a morgue. Collins is haunted by an evil doppelganger who takes dictation when Collins himself is incapacitated by “rheumatoid gout”, but changes the writing subtly to suit his own diabolical ends, discrediting Collins. He also sees a decomposition-green woman with yellowed tusks wandering the halls of his house, and hears the cries of a servant girl Collins (may have) walled up in the cellar of his house…or did she run off with a soldier boy to Brighton? The inspector with whom Collins is working to expose Drood ends up killed rather messily in an attack on the latter…or does he die quietly and peacefully in his bed of heart failure?

In the end, readers must decide whom they want to believe in this discursive bloated book, Collins or Dickens, and no higher compliment can I pay to a tale told in the style of Wilkie Collins! I have to admire an author who can use both pathetic and bathetic correctly in a sentence, and where else would one get away with such a juxtaposition than in a novel as ornately complex as the decorations scheme of a Victorian drawing room?

There’s a fair bit of truth in Simmons’ fiction; he’s obviously done a great deal of research into the lives of both Collins and Dickens, and included a great deal of that research into Drood. As there’s a great deal of fiction here–it is a novel, after all–I’d advise a fair familiarity with Charles Dickens’ and Wilkie Collins’ lives and bodies of work before starting Drood as that’ll make differentiating between fact and fiction a bit easier. I’m not sure whether to call it faux memoir fiction masquerading as factual biography, as with Margaret George’s The Autobiography of Henry VIII or homage/pastiche to Collins’ writing style. Something else to keep in mind is, that if you’re a fan of Simmons’ previous works, this one is very different from those; I haven’t read any of them so can’t be sure what the differences are, though would consider doing so after this, but am willing to take the word of other reviewers.

Washington Post review
Onyx Reviews
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Trial of Elizabeth Cree/Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem by Peter Ackroyd

…depending on what side of the Atlantic you’re on. I’m not sure why the publishers felt that Americans needed the more straightforward title, but that’s the one we got.

If sorted out into the order of events as they took place, earliest to latest, first to last (from Elizabeth Cree’ perspective at any rate), the story is easy enough to describe, whichever title you prefer: a serial killer is stalking the Limehouse District of London in 1880. The killings resemble those of Jack the Ripper in that the victims are dismembered and left arranged in a coolly significant manner, or so it appears to the police.

A more complete description which would be clear to those who haven’t much experience in non-linear narrative is difficult. It’s a kaleidoscopically fragmented story, which begins at both ends and works towards the solution, which is technically the middle of the story if regarded in a sequentially linear fashion. The book opens with the hanging of the (American) titular character, Elizabeth Cree, follows with a fragment of her trial transcript, then leaps to her childhood and adolescence in the Limehouse District of London, eking out a paltry existence with her crazed sickly religiously obsessed mother…and discovering the joys of the music hall and the performers who worked therein. As she works her way up the latter of music hall performers, she comes to the notice of one John Cree, making a living as a newspaper journalist while dreaming of writing and producing a play. They marry, making do with one maid of all work, an acquaintance of Lizzie during her work on stage prior to marriage. The marriage proves difficult for both John and Lizzie, as their expectations of marriage resulting from their differing backgrounds prove somewhat incompatible.

Or so we’ve been led to believe by Lizzie’s narrative and John’s diary.

The story jumps from third person omniscient perspective to first person limited personal narrative, from trial transcripts to diary entries at a rate which will make more adventurous readers long for the simplicity of James Joyce’s Ulysses. As the story proceeds from the beginning, or rather the end, to the explanation to the denouement and motivation, we learn more about the primary players in this drama:
     a) Limehouse Lizzie, who took to the boards after her mother’s demise to support herself and learned that absent the religious restrictions her mother had imposed, she had a talent for music hall comedies, in particular masquerading as various characters of both genders1.
     b) John Cree, mild-mannered newspaper reporter with a dream of writing a play
     c) Victorian London, specifically the lower classes and seedier districts of same

While the plot is a fiction, the London in which this novel is set is quite real, as are a number of the characters, both primary and secondary, ranging from Dan Leno to George Gissing and Karl Marx2, and the vector which connected many of them, the British Museum Reading Room. Today, it’s possible to for Americans to forget at least briefly how these neighborhoods were once quite different from the London of today. They were originally separate cities, set apart from one another by a fair distance if one was limited to walking and further distinguished as crossing the river wasn’t so easy in the absence of today’s bridges. Today, there is no truly “cheap” part of London, and many of the seedier districts are today becoming gentrified at a rate that pushes the lower income residents farther away from the city itself, much as the South of Market district in San Francisco is so similarly becoming an acceptable place for yuppies, rather than winos. Ackroyd, having written several nonfiction books about London and the literature of the late Victorian age, has imbued The Trial of Elizabeth Cree with much of his knowledge of the time.

Who might like this book? Perhaps someone who finds the straightforward cozy mysteries who finds the atmosphere of Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes mysteries preferable to the modern BBC series, no matter how well acted the latter may be. It is not for those readers squeamish about the details of a very squicky serial killer’s process of selecting and mutilating victims, nor is it for those who prefer linear plots which do not violate any of Father Knox’s rules.

1keep an eye on this ability to masquerade, however implausibly, as a person of the opposite gender
2sorry, you’ll have to look him up yourself if you don’t recognize the name