I read the Yiddish Policeman's Union a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it. The writing was excellent (I wish I had my copy here so I could quoI read the Yiddish Policeman's Union a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it. The writing was excellent (I wish I had my copy here so I could quote one of my favorite bits). That said, I think the alternative reality serves mainly as the engine under the hood of the main story; you know it's there making things happen but not much attention is paid to it. I think that may actually be a tribute to Chabon's writing abilities; he created characters and a story that exist inside an alternative reality but are so recognizable that they feel familiar. That may be why the science fiction aspect feels so muted. I'd recommend this book to someone looking for a mystery with great characterization, but not necessarily someone who asked for something "sci-fi"....more
Edmund Whitty is a journalist in Victorian London. Not just any journalist however, for "among his colleagues, with the possible exception of Mr. HickEdmund Whitty is a journalist in Victorian London. Not just any journalist however, for "among his colleagues, with the possible exception of Mr. Hicks the contrarian (who, it is said, keeps beetles in his pockets), Whitty is the most despised correspondent in London." In addition to covering public hangings, sex scandals in girl's schools, and other newsworthy items, Whitty recently created a sensation by dubbing London's latest killer of prostitutes "Chokee Bill". Since that moment of glory, however, Whitty has been floundering in a sea of gin, opium, wine, and any other substance he can get his hands on. He is also in debt to the owner of a local rat fighting pit, and it has reached the point where knees may be broken if he can't begin making payments soon.
Ostensibly The Fiend in Human is the story of Whitty's unraveling of the truth about Chokee Bill, with interesting interplay between the forces of journalism, public opinion, and London's Metropolitan Police force in the person of one Inspector Salmon. I say "ostensibly" because it is really a story of Victorian London, and in my opinion the mystery plot takes second place to the city and its inhabitants, which Mr. Gray renders almost tangible in his descriptions.
As just a quick example, Mr. Gray writes excellent character sketches and Inspector Salmon is described as "tall and thin, like a whipping-post in chin-whiskers and top hat", while Mr. Whitty's disapproving landlady "entirely fills the entry as she glares at him, wearing an expression calculated beforehand to inspire miscellaneous guilt."
I would compare The Fiend in Human to Charles Palliser's The Quincunx in terms of writing style. Palliser's book has a more intricate plot, but then The Quincunx is 800 pages long, compared to The Fiend's 352 pages. In my opinion the joy of reading either book is in the writing itself, and the plot takes a backseat to the wonderful things that the author can do with words. Yes, there are a few small plot holes in The Fiend but I was having so much fun reading it that I really didn't care. ...more
In the city of Budapest a man wakes up in a kitchen, his face stuck to the floor with dried blood. He has no idea of who he is, only that he apparentlIn the city of Budapest a man wakes up in a kitchen, his face stuck to the floor with dried blood. He has no idea of who he is, only that he apparently fell and hit his head while putting up shelves and that on a nearby table there is a box filled with a large amount of cash. According to papers he finds in the apartment his name is Gabriel Antaeus but other than that he knows nothing about himself or how he came to be there.
The Ninth Circle begins with a setup that would do justice to any traditional suspense thriller but very quickly becomes something else. Using a journal to orient himself, Gabriel begins to document his days and the search for his identity and as he does so he describes a man capable of seemingly contradictory extremes: at once feeling sickened by the death of an insect and having to restrain himself from joyously killing other people. As time goes on and he struggles to re-create his life from small clues he finds it becomes apparent that there is something else going on - something larger than one man with amnesia - and as the pieces of information slowly come together the suspense builds slowly but surely. Like Gabriel, the reader is sure that something is wrong - very wrong - and, like Gabriel, may come to some wrong conclusions about what it might be.
It's difficult to discuss this novel without giving away plot points, however small, that readers may prefer to find out for themselves. It's also a novel that starts out as one thing and ends as something else entirely, morphing so slowly along the way that the moment of transformation is impossible to pinpoint. If you enjoy suspense thrillers as well as fantasy novels, I recommend giving The Ninth Circle a try. I will certainly be keeping my eyes open for other books by this author.
If you've read any of the summaries for Tana French's In the Woods, you know the bare bones of the story: on a lovely August day in 1980's Ireland thrIf you've read any of the summaries for Tana French's In the Woods, you know the bare bones of the story: on a lovely August day in 1980's Ireland three children go to play in the woods. Only one comes back. And that child is so traumatized that he doesn't speak for weeks and never remembers how he ended up alone in the woods, his shoes full of blood.
This is the story that the publisher is pushing on the book jacket because it's easily summarized and you can slap the "mystery" label on it and the booksellers will know where to shelve it. But In the Woods is a lot more than those bare bones, and if you pick it up expecting a traditional mystery with clues and evidence and closure you may be disappointed.
There is more than one woods in French's book. The most obvious is the physical woods where the children disappeared: historically significant, it is now threatened by the building of a new highway and that project has divided local opinion and raised tempers. But there is also another, less physical, woods and that is the kind we all carry around with us, full of our own particular monsters that peer out at us through the trees. Those monsters are made up of the memories that haunt us, the actions we regret, and the things we wish had never happened. And that is the woods at the heart of this book.
The main character, Detective Rob Ryan, isn't the only one dealing with the monsters in that woods. Nearly all of the main characters will be forced to confront them at one point or another, and each will react to them differently, with varying degrees of success. Personally, I found parts of the book almost painful to read as the characters made irrevocable choices and the book's ending began to be obvious. French is a wonderful, subtle writer and I am looking forward to her next book....more
I'm glad that I read this in audiobook format. Not only is Simon Vance a wonderful narrator but his voice is perfect for historical fiction. Also, I kI'm glad that I read this in audiobook format. Not only is Simon Vance a wonderful narrator but his voice is perfect for historical fiction. Also, I know my weaknesses and at several tense points in the story I would have been very tempted to "peek" at the end if I were reading a traditional book. Ultimately that would have spoiled a lot of my enjoyment of the book because Bayard leaves the events of his story open to (at least) three different interpretations by the reader, adding layers of possible meaning to the actions of the characters right up until the end.
Darkly Dreaming Dexter is definitely not a typical "serial killer vs. police" novel. The protagonist, Dexter Morgan, works with the Miami P.D. analyziDarkly Dreaming Dexter is definitely not a typical "serial killer vs. police" novel. The protagonist, Dexter Morgan, works with the Miami P.D. analyzing blood splatter at crime scenes, and as a result he becomes involved in the city-wide search for a serial killer victimizing area prostitutes. The twist, of course, is that Dexter is a serial killer himself. Not the serial killer currently being hunted by the police, but a serial killer, nonetheless.
In general, I stay away from novels about serial killers and anything that could be filed under "True Crime". Although I do read scary books, I consider myself a fan of "non-human" horror: I'll pick up "The Shining" while avoiding "Helter Skelter", mainly because of the level of human cruelty and gore that is usually involved. That said, I doubt it's possible to write a book about a serial killer - let alone a book about two serial killers - without some descriptions of grotesque violence. However the author, Jeff Lindsay, does keep the descriptions to a minimum and doesn't indulge in gratuitous descriptions of gore just for the shock effect.
In any case, in my opinion the reason to read "Dexter" is not the high-tension police chase or the body count, but Dexter's continuous inner-monologue. Lindsay does an excellent job of giving a voice to someone who does not see himself as a human being at all. Dexter is a self aware - and self described - monster with the intelligence to mimic human behavior, even when he doesn't understand it. He spends a great deal of time studying humans in order to "pass" as one himself. This gives him a strangely objective view of his own motivations and his honest descriptions of the inner places he falls short of being human are the most chilling parts of the book. Dexter might be a terrifying figure when he's holding a knife, but he is even scarier when he confesses to being "pretty sure" that he doesn't want the other serial killer to slaughter someone Dexter knows. Dexter is too self-aware to hide from himself that he identifies with the unknown killer and would love to join him and "play", while at the same time he is too sociopathic to find that admission disturbing. He just admits it to himself, without judgment, and moves on.
I will search out the other "Dexter" books by Jeff Lindsay, not because they are amazing examples of police procedurals, but because Dexter Morgan is one of the most unique characters I've ever come across. ...more