Friday, December 21, 2012

What is Aaron Elkins reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Aaron Elkins, author of Dying on the Vine.

His entry begins:
When people ask me that question, they are usually surprised to learn that I read almost no mystery fiction. Actually, I never was much of a mystery fan (with a few towering exceptions, Conan Doyle above all), but in the last couple of decades I've cut back to almost nothing. The thing is, when I read fiction, I'm not really looking to be enlightened or to be made more aware of what's happening in the world, or of what is "true," or to have my consciousness raised. When I open a novel, what I want is to have my consciousness lowered. I want to forget the world for a while and float away on the story and the words. I can't do this any more with mysteries. The authorly devices jump out at me now: the hooks, the red herrings, the planted clues, the sneaky plotting. In other words, the structure gets in the way of the substance. Seeing and analyzing how other people do it is probably instructive for me as a writer, but for me as a reader it's a killer. It turns reading into a hard slog, something closer to chore than to pleasure.

But there are other novelists that I do enjoy, and these are generally master wordsmiths as opposed to master plotters or deep thinkers. Patrick O'Brian's series about Aubrey and Maturin (the first is Master and Commander) is a good example. They are all set at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, not a period in which I'm much interested, but the magic of the words carries me away, even when I'm ploughing through a full page or more of nautical jargon about the meaning of which I'm clueless. These books are witty, too, which doesn't...[read on]
About the book, from the publisher:
It was the unwavering custom of Pietro Cubbiddu, patriarch of Tuscany’s Villa Antica wine empire, to take a solitary month-long sabbatical at the end of the early grape harvest, leaving the winery in the trusted hands of his three sons. His wife, Nola, would drive him to an isolated mountain cabin in the Apennines and return for him a month later, bringing him back to his family and business.

So it went for almost a decade—until the year came when neither of them returned. Months later, a hiker in the Apennines stumbles on their skeletal remains. The carabinieri investigate and release their findings: they are dealing with a murder-suicide. The evidence makes it clear that Pietro Cubbiddu shot and killed his wife and then himself. The likely motive: his discovery that Nola had been having an affair.

Not long afterwards, Gideon Oliver and his wife, Julie, are in Tuscany visiting their friends, the Cubbiddu offspring. The renowned Skeleton Detective is asked to reexamine the bones. When he does, he reluctantly concludes that the carabinieri, competent though they may be, have gotten almost everything wrong. Whatever it was that happened in the mountains, a murder-suicide it was not.

Soon Gideon finds himself in a morass of family antipathies, conflicts, and mistrust, to say nothing of the local carabinieri’s resentment. And when yet another Cubbiddu relation meets an unlikely end, it becomes bone-chillingly clear that the killer is far from finished…
Learn more about the book and author at Aaron J. Elkins's website.

My Book, The Movie: Aaron Elkins' "Gideon Oliver" novels.

Writers Read: Aaron Elkins.

--Marshal Zeringue