When I was a young, goggle-eyed stripling, brainwashed by the works of Carolyn Keene, I became slightly obsessed with mystery books. I probably spent a good three weeks one summer scouring my neighbourhood for signs of a shifty-eyed man in a trenchcoat, or peculiar old box in an antique shop which the owner refused to sell.
Sadly, the closest I ever got to genuine pre-teen mysterydom was pretending that some secret hollow in the tree stump in the back garden contained a clue to hidden treasure. Unfortunately, it rained overnight and the watch I cunningly concealed in order to "discover" it the next morning was covered in mysterious grubslime that seized up the works and gave the strap an unwearable gloopy texture.
A few days later, I discovered a taste for Sherlock Holmes and gave up my patient scouring of border of the living room carpet to discover a "clue" in the "mysteriously"-knotted fringe (forever after hopelessly tangled) in favour of stealing my father's magnifying glass to look for telltale traces of Turkish ash and raspberry jam smears left on the back fence by an eagle-eyed detective dressed as a simple-minded clergyman disguised as a costermonger. Not that I knew what a costermonger was, but I was convinced that if I looked hard enough I would find evidence of costers thoroughly mongered at 5 times magnification.
But in all of the mystery books I read during the glorious haze of childhood, explanatory chunks were always dumped wholesale into the first few chapters. As a consequence, the phrases "titian-haired girl sleuth" and "motherly housekeeper" are forever emblazoned on my memory. I know how many steps go up to 221B, and the meaning of "???" on a business card.
Anyhow, since I assumed that this sort of thing was meant as a quick catch-up for readers, I tended to skim those bits and just jump into the story. But what on earth does it mean when the same unvarying information about a character is littered through all the chapters of a book? I mean, I read more than one chapter at a time. I can retain simple information in the rapid-access bit of my memory for a good... oh...