The Madness of May, by Meredith Nicholson, is very, very silly. But maybe not quite silly enough. Coincidence piles on coincidence, and most of the characters have given themselves up to the profession of ridiculousness, and Nicholson manages to have it all hang together pretty well, but…I don’t know. I’m going to tell you about it and you’re going to think it sounds awesome, but there’s something lacking. The nonsense isn’t infectious. The Madness of May should be magic, and it’s just not. Read the rest of this entry ?
Posts Tagged ‘meredithnicholson’
I didn’t love A Reversible Santa Claus, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. I can’t think of anything I wanted from it that I didn’t get, anyway.
It’s by Meredith Nicholson, author of the excellent House of a Thousand Candles, and it’s got a pretty good setup: a former thief known as Billy the Hopper — for the ease with which he’s always made his escapes — has retired with one last haul and settled down on a chicken farm with his wife, Mary, and another former thief, Humpy. Mary used to be a pickpocket. Humpy used to raise chickens in jail, so he’s got valuable experience. All three of them are glad to be living a quiet life within the law, but one day the Hopper sees a wallet sticking out of someone’s jacket on the train and is unable to resist pocketing it. This sets in motion a chain of events that results in the Hopper accidentally kidnapping a toddler.
From the point when the Hopper steals the wallet, through the accidental kidnapping and well into the middle of the story, he seems set on making things worse for himself and it’s a little uncomfortable to read. It doesn’t help that Mary and Humpy are so hostile to him. Things shift into a smoother gear when he tries to return the kidnapped child and ends up being sent on a supremely ridiculous quest. Everything goes a little more slapstick, and a lot more easily, from that point on — maybe too much so, as the various difficulties the Hopper still faces turn out to be implausibly easy to deal with. Still, it’s reassuring after the nerve-wracking beginning, so I didn’t really mind.
That’s the case with most of The Reversible Santa Claus‘ imperfections: there are things wrong with it, I guess; they just don’t seem like problems. This story has all the Christmas story things — a cute kid, a slightly beleaguered young couple, a reformed criminal, two vaguely Scrooge-like individuals, and themes of forgiveness and people being totally ridiculous. And when you take a closer look, none of it makes much sense, but the whole thing proceeds so smoothly and pleasantly that it’s hard to care. I don’t think this is going to be anyone’s favorite Christmas story, because Nicholson doesn’t try too hard with the emotional stuff — probably for the best — but it’s more than adequate.
Circumstances conspired to make me compare The House of a Thousand Candles to The Circular Staircase. First, I started reading them at the same time–the Rinehart on my Kindle, the Nicholson on my phone. Then, when I googled Meredith Nicholson, I came up with an article on Michael Grost’s Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection that explicitly compared the two. So most of the time that I was reading the Nicholson book, I was thinking about Rinehart. And I was expecting Nicholson to compare pretty badly.
The thing I’ve always said about Mary Roberts Rinehart–at least to myself–is that her best quality is her sense of humor. And apparently Rinehart agreed, saying that the problem with her competitors was a lack of humor. Mike Grost offers The House of a Thousand Candles as an example of those humorless competitors, but I think he’s being a little unfair. I can think of much worse offenders. Anna Katherine Green, for one. But because of Grost’s piece, I was expecting House of a Thousand Candles to be pretty bad, so I ended up being pleasantly surprised–and that’s not a bad thing to be. Read the rest of this entry ?