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Charles Dickens slams Ayn Rand
on September 11, 2012
Murder mysteries are getting a lot more interesting. They have always offered up corpses and eccentric characters. But they are now offering literary conceits of clashing philosophies. Think Matthew Pearl.
Christopher Lord's first novel (The Christmas Carol Murders) offers some of the same literary devices -- to good effect.
The Christmas Carol Murders is based in the fictional Oregon village of Dickens Junction. A community founded on the charitable principles of Charles Dickens.
Just as the community is preparing for its annual Christmas celebration of Dickens's tale of Christian charity, a stranger shows up causing tension in the village. Within hours, he is the first victim of a serial killer.
The stranger turns out to be the agent of a corporation based on Objectivism -- the philosophy propounded by novelist Ayn Rand. And, of course, there will be no room for Charles Dickens in the world if Objectivism -- where charity is considered to be a vice.
Local bookstore owner Simon Alastair sets out to solve the murders while trying to discover why Objectivists have targeted his quaint village. Pitted against him is Dagny Clack, the CEO of a corporation based on Objectivism.
Setting up a slap down between Charles Dickens and Ayn Rand is a natural choice. Their life philosophies are poles apart. Even though I suspect there are as many people who admire Rand's paean to individualism, but reject her atheistic self-centered philosophy as there are people who admire Dickens's sentimentality, but reject the Christian foundation of his philosophy.
But, this is a murder mystery. And, even though, the Dickens-Rand philosophical spat is extremely one-sided, the future of Dickens Junction drives a tale that keeps the reader's attention chapter after chapter. And with just enough misdirection to make the novel's climax interesting.
Lord has an interesting layered writing style. The story line is obviously designed to be a story unfolding in the world we inhabit. But, it easily could be a Cartesian construct taking place only in Simon Alastair's mind.
Either way, it is a good read.