Sunday, August 1, 2010


A review, by Sue Turnbull, of the novel Shadow Sister by Dutch crime writer, Simone van der Vlugt, from the Spectrum section of Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald has me seriously irked:

"... [W]e have a psychological thriller that could be set in any cosmopolitan Western city to which migrants and refugees are attracted from all over the world... Lydia is a teacher of Dutch language in Rotterdam High School. She likes to dress fashionably, although hardly seductively. Nevertheless, in a moment of insubordination on a hot morning, her Arab student Bilal suggests that her choice of dress reveals that she is a woman of loose morals. Clearly Bilal has been brought up among the burqas. When Lydia slights his manhood with a disparaging look - a really bad move, she acknowledges in retrospect - Bilal pulls out a knife and menaces her. It's a scary moment, but Lydia is an experienced teacher. She defuses the situation and talks it over with the head of the school, who persuades her not to take any further action. She goes home, talks to her handsome husband, takes care of her cute daughter and, just when her world appears to be back on track, she is murdered. Van der Vlugt then performs a neat sleight of hand, introducing the voice of Lydia's twin sister, Elisa, who describes the series of events after the funeral, at the same time as we flash back to critical moments from Lydia's perspective. Elisa wants to know who murdered her sister and why. While Bilal would appear to be the primary suspect, it rapidly becomes apparent that Lydia's life was a lot more complicated than it seemed. While Text has strong runs on the board with Australian crime fiction, this is not one of the publisher's best foreign imports. As clever and engaging as it might be, the denouement of Shadow Sister goes off like a left-of-field damp squib. Disappointing."

Bilal has the chutzpah to comment on Lydia's gear. Bullshit!
Because he's Arab, and, as everyone knows, the Arab world is wall-to-wall burqas. Bullshit!
Lydia shoots him a death stare, so naturally he reaches for his knife. Bullshit!
She shouldn't have, of course. After all, he's an Arab, 9 out of 10 Arabs carry knives, and a death stare from a mere woman drives them craaaaazy. Bullshit!
Lydia tells the principal who persuades her to take no further action? Bullshit! He's got a bloody knife for God's sake!
Principals always back off when their students are found with knives. Bullshit!

And all the reviewer can bitch about is the denouement, which surely cannot be anything other than bovine do-do, given what's gone before.

No comments: