In Georges Simenon’s first Maigret novel, Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett, we are introduced to the dogged investigator tracks Pietr the Lett (or LatviIn Georges Simenon’s first Maigret novel, Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett, we are introduced to the dogged investigator tracks Pietr the Lett (or Latvian in other editions) around Paris and other locales in France. Pietr is a globe hopping criminal who thus far has managed to elude the agents of Interpol and local police. Unfortunately for Pietr, he has wound up in the jurisdiction of the tenacious Maigret, who will undoubtedly bring his criminal career to an end.
But who is Peitr the Latvian, really? Is he Oswald Oppenheim, a debonair gentleman who hob knobs with the world’s elite? Is he Olaf Swann, a Norwegian merchant officer living in Fecamp with a wife and family who spends most of his time away from home? Perhaps he is Fedor Yurovich a Russian alcoholic living in a seedy motel with a slovenly young woman so devoted that she would kill to protect him? Is he all three? Or is he someone else entirely? The answer is, of course, complex, this is a detective novel, after all, but ultimately not much of a surprise and in some ways, rather obvious.
The novel opens with intrigue, a man matching the bare description Maigret has of Pietr is found murdered in a train car w.c.; as another man, also fitting the description walks away from the station. The plot goes on a bit of a slow burn from there until the end as Maigret spends a few sleepless days uncovering the true identity of Pietr and how the various players in the mystery are connected to each other. In the process, Maigret loses his right hand man, and literal mini-me, who is killed by an assassin, and is himself shot in the chest and may possibly lose three of his ribs. Yet none of this stops the indomitable inspector from hunting down his man; all the way back to Fecamp where Maigret and the “villain” engage in fisticuffs on a jetty among the rising tide.
Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett is an interesting mystery novel with a good translation by Daphne Woodward. While it’s certainly difficult to gauge an author’s work in piece translated out of its original language, one can get an idea by the plot and feel of the story. Simenon presents a dreary atmosphere where the police and criminals dwell. The only bright spot comes in the form of Maigret’s wife, who only appears in a few scenes. In order to hunt down criminals, law enforcement must follow them into the murky domains they inhabit, as though any one associated with crime, even on the good side, becomes touched by their darkness. This does not detract from the book at all, but rather adds to it a film noiresque atmosphere. The book, though short, meandered too much to me. Going around a bit and adding in subplots and characters that didn’t go much of anywhere.
The title of this and other editions, Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett, is a misnomer, as Peter the Lett (as he is referred to in this edition) is not enigmatic and is no real mystery. Although we don’t know exactly who he is until the end, it is quite clear from the beginning the different identities he assumes; and there is no real mystery as to his motivations or character. The true enigma of the story is Maigret himself; even though the third person narrator is inside Maigret’s head for the entire novel, the reader never really gets a sense of who Maigret is or what makes him tick as it were. Even the inner workings of his process as all the tumblers fall into place, are kept a mystery to the reader. Maigret just knows why such and such is. He’s reminiscent of a Terminator in that he keeps going until he gets his man, ignoring pain and his body’s need for sleep. Even when the closest thing to a friend the inspector seems to have is murdered by one of Pietr’s associates, Maigret and the narrator barely give pause before continuing on. The only thing Maigret seems to feel is cold as he is constantly seeking warmth from a fire. For me, this was the biggest drawback of the book. Although I am fine getting on board with a character who has super human powers of deduction, I’d like a little heart, which this book is sorely lacking. Maigret is in desperate need of a Doctor Watson. ...more
When the body of Peter “Rabbit” Mullen, is discovered on the shore near the extravagant East Hampton beach house of Barry Neubauer, it is instantly ruWhen the body of Peter “Rabbit” Mullen, is discovered on the shore near the extravagant East Hampton beach house of Barry Neubauer, it is instantly ruled a drowning suicide by the investigating officer, Frank Volpi, and just as quickly swept under the rug. And that’s where it would have stayed if not for the efforts of Peter’s older brother, Jack, a law student working a summer job at a prestigious New York City law firm, and who also happens to be dating Barry Neubauer’s daughter, Dana. Jack smells a rat, and a big one at that, knowing that his brother wasn’t in the frame of mind to kill himself and wouldn’t have gone swimming in the freezing water that night anyway. So Jack and his townie friends do a little digging and uncover the sexual deviancy of the East Hampton summer elite. Which of course does not sit well with the wealthy part time residents of the town, who use their clout to hamper Jack’s investigation into their criminal activity. A professional hitman is hired to scare off Jack’s friends and prosecution witnesses. It works and Jack is left to bring his brother’s killers to justice with the aide of his wily old Irish grandfather, Macklin, and private investigator Pauline Grabowski, (view spoiler)[who doubles as a love interest after Dana breaks up with him. (hide spoiler)] In the end, Jack, Pauline, Mack and his fellow townies band together to hold Neubauer and his cronies accountable for their crimes.
James Patterson has the fast paced thriller down to a science, if not an art, with short chapters (most no longer than two or three pages) that move the story along. It would have been easy for the authors to sacrifice characterization to the fast clip of the plot, but they managed to create strong, believable and likeable characters (except for the villains, of course). The narrative never loses steam, even when it deviates a few times from the main plot.
I originally was going to give the book a much higher rating, but then I got to the climax of the book when Jack and his friends (view spoiler)[kidnap Neubauer and his cohorts and put them on trial in an abandoned, unfinished house, with Macklin presiding as judge. It works for the plot because Neubauer and his cronies have pulled so many legal strings with friends in high places, that Jack really has no other recourse but to go to this extreme measure. It just didn’t feel right to me and completely took me out of the book. The whole thing is sort of a mockery of the justice the characters are seeking, and only sees results because one of them works part time as a reporter for a local tv station and manages to get a news camera and somehow hack into the networks broadcasting signal, so the entire world is witness to the proceedings.
Another issue I had with the book is that it is stated that Barry Neubauer, who is infected with HIV was having sex with his daughter (amongst many others including Peter), Dana, who was also having sex with Jack. Yet it never seems to occur to Jack or anyone else, for that matter, including the authors, that he too might possibly be infected and should be worried he either has HIV and could have passed it along to his new girlfriend Pauline. Neubauer having HIV is such an important part to the ending of the book that it is a glaring omission by the authors to completely ignore this possibility. (hide spoiler)]
These two things aside, though, it was an interesting thriller and the first book in a long time that kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next. ...more
A decent history of zombies in literature, film, music, art and games. The author presents a fun narrative that flows quickly. Goes all the way back tA decent history of zombies in literature, film, music, art and games. The author presents a fun narrative that flows quickly. Goes all the way back to pre Romero zombies, which is interesting. The author mentions some titles I've never heard of, which was great because it means more zombie books and movies to explore. It's not an extensive compendium of zombies, so there's a lot missing, and a lot kind of brushed over because of the limited amount of space the author had. Maybe not worth a purchase, but if you can get it free from a library as I did, worth checking out, if for nothing else,the cool artwork spread over every page....more
A nice collection of writings from women of the "Beat generation". As with any collection, there's a mixed fare of good and not so good poems/excerptsA nice collection of writings from women of the "Beat generation". As with any collection, there's a mixed fare of good and not so good poems/excerpts, fortunately A Different Beat contains mostly good). The book, which celebrates "Grrrl" power is ironically edited by a man. Although the book claims to be about Beat generation female writers, two excerpts are included by Jan Kerouac, daughter of Jack, and a short memoir by a male writer.
It is commendable that the editor, Richard Peabody, made the effort to conserve the writings of these many talented women as the majority have either never been heard of outside of small literary circles or their works are hard or nearly impossible to find. After finishing the book, I was glad to have stumbled upon it on Amazon and will definitely be looking into the works of all of the authors showcased within its pages. ...more
**spoiler alert** In Douglas Brunt’s debut novel, Ghosts of Manhattan, we are introduced to Nick Farmer, a bond trader at a company with unethical bus**spoiler alert** In Douglas Brunt’s debut novel, Ghosts of Manhattan, we are introduced to Nick Farmer, a bond trader at a company with unethical business practices, as he ponders his place in life and his job. Although Nick’s job forces him to live a lifestyle of drugs, booze and strippers, he has somehow managed to rise above it all, keeping his head above the murky waters that constantly threaten to drown him and his marriage. Nick Farmer is presented as tarnished saint in a world of sinners, as, even though he has partaken of plenty of drugs and liquor, he has never let it touch his soul. Of all the things he has done, Nick has never cheated on his wife, even though his coworkers are constantly cheating on their wives or girlfriends. Even when temptation arrives in the form of Rebecca James, beautiful correspondent for CNBC, he remains true to her, physically, if not emotionally. Nick’s true moral test is presented to him by Freddie Cook, a risk analyst who informs Nick that the company they both work for, Bear Stearns, is about to go under, along with every other bond trading firm, if they don’t change their unscrupulous selling tactics. Nick realizes that this is his last chance; he can either get out and start life over at thirty-five, or lose his soul forever.
Douglas Brunt certainly shows promise as a writer and presents a well written narrative that is easy and quick to read. However, to me, Ghosts of Manhattan lacks character and heart. The characters that populate Nick’s world seem thinner than the paper the words are printed on. Even Nick, who is going through a struggle, comes across as not being very well fleshed out; and the constant self loathing felt a bit much. Sure, he’s not the best guy in the world, but he’s certainly not the worst, and it never seems to be in question that he is going to do the right thing, because he is ultimately a good guy. He’s dipped his toes in the water, but has never jumped in the simmering cesspool of sin, so it comes as no surprise in the end when he quits his job and begins the journey back to a life away from the dangerous lifestyle he’s been flirting with since graduating college, and repairing the marriage his job has almost destroyed.
That being said, Brunt does show a lot of potential in this freshman effort and I didn't feel like my time was wasted, so would give his next book a shot....more