I picked this at random off the stack of Christmas books I received (this was one of the titles obtained in the English-language section at a local usI picked this at random off the stack of Christmas books I received (this was one of the titles obtained in the English-language section at a local used bookshelf) and spent the day reading it. Written in 1966 and centering around an anti-communism operation gone awry in Mexico, the Cold War-era POV verges, not infrequently, into absurdity (i.e. China is only ever referred to as 'Red China,' an epithet that is sometimes used by multiple characters three or four times in a row in the same paragraph; Mrs. Pollifax teaches her Albanian kidnappers about the unbiased wonders of the American justice system).
But overall, this is an incredibly charming and entertaining story with lots to recommend it, starting with Mrs. Pollifax's delight in being put into perilous situations and her general credulousness, which is then balanced by her surprising resourcefulness. Moreover, although it is inherently more of a 'cozy' than your typical spy thriller, the stakes start and remain high and the plotting picks up the pace as Mrs. Pollifax and her fellow kidnapee try and make their way to safety. Given up for dead, they aren't saved through some miraculous coincidence or the nick-of-time intervention of the CIA, but rather through their own endurance and ingenuity. ...more
I picked this book up at a fundraiser because I thought it would be fun to have a seasonal read and I am an enthusiastic Georgette Heyer fan. Or ratheI picked this book up at a fundraiser because I thought it would be fun to have a seasonal read and I am an enthusiastic Georgette Heyer fan. Or rather, I'm an enormous fan of her romances and am inclined to allow the many faults of her crime novels slide because I love her other work so much.
In general, GH has a fabulous handle on plotting and pacing, on developing characters, on inserting wit and mirth into situations and maximizing the potential of the absurd. She created the Regency Romance, so yes, she also understands genre and genre conventions. But while I think she does really 'get' the mystery genre, she just doesn't seem to execute her mysteries with quite the same aplomb. This novel could have been about 100 pages shorter, and then, it would have been a pretty serviceable novella, with a nice little puzzle of a crime scene. But oh, did it drag. Add to that that the characters felt, by and large, pretty false, the relationships didn't really come together, the humor only came through in brief moments, and a lot of the actual crime/detection was a bit half-hearted, and well, it doesn't make for a hugely compelling read.
It's back to the GH romances for me—I think I'm going to give the mysteries a miss from here on. ...more
A police procedural with shades of a Golden Age crime novel, complete with an end-of-book 'whodunit' explanation letter. It also bears the distinctionA police procedural with shades of a Golden Age crime novel, complete with an end-of-book 'whodunit' explanation letter. It also bears the distinction of being the only crime novel I've read whose resolution hinged so completely on the accuracy of transportation time tables and the dependability of train schedules.
Points and Lines gives us great interplay (if only briefly) between the older, country-based Columbo-esque Detective Torigai and the younger, coffee-drinking, city sleuth Mihara, as well as nice snapshots of daily life in Japan in the 1970s. The novel reads less like a story about real people and a real crime than it does a sort of narrative brain teaser, but that's more an observation than a critique. A very enjoyable read....more
Tana French is the author I've been waiting for in the wake of finishing all of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brody books. This is my jam. Wonderful writingTana French is the author I've been waiting for in the wake of finishing all of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brody books. This is my jam. Wonderful writing, twisty coincidences, deep and complicated characterizations (Cassie Maddox is just a fantastic character and I spent hours after I read the book narrating various conspiracy theories about Sam, the magnificently unreliable narrator, to my partner, thereby spoiling the whole book several times over.) French gives us rich backstories, and resolutions which genuinely offer very little closure at all. She's dealing with a topic here (child murder) that under normal circumstances, I'd avoid completely, but her handling of the subject is incredible. She gives you all the tension (bags of it) without making you endure chapter upon chapter of horrific scenes of graphic abuse. I love the structure of this series, too, with each book being dedicated to a different officer on the fictitious 'Dublin Murder Squad.'
A plus plus (and a shout-out to my book buddy and dear friend-with-great-taste Leigh, who recommended that I read this ages ago.)...more
**spoiler alert** I read this over the duration of a short plane ride, having been drawn in by the hilarity of Sands' titles (Single White Vampire, Va**spoiler alert** I read this over the duration of a short plane ride, having been drawn in by the hilarity of Sands' titles (Single White Vampire, Vampires are Forever) and also the dee-lightful potential of a vampire/romance genre mashup, which is, oddly, a direction I hadn't gone before in my reading.
I liked the book fine, but I didn't love it. Sands definitely gets points for having one of the most bonkers vampire origin myths that I've ever read, namely that vampires are the descendants of escaped citizens of Atlantis, an erstwhile technological superpower whose use of bio-nanotechnology (or nano-biotechnology?) lead to them to develop hyperactive 'nanos.' These, ' in turn, give them the basic vampiristic characteristics: the need to drink blood, the sensitivity to sunlight, eternal(-ish) life, etc. She also inserts some nice tweaks in the mythology, such as that her vampires are governed by local councils who strictly enforce the few laws that they must live by (only drinking 'bagged blood' unless in case of emergency, 'allergies,' or 'love bites'; only turning one person in their lifetime; a vampire knows she's has found her 'life mate' when she can't read the person's mind), and they are also able to eat food and take pleasure from it (I was pleased with this; it's always seemed like a raw deal that vampires have to give up food).
There was also some good backstory and some nice twists (the main character 'turns herself' when being attacked by a vampire), but the progression of the relationship between the romantic leads felt rushed and pretty cursory, as did the wrap-up to the plot. I actually found the secondary characters (Aunt Marguerite and Tiny) more engaging and their relationship far more developed....more
I'd been in the library queue for this book since early this summer, hoping to get a chance to read it and see what all the fuss was about before theI'd been in the library queue for this book since early this summer, hoping to get a chance to read it and see what all the fuss was about before the movie came out. It's a certainly a serviceable and fast-paced thriller (I read it in two days), and I like that each of the female narrators are all, in their own ways, deeply unreliable. It didn't really hit a chord with me, but I understand why people have been so enthusiastic. The deeply-flawed, self-destructive Rachel is someone that you feel yourself rooting for, even as you watch her continue to dig herself deeper into a mire of her own making....more
This was picked up off a 'take-a-book' shelf and I brought with me on vacation because I'd read that Donna Leon's crime novels were in the vein of othThis was picked up off a 'take-a-book' shelf and I brought with me on vacation because I'd read that Donna Leon's crime novels were in the vein of other 'literary' crime authors I've enjoyed, because I was looking forward to a novel set in Venice, and because I was hoping for a great beach read. But while I truly loved all the descriptions of place/setting and the daily comings and goings of life in Venice (I would have happily read a book all about lunches in Venice, or one that spent a lot more time talking about the boat-buses, for instance), Doctored Evidence was incredibly frustrating and disappointing because of its latent (sometimes, actually, rather blatant) and totally needless (from a plot perspective) homophobia.
I get that in many instances Leon is conveying the POV and/or biases and bigotry of her characters. And often—through Elettra, for instance, and to a lesser and less-convincing degree, through Brunetti himself—these biases and prejudices are dispensed with. Nevertheless, a really icky (for lack of a more erudite word) feeling of homophobia lies over the whole novel. Brunetti goes on a hunt for secretly gay men who have positions of power in Italy because he convinces himself that their homosexuality (which he frequently equates with the seven deadly sin of lust) is the only reason that any of them might have been blackmailed and driven to murder an old woman.
Worse, I think it irresponsible (to say the very least) that a book written in 2004 should introduce a gay subcharacter who, in addition to having died from AIDS, also subscribed to pornographic magazines featuring very young boys. And this salacious, grimy detail and horrific false equivalence (i.e. gay man = pedophile) has absolutely no relevance to the plot whatsoever. It's never walked back, it's never recanted, it's never proven to be false. It's simply introduced so that later, another character can show her dignity and open-mindedness by saying that no one, not even a pedophile, deserves to die of AIDS. It reinforces a horrible prejudice and again, false equivalence, still held by many people and there's no reason for it. It's lazy and bigoted writing and I'd like to think that Leon could do better. ...more
An enjoyable P.D. James, although not my favorite of hers—a little too clever-clever with the murder plot and the big reveal (almost a bit Agatha ChriAn enjoyable P.D. James, although not my favorite of hers—a little too clever-clever with the murder plot and the big reveal (almost a bit Agatha Christie, which isn't something I necessarily look for from James) and I wasn't wild about the fact that Dalgliesh not only figures out such an extraordinarily convoluted scenario without any concrete means of doing so, but also that the How and Why details are withheld from the reader for so long. It seems a bit showy and is also an artificial way of increasing the narrative tension. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining entry in the Dalgliesh series and also reveals some interesting personality traits—and flaws—about the detective. ...more
I have really enjoyed the two previous Lovesey books that I've read—one from the Peter Diamond series (From Cop to Corpse) and one historical title (TI have really enjoyed the two previous Lovesey books that I've read—one from the Peter Diamond series (From Cop to Corpse) and one historical title (The False Inspector Dew)—and given that this book has arguably the best title ev-er, I was really looking forward to this book. But having read 3/4 of it, I just can't be bothered to finish it. For one, the murder doesn't happen until almost the last quarter of the book and when it does happen, the victim is a character that we've encountered, but not one that we've learned much about. As a result, her treatment feels cursory and unimportant, rather than a fully-fledged character who we have learned/will learn much about—a person whose life has some kind of real weight and significance.
Secondly, I don't love the relationship between the two police officers—it feels like they may have been better introduced in another installment of the series, but here, Sergeant Cribb feels a bit like a flat Sherlock imitation who spends a lot of time talking down to his lackey, Constable Thackeray, who himself is a bit of prude. They don't feel terribly relateable individually, and they don't have a lot of chemistry together.
Where this book does shine, however, is in creating its backdrop—Lovesey clearly spent an immense amount of time researching the milieu of London music halls and imparts a lot of detail into his story. Apparently, this book was adapted as a PBS Mystery! special and I imagine that it would be a really enjoyable TV program, if only for all the setting detail.
I'm not giving up on Lovesey and his historicals, but I am going to leave this unfinished. ...more
This is my fourth Kate Atkinson book this summer (third Jackson Brodie). The last time I went on a read-a-bunch-of-books-by-the-same-author kick was wThis is my fourth Kate Atkinson book this summer (third Jackson Brodie). The last time I went on a read-a-bunch-of-books-by-the-same-author kick was when I first started reading Muriel Spark, although even then, I spaced them out a little more.
Reading a bunch of Atkinson's books in succession hasn't taken away from their charm, although I have started to spot her recurrent themes, characterizations, and devices. I don't think these are egregious enough to hold against her—every author has their own ticks and tendencies toward repetition—but she does, for instance, really love characters who are somehow charmed by the romantic, stoical picture of Britain during WWII. (She's admitted as much about herself in interviews.)
I've been reading the Brodie books a bit out of order. I started with the last installment—Started Early, Took My Dog—simply because it was the one that I found on the shelf at the library and I liked the title. And so far, that one is still my favorite of the series, although I've enjoyed both Case Histories and now One Good Turn (which gives us some pretty nice descriptions of Edinburgh in the background, too). But in all these novels, I love the flagrant (and commented-upon) repetitions and revisions and conscious overlappings of storylines and images and characters. Normally, such 'what a coincidence!' or 'small-world' tropes in crime stories irritate me, but there's such self-awareness in Atkinson's books that it instead comes across as clever and ironic and twisty and very, very satisfying. ...more