I had a real epiphany about what kind of reading makes me tick when I read this post by Priya at Tabula Rasa. It explained to me why some books have made me so disappointed and why my book recommendations often fall flat. It’s the “good bits” that I want, and plot is almost of no importance at all to me. Some of my favourite books have little or no plot. Actually, I like to know how a film or a book ends before I see it or read it. I have known for quite some time that I should be careful in recommending books to others and be cautious in what recommendations I take, and this is probably part of it.
A cautious recommendation of this book is exactly what I got, from someone who knows me well, and I decided to go for it. I can say nothing about the style of language, since I read it in Swedish, but the translation (by Ulla Danielsson) is flawless.
This is all about plot, of course, and the premise is unusually intriguing: our hero is young Patrick Fort, he is about to start an anatomy class at university, because he wants to find out where his father, who died when he was little, has gone. Patrick has Asperger’s syndrome, a kind of autism, and since no one has managed to properly explain to him where his father has gone, he is still searching for him, this time in the body of No 19, the corpse that has been donated to science by its, hm, former inhabitant.
The dissection bit is rather interesting, and that’s what my friend said she thought I would like (“since you are going to nursing school”; though I doubt nursing students get to do much dissection; I hope not…). It is also rather funny how Patrick interacts with the people he is forced to work and live with. Of course, Patrick discovers something about the body that does not correspond with the cause of death as stated on the death certificate. Is it murder? If you want to read it, I shall not spoil your fun.
I got more than half way on the first day of reading, and then it took me two weeks to pick it up again and finish it. I was pretty sure where it was going, and I was not wrong, but I was also surprised by the very sensitive and well-composed way Bauer wraps up Patrick’s troubled relationship with his mother, and solves the puzzle with his dead father.
All-in-all, I have to declare this a very decent detective story, with a good plot, humour, and action. Perhaps you could say that Patrick’s personal conundrum is a good-bit-spread-thin-over-the-whole-book; perhaps saying that devalues or re-defines the concept of the “good bit”. The moral of the story, for me, is: not all victims are nice people, not all perpetrators are evil, and the world is probably full of regular people doing bad things for good reasons (or so they tell themselves) that will never get caught. And, a life worth living is not equal to the absence of pain.