BOOK & BLOG
March 28, 2011
Books of the Week:
I reviewed Ben Aaronovitch’s first Peter Grant novel under its UK release title, The Rivers of London. In the US it was Midnight Riot. Under either name, I liked it. I think Moon Over Soho is better. London Constable Peter Grant is an apprentice sorcerer and the only sidekick to Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the last registered wizard in England. In Moon Over Soho, the two discover there are other sorcerers, and their goals are not pleasant. Leslie May, the policewoman so dreadfully injured in the last book, is struggling to recover from her awful injuries, and Peter has an all-too-true struggle to deal with her altered appearance. But jazz is the main theme of this book. There’s a pattern of the life being literally sucked out of jazz musicians, and in the course of investigating this phenomenon, Grant and Nightingale find a much deeper vein of evil moving through London.
Desert Spear is Peter V. Brett’s second installment in The Demon Cycle series. Brett switches points of view in Desert Spear, and we learn about the life and background of Jardir, whom we learned to regard as a villain in The Warded Man. He’s a more sympathetic character when we understand his culture and his parentage, of course, but I found it hard to root for so many teams at the same time. Leesha, the healer, and Arlen, the demon fighter, return to add their stories to the narrative of the war against the demons which rise each night from the core of the earth. If you liked the first book as much as I did, you’ll consider this one essential reading.
Denise Swanson has been my friend for a long time, though we don’t get much face time. I was so pleased to hear that this thirteenth book in her Scumble River series is enjoying excellent sales. Murder of a Bookstore Babe is a cozy mystery in the classic sense: amateur sleuth, no graphic sex or violence, all the clues laid out, a satisfying ending. Skye Dennison, Swanson’s plus-size school psychologist, remains level-headed, logical, overworked, and at the mercy of her loving terror of a mother. Now engaged to the police chief, Skye is still being pursued to a nearly stalking extent by her former beau, the owner of the funeral home. In Murder of a Bookstore Babe, Skye finds the body of a very young woman in Scumble River’s new bookstore when she arrives early with some second-hand books for the owner to evaluate. Was the victim killed for who she was, or for her resemblance to the bookstore owner?
It may seem strange for me to be brooding over business etiquette. I’m notoriously unbusinesslike in an industry where the sharpest writers know their sales figures, their print numbers, and their sell-through and return rate. I’m ashamed to confess that I don’t keep up with these things, which are undoubtedly important, even nearly essential. I’m not bragging about my wonderful, whimsical air-headedness; this is really a gap in my intelligence.
But aside from my lack of sense about my own business, I’m acutely aware of the lack of business sense in the service industries I deal with. The part of this business sense that is failing? Simple courtesy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about courtesy lately (I blogged about it on the Femmes Fatales website a couple of weeks ago). And here’s why: in all the dealings I’ve had with businesses like the pest control services, the cable company, the electricity providers, the security companies, and so on . . . and I’ve had many phone calls with these entities since my mother passed away in September . . . I’ve found that representatives of these businesses seem to be completely convinced they should never tell me they’re sorry.
*Let me just take a moment to say that some service providers have gone out of their way to be courteous and helpful, and that the people I’m talking about are a minority (though only just!).*
But most people, particularly over the telephone, seem to feel that saying they’re sorry (that their representative never showed up despite the fact that you stayed home all day, that termites showed up right after the house was inspected, that they somehow simply never recorded your mother’s death certificate whatever) means admitting that they’re guilty of something. Or that they are assuming personal responsibility for your bad day.
No, people! Saying “I’m sorry” means that as a representative of We’ll Guard You Security or Never go Dark electricity, you’re sorry that a customer of yours was inconvenienced. That’s what it means.
And it goes a long, long way toward soothing ruffled feathers. Mine, anyway. Just a recognition that I’m angry or irritated, that my day has been disrupted, that my time has been wasted . . . “I’m sorry about that” can snuff the flame on my fuse.
© 2011 Charlaine Harris