Well, that was unpleasant while it lasted! Thank you all for your concern over the past couple of weeks. I think I can safely say that the worst is now over and I am much relieved to be no longer spending quite so many happy(?) hours contemplating the inside of the downstairs cloakroom. In response to those of you who enquired after the identity of the bug that so rudely decided to hitch a ride on my person and feast upon my blood, I’m afraid I have to admit that I neglected to ask it its name. Should any of its brethren feel inclined to attempt a repeat performance I promise that that will be the first thing I will demand of it. After all, if I don’t know who it is how will I know where to send the bill for the price of the transport and refuelling?
In fact, thinking about it, I should also bill the little blighter for the cost of all the books I’ve been downloading, because this past fortnight has been expensive. It wasn’t that I didn’t have plenty of new books around the house just waiting to be read, I did, but not only did I not feel up to them, they weren’t what I wanted; what I wanted was to spend the time of my illness in the company of old friends. So, day after day, I found myself acquiring yet another novel in Quentin Jardine’s series about Bob Skinner and his fellow Edinburgh detectives, starting with the 1993 Skinner’s Rules. To this point I’ve got as far as Fallen Gods, the twelfth in the series and I’ve been rediscovering something that I already really knew but hadn’t until now fully appreciated, namely that we read series fiction not so much for the crimes involved but for the developing relationships within the team of characters that the author creates.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with this series but in case you haven’t read them they focus on the group of detectives that Bob Skinner (a DCS, when we first meet him and, by number twelve, DCC) gathers around him in Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh. Because one of the key motifs of the series is the way in which Skinner cultivates those coppers in whom he sees potential and puts them in positions that will give them the chance to develop, the books are very character driven and it’s perhaps for this reason that over the years I’ve been following their investigations I have become more interested in their individual progress than in the crimes they solve.
Surprisingly, you don’t actually have to like the characters to become involved with them in this way. I definitely don’t like Skinner. He is far too quick to resort to violence for my liking and for a man who has more than his fair share of faults, far too unforgiving of those who have different priorities to his own. He may always be on the side of justice, but that doesn’t make him someone I could like or even admire. In fact, ironically, one of the things I really dislike about him is what makes these books so attractive, namely the way in which he does single out people and give them opportunities that others don’t get. If you’re not one of Skinner’s people don’t look for advancement in the Edinburgh force; it isn’t going to come your way. I’ve worked in organisations that operated in that manner and they are very unhappy places to be.
But, this is fiction and over the past fortnight being a surrogate member of Skinner’s team has eased my pain considerably. There are other crime series that I could have indulged in to a similar end but none that I know that have quite such a large cast of recurring characters with whom to identify. However, just in case my bug-eyed friend should have a brother who comes calling do you have any suggestions for future episodes of mass indulgence? I’m always open to recommendations.