They seem to follow me; unexpected complications. I know they happen to everyone so perhaps they aren't unexpected at all. I had surgery on Tuesday to remove three pins and infected bone from my foot. It all went well. I was, pretty grimly, given only a local anaesthetic so for three hours my ears were filled with sawing, drilling, chiseling, accompanied by Britney Spears, Cher and whatever else came up on the surgeons YouTube playlist. He mixed it up a bit; last time it was pure Kylie. Everything was as expected, they even managed to use £2,000 worth of antibiotic cement to fill in the holes left by screws. I started taking antibiotics a week before surgery, then they packed me with this insanely expensive cement, another load of oral antibiotics for 6 weeks and off I went. It took less that 24 hours for me to be unable to get out of bed. This infection has hit me hard. I'm used to infection as any wound on my feet or legs takes longer to heal due to my decreased circulation, but this time I was pretty sure I'd be good. It's now Sunday, I'm feeling better and I can actually sit up and type.
My sister came to visit, which is alway lovely, and she also gave me my Clexane injection in my stomach to prevent blood clots. I am useless and marvel at people who can inject themselves. I have got better, but there is often a lot of huffing and puffing and squealing on my part as I'm doing it (I've injected myself for three days now, deserves a gold star, I think). My sister took one look at me and said, "Ugh, my God." Nice. I informed her that I didn't have any make up on. I thought I looked pretty good considering. She sat down and produced a flat white from Costa, but while we drank she was blatantly sizing me up - with concern, I think - I prefer not to think it was horror at how crap I look without make-up.
It was a lovely visit. She offended me, stabbed me in the stomach with a syringe, chatted and left. I got back in bed and read. I fancied something light-hearted so I went for Real Murders by Charlaine Harris. I defy anyone to not love her Sookie Stackhouse series (the books on which True Blood was based). The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, not so much. I absolutely love the premise and it's perfect for a cosy crime series, but the writing is shocking. In a nutshell, a group of true crime lovers come together once a month to discuss true crimes. They meet, one member gives a lecture on a famous crime / criminal and then they all go back to their normal lives...until...dun, dun, dun, real murders start happening to the members of the group. This is the first in the series and we're introduced to lots of characters, many of whom don't make it to book two. Aurora is a Librarian, so far, so good and it should totally work. I think Harris has written a female protagonist we're supposed to love and think is 'cute', but instead she is incredibly annoying.
Harris can write a mystery, and that is why I finished it, but the twee way characters are described is so basic that it's hard to believe that Harris can get away with it. Also, Aurora, or Roe as she is nicknamed, is so judgemental of others I wanted to shake her. I know, she is a fictional character, but what can I say? I get invested! If you look too perfect - you try too hard, if you don't try hard enough then Roe picks up on it and tears a person's appearance apart. She's insufferably shallow. Anyway, I'm sure that's me bringing too much of my own expectation to a book that is only meant to be a cosy mystery. I wanted to know who was committing the crimes and I was caught out at the end, so it did what it was meant to do, but I could have done without such a ridiculous protagonist. This series of books has also been turned into a collection of TV movies, and they are perfect afternoon films. Roe is incredibly likeable and not at all as she appears on the page. I think I'll stick to the TV series in future. A rare thing for me to say.
After this cosy crime caper I picked up some, not entirely unrelated, non-fiction, Maggie Nelson's The Red Parts: an autobiography of a trial. This woman's writing is incredible. I don't know how she does it but she draws the reader in with her, at times, sparse, and painfully direct prose but, as a reader you feel consumed by those words. While I'm reading a Nelson book I feel completely immersed and with her. She is economical with her words and I think a lot of that is down to her being a poet. Every word is chosen and exactly right for what she is conveying.
In 1969, Nelson's aunt, Jane, was brutally murdered when she shared a ride home with a stranger. This trip was organised through a university car share scheme so all should have been fine and she should have made it home. Instead, Jane was shot twice in the head then strangled and abandoned in a cemetery. She was going home to tell her parents she was engaged and fearing her parent's disapproval, she had arranged for her fiance to join her a few days later once things had settled at home. That's why they didn't travel together. It is an unsettling thought that life hinges on these simple decisions.
For thirty years, Jane's crime was unsolved and Nelson was about to hand in her recently completed poetry collection Jane: a murder based on the events, when her mother was contacted by police and told there was a break in the case. No one in the family knew the case had even been reopened, but in 2004-2005 a man would stand trial and be convicted of Jane's murder. Nelson details the trial in exquisite detail. No photographs are included, instead she describes the crime scene and mortuary photos in a way that makes you look away from the page as though you were looking at a photo of a brutalised young woman. I have read lots of true crime but this is true crime writing at its best. For such a slim volume, it achieves so much. It didn't make me feel voyeuristic as so many true crime books do. Instead it felt as though I was sat on the bench with Nelson bearing witness to justice being made. I am slowly making my way through her back catalogue but I think I will give it time before I read Jane: a murder. I know that Nelson will rip my heart out and I'm not quite ready for that just now.