Thursday, January 17, 2013

One Coffee With: Margaret Maron

This is a police procedural with an academic setting. A professor in the Art Department of Vanderlyn College in New York City is poisoned. Lt. Sigrid Harald and her assistant are brought in to investigate.

In some ways this is a typical police procedural, but the female protagonist and her emotional issues bring another facet to the story. She is a good policeman but knows she only got her position to fill requirements for hiring women. And she is resented by the men she works with. This book was published in the early 1980's. 

When I first started reading this book I felt like the writing was too dry, maybe too stilted. After a while I got used to the style. It kept reminding me of something else I had read, but it took me a while to identify it. I finally figured out that the writing reminded me of the John Thatcher books by Emma Lathen and the Gregor Demarkian books by Jane Haddam. Because of the third person narration, we get the thoughts and motivations (to a certain point, of course) of many of the characters.

I enjoy reading books written in earlier times because they often give a picture of what that time and the attitudes were actually like. Some readers find such books dated, but I like them because they are dated. At this post on the author's blog, she discusses this in the introduction to the e-book edition.

I also found Harald's emotional issues interesting. She is not "damaged," as are many police protagonists in mysteries, but she keeps her emotions under tight control, to the point of iciness. There are issues related to her father, a policeman who was killed while on duty when she was young.

The author, Margaret Maron, won many awards for the first novel in her second series, Bootlegger's Daughter. Maron is better known for that series. I read the first two books in that series a few years ago and did not want to continue it, but I may check them out again.

There are seven more books in the Sigrid Harald series. The last was published in 1995. I definitely want to read more of this series. In The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Modern Crime Fiction, Mike Ashley notes that "MM regards this series as one long serial -- in fact the first eight books span only one year and have reached a natural conclusion." I find that very intriguing.

At Margot Kinberg's blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist..., there is an In the Spotlight post for One Coffee With.


Peggy Ann said...

I have never read Margaret Maron but have one my shelves. Will have to get to it this year!

Anonymous said...

Tracy - First, thanks for the mention; I appreciate it very much. And I actually find Harald's approach to life very interesting too. As you say, she's not 'damaged' in the stereotypical way but she does keep herself under what people might think of as unhealthily tight control. I like the way Maron shares her backstory too. And of course, I have to say I do like the academic setting. This is a fine review, for which thanks.

TracyK said...

She is definitely worth reading. The Deborah Knott Series is set in North Carolina. The Sigrid Harald series is set in New York. So you can go North or South.

TracyK said...

Thank you, Margot. I am looking forward to pursuing this series. I am on the lookout for the 2nd book, have a couple of the later ones (definitely Corpus Christmas).