I finished this book today, after starting it last night, still on my reading marathon – my way of recovering from a bad cold.
The book, a lengthy (nearly 400 pages) mystery in a Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus series, was published in 1990. And it was really the first time I have been struck by a mystery being out of date. Not out of date in terms of time – some of my Agatha Christie favorites are nearly one hundred by this time, no technology anywhere.
This book is out of date in terms of attitudes, beliefs, behaviors. Yes, we did believe and act in a lot of racist, mysogynistic prejudicial ways that nearly 70 years ago. But the raw ugliness of it now sticks out vividly and painfully.
The mystery itself is well plotted out, a police procedural set in 1990, harking back to the Vietnam disaster, with discussions of Judaism and conversion thrown in. And of course the language was not a problem, since I use the f-bomb myself when the need is indicated.
It is more the use of the word nigger so egregiously in 1990 Los Angeles, the striking sexism and sexual harrassment, the women’s denigration of their own competence, the unconscious and unselfaware males. I experienced all that in 60s and 70s America, not nearly so much in the 1990s. So I was continuously jolted in this book.
It was also often done very crudely. I am amazed I didn’t just put it down. I did want to see how the plot worked out – it was fairly unique. But not at all worth plowing through the outdated and egregious cultural negativity.