A sturdy widow is killed on her farm. A mental patient escapes from a hospital. Sejer almost but not quite foil...moreInspector Sejer of Oslo, Norway series.
A sturdy widow is killed on her farm. A mental patient escapes from a hospital. Sejer almost but not quite foils a bank robbery in which a hostage is taken. A fat young boy slips out of a reformatory to wander in the woods with his bow and arrows. Fossum weaves this wildly disparate set of elements into an intriguing, tense story that leaves you guessing until the end.
No one can accuse Karin Fossum of lack of imagination, as she does an excellent job of setting up a baffling tale that takes unexpected twists and turns. Inspector Sejer is a somewhat incomplete character, more or less two-dimensional, but her other characters in this very odd, very good tale are not. We know far, far more about the “villains” in the story than we ever learn about Sejer.
Which makes for an intriguing read. A very good installment in this series. (less)
The Inspector Sejer of Oslo, Norway series. Although the fourth in the series, this is the first to be translated into English.
The discovery of a body...moreThe Inspector Sejer of Oslo, Norway series. Although the fourth in the series, this is the first to be translated into English.
The discovery of a body of a young woman in her teens near a lake has Sejer and his team completely puzzled. The girl is naked--but has not been sexually molested. There is no sign of violence. It looks like a suicide but a highly unlikely one as well. There are a few leads but they are no help. Sejer and his team go round in circles until finally out of the young woman’s past comes the clue that helps resolve the case
Henning Mankell more or less put Scandanavian police procedurals on the popular map. But there are other popular writers from that area, one of whom is the Norwegian Karin Fossum, who writes the Inspector Sejer series. Knorad Sejer bears some similarity to Kurt Wallander, Mankell’s protagonist. Both are, when we first meet them, in their early 50s, both are highly respected members of their forces, both have been married but are currently single (Wallander through divorce, Sejer through the death of his wife).
But neither is a copy of the other. Wallander is moody, introspective, subject to depression, sort of rumpled in appearance; Sejer is more emotionally stable and less prone to brooding. Their voices are distinctly different.
Mankell is probably the better writer, and conveys the ambience of southern Sweden extremely effectively. But Fossum is no slouch, and her plotting is excellent; she does not disappoint or suffer from comparison.
When Commisario Salvo Montalbano first arrived on the scene, he was a 48 year old volatile Chief Inspector stationed in Vigata, Sicily. His relationsh...moreWhen Commisario Salvo Montalbano first arrived on the scene, he was a 48 year old volatile Chief Inspector stationed in Vigata, Sicily. His relationship with Livia, who lived in Genoa, had been going on for some years. Montalbano himself was a vigorous, self-confident man at the peak of his powers--and something of a gourmand.
In this latest book, 10 years later Montalbano is approaching 60. He's still in Vigata, he's still a gourmand, eating at Da Enzo's, he’s still involved with Livia. But. The relationship is, at best, a stagnant one, and Montalbano has doubts about it. He also is beginning to have doubts about himself--just where is he heading? You might call it a late-start mid-life crisis.
Illuminating and driving this state of mind and emotions is Montalbano’s latest case: a dead, faceless man has been towed into Vigata Harbor by a yacht that is itself somewhat suspicious. Assisting Montalbano in the case is Lieutenant Belladonna, who lives up to and even surpasses her name (beautiful woman)--and who seriously engages Montalbano’s attentions.
Somewhat different from his usual book, Camilleri serves up a more subdued, more mature Montalbano. But that is not to say that the book lacks other graces. Related to the first scene (which is funny in and of itself), there is a scene between Montalbano and Livia that had me in tears from laughing so hard.
All the favorite characters are back: Mimí Augello, Fazio, Catarella, Dr. Pasquano. As usual, Stephen Sartarelli’s idiomatic translation is wonderful, catching the rhythms of Italian speech. You really do get a sense of Sicilian life from these books.
A good read by one of my favorite police procedural authors.(less)
Two years later, Turner is acting sheriff, by default. Two people re-enter the town: Billy, Lonnie Bates younger son w...moreLast book in the Turner trilogy.
Two years later, Turner is acting sheriff, by default. Two people re-enter the town: Billy, Lonnie Bates younger son who makes his reappearance by by means of his car crashing into a building, and Eldon, back from his tour of country music festivals, a suspect in a murder that he himself doesn’t know if he’s committed.
As usual, from such mundane sorts of beginnings, Sallis goes on to weave an enchantment over this small, always unnamed town and the people in it. His prose is as beautiful as ever: terse, penetrating, never condescending, always on the lookout for the beauty in damaged lives. Same devices, same flashback technique that lights up pieces of Turner’s soul but never totally--in the end, we are left with the mystery of the man himself, as we always are with any real human being.
The ending left me in tears.
There are many very fine writers in this genre, but I find Sallis unique, in that his stories don’t have to have resolution, just as in real life. Sometimes you don’t know why things happen, sometimes you just have to accept the fact that life is what happens when you have other plans. I think that Sallis does this so well because, among other literary accomplishments, he’s a poet, and it shows through both in his prose and in his outlook
Sallis is a superb writer and should not be missed.(less)
Turner is an “ex” lot of things: ex-Vietnam soldier, ex-cop, ex-con, ex-therapist. Trying, as he says, to become “exempt”...more
First in the Turner trilogy.
Turner is an “ex” lot of things: ex-Vietnam soldier, ex-cop, ex-con, ex-therapist. Trying, as he says, to become “exempt” from what he sees as a meaningless life, he chooses to live in a cabin by a lake in a near a small, rural Tennessee town, near Memphis, pretty much like the place where he grew up. But violence has a way of following Turner, and when a bizarre murder occurs in the town, Sheriff Lonnie Bates asks Turner to help.
That’s the matrix for a book that then proceeds in no normal fashion. Granted that Sallis uses some standard literary devices, but not in the usual way. Turner is no noir ex-cop returned to the profession. He’s a complex, intelligent, introspective man who reflects deeply on his life and that of those around him, compassionate, human, but the ultimate outsider. Sallis’ writing is utterly superb, some of the best I’ve ever read in this genre or almost any other. There is not one extra word. His description of the town, the surroundings, the songs of the birds, the way people dress (and what that reveals about them), the cars they drive, the food in the diner, the way the waitress walks: is always at lest slightly off-beat and sometimes more than that, remarkably evocative.
“Next thing we knew, they’d grabbed up a garden hoe and a leaf rake and were going after one another again. robin Hood and Little John with quarter staffs on that narrow bridge. should have been on riding mowers, galloping towards one another, lances at the ready.”
“Went down like a burnt match.”
“Coffee burps and bubbles in the maker, aroma spreading insidiously through the room like an oil spill.”
“Outside, rain broke, sweeping across the parking lot, left to right, like the edge of a hand in brushing debris from a table top.”
His dialogue is as terse as his prose. Sallis rarely makes any attempt at reproducing dialect, except from time to time in Turner’s description of something Nathan or another reclusive hill character has said, always , reflecting the people exactly.
And he loves country music, REAL country music, played and sung by people whose names I’ve never heard of (George Jones? who’s he?).
And the characters. Don’t expect stereotypes--they don’t exist in his world. Some people are ignorant, some brutish, many thoughtful, aware, and far from uneducated. All are real people, many complex, who have real lives and real stories.
One of the most remarkable features of the book is the way Sallis uses flashback to slowly, bit by bit, illuminate the man Turner, but never completely--just enough to give us yet another glimpse. And never chronologically, even within the chapters of Turner’s life. Here a story from Vietnam, here a glimpse of his childhood, there a bit about one of his therapy clients, then maybe an anecdote from his police days in Memphis. And it catches you by surprise every time, coming when you least expect it.
But most of all, Turner is a man who accepts life as he finds it and, in a phrase that will come in a later book that completely describes the man he is:
“To find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.” (less)
Lonnie Bates is still in recovery, Don Lee is acting sheriff and Turner is officially deputy sheriff now. When Lee makes...moreSecond in the Turner trilogy.
Lonnie Bates is still in recovery, Don Lee is acting sheriff and Turner is officially deputy sheriff now. When Lee makes what seems to be a run of the mill traffic stop but finds a huge amount of money stashed in the car, problems arise almost immediately. During the night, the suspect is broken out of the town jail, leaving Don Lee unconscious and June, the secretary, out cold on the floor of the office. The situation deteriorates from there, as Turner visits his old stomping grounds at Memphis PD, trying to get a lead on the thugs who assaulted don Lee and June.
And meets up with his grown daughter, now a detective with the Seattle Police Department, who has come back looking for her father whom she has not seen in years.
If that sounds trite, take it from me, it isn’t. Nothing about Sallis and his protagonist is trite.
The book develops around the plot, being more of a study in human nature as seen through one man’s experience than it is a police procedural, but absorbing either way. Even though you know it’s going to happen, Sallis’ use of flashback continues to surprise and illuminate, offering often lyrical descriptions of Turner’s world. New people come on the scene, enriching the human environment. Music still comforts and expands the spirit.
And life is still trying about finding out how much music you can make with what’s left.
Inspector Costas Harotis of the Athens Police Force is on sick leave, recovering from a bullet he took in the chest protecting a mother from her steps...moreInspector Costas Harotis of the Athens Police Force is on sick leave, recovering from a bullet he took in the chest protecting a mother from her stepson. Politics being what it is in Greece, he is "temporarily", then more or less permanently replaced by an incompetent who, however, has connections in high places. Meanwhile, three very prominent figures--a successful businessman, a left-wing politician, and a right-wing journalist--all publicly commit suicide, the first two on live TV shows. An extreme right wing organization claims credit for the first two suicides. Harotis' superior is not happy with the replacement and quietly orders Harotis to investigate informally. No motive seems to fit, until Harotis suspects the answer lies in the past and the politics of the junta period.
Markaris writes a pretty good crime book but in reality, he uses the genre to comment politically; his views are relevant today even though his plot in this case is rooted during the right-wing dictatorship of nearly 30 years ago. Given the situation in Greece today, his depictions of the "clientelism" of Greek politicians is very relevant, since it is that aspect of Greek politics that is primarily responsible for driving the country to financial ruin. I find the political matrix in which his protagonist, an ordinary policemen who is more or less indifferent to politics, is caught, interesting, but this plot really struggled to get off the ground. Still, very worth while reading.(less)
First in the Inspector Costas Haritos of AThens, Greece series.
Haristos is the head of the Homicide Division of the Athens police force. A seemingly "...moreFirst in the Inspector Costas Haritos of AThens, Greece series.
Haristos is the head of the Homicide Division of the Athens police force. A seemingly "routine" murder of an Albanian couple becomes something much more, as Haritos, egged on by an aggressive star female TV reporter, finds connections to a potential international baby-selling ring. Before he finally solves the case, three more murders will occur, two involving high-profile TV personalities.
Petros Markaris is a Greek crime writer who is using the genre as a way of exposing what is going on in Greece today. In a recent article in the English newspaper, The Guardian, Markaris stated that crime fiction is the perfect vehicle for explaining what is happening in Greece today because so much is criminal. Markaris uses Harotis as his commentator, representing in his way, a typical Athenian Greek. Set in 1992, Haritos is an edgy man, wedded to his work as so many policemen seem to be. His 20 year old marriage has settled into a comfortable routine of mutual one-upsmanship and getting along; he adores his daughter who is studying law in Thessaloniki. He is grumpy much of the time, with a cynical outlook on life, fostered by his early years on the police force under the post-World War II fascist dictatorship. There are a few scenes in the book where Haritos, in explaining how he evolved as an interrogator, talks matter-of-factly about the torture used by the police under that regime.
The plot is good, the writing as well, and the insights into contemporary Greece are fascinating, given the way Greece and its problems are dominating the world today. Recommended both for a solid entertaining read in the genre and for relevance to today's headlines.(less)
Del Shannon is a young, attractive, troubled (what else is new) private investigator in Arizona who specializes in finding deadbeats and bail jumpers...moreDel Shannon is a young, attractive, troubled (what else is new) private investigator in Arizona who specializes in finding deadbeats and bail jumpers and bringing them back to civil justice. She has never known her mother; her father is a drunken, grumpy man with whom she fights continuously. She teams up with Frank Falconet, an undercover agent for ATFE on loan to the FBI and infiltrate a secretive cult in Kentucky, searching for an FBI agent who has disappeared.
This is neither a good nor a bad book--pretty average, good for a quick read and forgettable afterwards. Plot is standard cult leader cum con man, ending more or less predictable, writing adequate to the job at hand. For all that, it's good, light entertainment if you can get it from a library, but save your money for better books in the genre.(less)
Madden has been gone from Scotland Yard for 12 years. Married happily to Helen and with two lively children, the family...more2nd in the John Madden series.
Madden has been gone from Scotland Yard for 12 years. Married happily to Helen and with two lively children, the family is settled in Surrey near Highland, where John farms.
This pastoral idyl is abruptly shattered by the savage death of a young local girl., whose body Madden helps discover. Haunted by the brutal murder, Madden, over Helen's furious objections, assists in the investigation, aided and abetted by his old friend and former Scotland Yard superior, Chief Inspector Sinclair. When it becomes clear that a serial murderer is responsible, the investigation widens and British Intelligence becomes involved.
While the plot is interesting and well done, unfortunately the writing is much less so, descending into real mediocrity at times. What was acceptable stiltedness in both the prose and the dialogue is grating in this book. The characters are frozen--none evolve. In addition, as was true to a lesser extent in the first book, Airth does not evoke the period--1933 England--all that well. There is talk of the troubles in Germany, we read a little about hair styles--and that's it. With a few changes here and there, it could have taken place in almost any 20th century period.
I was disappointed in this book, and the only reason why I gave it as high a rating as I did was due to the plot and its development. I do intend to read the last in the series, for the sake of completion and some curiosity as to how Airth intends to end the series, but not for a while.(less)
Scotland Yard has sent Inspector John Madden along with Constable Billy Stiles to take charge of an investigation into the brutal slaughter of a famil...moreScotland Yard has sent Inspector John Madden along with Constable Billy Stiles to take charge of an investigation into the brutal slaughter of a family in a small town in Surrey. The local police have decided that the case is a robbery gone wrong but Madden, a veteran of the World War I trenches (the time is 1921), suspects that the killer may be a former soldier who has used a bayonet to commit the murders. But another, similar massacre convinces Madden that a serial killer, whose underlying motive is a "river of darkness"--sexual perversion--is responsible and will strike again.
The time frame and setting of this series, of which River of Darkness is the first, is nearly identical to that of Charles Todd's Inspector Rutledge series, but there are important differences. Madden, like Rutledge, is a war-damaged man, additionally haunted by the pre-war deaths from influenza of his wife and daughter. While there are other similarities, this series has important differences, such as the fact that unlike Rutledge, Madden's superior is warmly supportive of Madden and even a friend; this makes a huge difference in the tenor of the book and more interesting, in my view, than that very tired device of a jealous and plotting superior who thwarts the hero at every step.
Airth also introduces a love interest, practically from the beginning, in Helen Blackwell, a female doctor, unusual in that era. It seems likely that Airth deliberately chose the name "Blackwell" from one of the first women, English-born Elizabeth Blackwell, to become a physician, in mid-19th century US.
The plotting is very good, and the story is gripping. But the book suffers from,= at best average writing, and it can get worse at times. The dialogue is stilted, but that can be put down to the era, which covers a multitude of similar sins in the book. The characters are pretty one-dimensional, and while Madden himself does develop, almost no one else does.
Still, the story did carry me along, enough to continue in the series.(less)
A fascinating idea: take thirteen contemporary writers in the mystery genre and set them loose on Sherlock Holmes. Result: thirteen wildly different s...more
A fascinating idea: take thirteen contemporary writers in the mystery genre and set them loose on Sherlock Holmes. Result: thirteen wildly different short stories--some set in contemporary time, some set in and adding to the pseudo-Holmes cannon (Holmes stories but not written by Conan Doyle), some tightly connected to the Holmes, stories, other far more loosely; some based on either a Homes story or linked by style to the canon. All are imaginative as might be expected from the likes of Lee Child, Dana Stabenow, Margaret Maron, Tony Broadbent, Neil Gaimon and others. I’ve read works by about half of the authers; the others are unknown to me, but all of the stories are very good to outstanding. My favorites are (surprise, surprise!) by Dana Stabenow (a Kate Shugak story) and Margaret Maron (in which Mrs. Hudson stars in her own right), two authors whose every book I own.
What’s nice about the collection is that you need not be a fan of Sherlock Holmes to enjoy the stories. Naturally, familiarity makes them more interesting to read, but not necessary. In fact, I’ve never read the stories on which a number of the entries are based (such as A Study in Scarlet), but all that did was to result in a silent promise to myself that I would indeed read those Holmes classics and soon.
Normally, I’m not a fan of short stories, but these are too good to pass up for those of us hooked on mysteries, whether or not you’re a Homes addict.