Two things to start this. I have never read any Peter James. Tell a lie. I started trying to read one once about a bloke on a stag do buried in a coffin. Or something like that. And I never finished it. Don’t think I finished the first chapter. A friend recommended this. I assumed it was because I liked crime fiction and because I thought Peter James wrote crime fiction.
Turns out he writes more than that!
Susan and John Carter are crazy about each other and their life is perfect but for one thing – they are on the brink of financial disaster. Surely being a surrogate mother to another man’s child won’t harm such a strong relationship? Especially when the mysterious Mr Sarotzini is offering to save their home and business – everything they’ve worked for. What seems to be a perfect solution soon begins to feel like an impossible situation. Susan’s pregnancy is disturbingly painful but no one will tell her shy. It becomes apparent that Sarotzini wields immense power and Susan begins to doubt everything she knows. As she realises the terrifying origin of the dark forces Sarotzini controls, she is in fear for herself and her husband, but most of all for her unborn child…
My review:- I bought the 20th anniversary edition and the introduction by Peter James explained that one of his favourite, and often returned to books, is Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. Now anyone that has followed this blog knows I am a huge Ira Levin fan. So this was a good start. James explained that he wanted to write a homage to Rosemary’s Baby.
And homage it was. Whilst reading it I thought about, and discussed with my husband, the topic of imitation among creatives. Thinking about it reminded me of reading Edgar Allen Poe’s, Murders in the Rue Morgue, where I was struck by how remarkably similar Poe’s detective was to Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes as a character was clearly inspired by Poe’s creation and the story even gets a mention in A Study in Scarlet. But Sherlock Holmes is a masterpiece of a character isn’t he so isn’t it a good thing that Doyle was inspired to write him by another authors creation?
But reading The Truth I felt, certainly in the first half, that the story was a slavish homage to Rosemary’s baby. And not nearly as well done. Rosemary’s Baby is indeed a masterpiece. And not nearly as long! To me there is a difference between imitation and inspiration.
Ultimately I did really enjoy the book and certainly found in the second half the devotion to rewriting the original story was lost and the author freely explored his own creativity. It got better for me then. I enjoyed the writing, the characters were pretty well formed though I didn’t like any of them. I was interested to see that James writes in other genres rather than detective fiction and I will explore that a little. I’d like to read some of his other spooky work I think. This definitely wasn’t a fail as a book and I believe I would have really enjoyed it if I wasn’t a fan of Levin’s work. But if I were going to read a book about a baby (possibly) born to the devil I would most certainly, without doubt, read Rosemary’s Baby.
What do you think about inspiration vs imitation? Any thoughts about where it has absolutely worked? I found Murders in the Rue Morgue a really tough read so am glad that Sherlock came along as a result!