Saturday, April 14, 2007

In Praise of the Wonderful Jill McGown

Jill McGown won my heart way back in 1983 or thereabouts, when she published her first novel, A PERFECT MATCH. I read that mystery compulsively, turning pages as fast as I possibly could while still devouring every word written on them. The plot was so clever, so seemingly complicated--and yet so simple in its resolution--that it reminded me of the work of Agatha Christie. Except that I thought Jill McGown was better than Agatha Christie.

Christie's talent was undeniable, especially for plotting, but McGown's clever plots were matched by her gift for characterization, and from the start I loved her characters, Inspector Lloyd and Judy Hill, and I've loved them for more than twenty years as they have grown and changed over a number of mysteries--and I've read ALL of Jill McGown's mysteries.

It wasn't just that McGown created a memorable romantic mystery; in fact, she has attested that she never set out initially to write a mystery at all, much less a love interest between her main characters. She was of that school of writers, though, who sat down and started writing and waited to see what came out. I admire this sort of writing, which I see as brave, even adventurous. McGown's books, though, are very carefully plotted--there's nothing of a haphazard feeling about them.

I can't even define what makes her books so compulsively readable. Of course the mystery is dominant, and she leaves enough unanswered questions that the reader is compelled to keep turning pages, just to find some answers; but in the process of pursuing that mystery, the reader also finds that they've grown to like her characters so much that the resolution of their problems is equally important. McGown always found that perfect balance.

I was horrified to learn of Jill McGown's death, and a part of me refuses to believe it. Here is the effect that writing can have. I have never met Jill McGown, but I came to rely upon each new book (and I hope that one more Lloyd and Judy book will be forthcoming), and through her author newsletters I came to love her voice, her real voice, which came through as she chatted about her life in Corby, England and the house in which she had lived since she was a child. I loved her posts about her cat George and about her beloved niece and grand-niece, and I felt, somehow, as though Jill were a sort of neighbor of mine--a neighbor in a far away and beautiful place.

Now she is in a far away place, (and I hope it is beautiful), and she will not be writing here again; but what a splendid lifetime of work she has left behind, and how I will enjoy re-reading every volume!

Thank you, Jill McGown.


Lourdes said...

Yes, very sad news about Jill McGown. I've only read the first three books, but she did write wonderful characters.

Julia Buckley said...

I agree, Lourdes. And someday you should take up again with Book Four. You'll like the way the series progresses, I think.