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MacLeod, Charlotte

The McGonagal of detective fiction. After struggling to persuade myself that her unflagging ineptitude is the result of conscientious effort, I have concluded that she is simply a natural phenomenon; stifling and indifferent as the dust of Vesuvius, without the excitement of an eruption.

It was, I think, in Vienna that I picked up Palace Guard, my first McLeod. The gaudy paperback cover – embossed foil titles are a reliable indicator that someone has something to hide – and the curiously non-comittal encomia were encouraging, given that I was looking for something to leave behind on the train.

What an experience. Like a child with a video-camera, she concentrates on trivial details while failing to record anything important. She populates her novels with more characters than are necessary, most of whom are more or less indistinguishable. She devises plots implausible beyond the reach of analysis. She wields a style as lumpily uncomfortable as an old mattress. She attempts skittish word-play, something her publishers should have implacably discouraged.

Warning: if, intrigued, you take the risk of sampling a MacLeod for yourself, you may damage your mental health.

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