From my earlier post about Scandinavian mysteries I know there are a fair number of people who read this narrow "genre" out there and I have another tFrom my earlier post about Scandinavian mysteries I know there are a fair number of people who read this narrow "genre" out there and I have another title for them. I have recently read, Ice Moon by Jan Constin Wagner. The author is really German, but he is married to a Finn and this police procedural (his first of three published novels to be translated) is set in Finland. There isn’t much physical action, but the psychological drama is very intense. The Finnish detective, Kimmo Joentaa (I might have to look for a recording of this book just so I know how the pronounce the great names!), is deeply troubled by the recent death of his young wife. He is frequently lost to his, often painful, memories and seems to have an uncanny intuitive connection to the actions of the murderer and his victims:a woman is smothered in her own bed in her locked house, a man visiting a hostel with his son is killed while surrounded by other sleeping people. Detective Joentaa senses these deaths are related, even though the early evidence shows no link. The author often speaks in the tormented voice of the killer (we learn his identify fairly early on) which is somewhat distracting, but mirrors in some ways the inner voice of the detective. A curious relationship between a third murder victim and a boyfriend not seen in years is also a distraction. But, the writing (and the translation) keeps the reader engaged. And, there’s a certain satisfaction in reading about a cold, snowy place during a hot Iowa summer. --Susan
The Rope Walk by Carrie Brown is a wonderful journey with two ten-year-olds, Alice and Theo, during their summer break in New England. Left alone forThe Rope Walk by Carrie Brown is a wonderful journey with two ten-year-olds, Alice and Theo, during their summer break in New England. Left alone for many hours, they begin a friendship with a cosmopolitan neighbor, Kenneth, who has returned home to convalesce. Alice and Theo’s affection for Kenneth lead them to create a rope walk for his enjoyment of the nearby woods where Kenneth spent a lot of time as a child. But just as rope sometimes unravels, good intentions lead to unexpected consequences. Alice’s love of books and time spent at the library brought back many wonderful memories of my childhood.
I had the pleasure of listening to a recording of this book and was very sorry when it came to an end. The narration by Elaina Erika Davis was wonderful and added to my enjoyment of the book. This was an unexpected pick for All Iowa Reads but a very good choice. ~~Enjoy~~
Lawrence Block is a very prolific writer. Most of his stories are set in New York City and feature an array of series characters. I am most familiar wLawrence Block is a very prolific writer. Most of his stories are set in New York City and feature an array of series characters. I am most familiar with Matthew Scudder, the alcoholic private investigator and Bernie Rhodenbarr, a bookseller by day and a burglar by night. Block’s latest work features low key hitman, John Keller, who has appeared in three previous outings. In the opening of Hit and Run, the latest effort, Keller is in (you’ll like this one!) Des Moines doing one last job before retiring. While he’s adding to his precious stamp collection at a suburban shop the governor of Ohio (no need to tell you why another state’s governor would be in Des Moines) is assassinated downtown, and the evidence points to Keller. He’s been set up. His face is on the news, his friend and "agent", Dot, isn’t answering the phone, and she held the key to all of his retirement funds. Hunted and almost broke in Des Moines, Keller needs to get back to New York and try to rebuild his life, if he can stay a free man! A fun and suspenseful read. --Susan
Minette Walters is one of those authors, for whom I’ll drop whatever else I’m reading. Like Scott Turow, her first two novels are simply stunning, andMinette Walters is one of those authors, for whom I’ll drop whatever else I’m reading. Like Scott Turow, her first two novels are simply stunning, and she’s settled into a high level of excellence, without ever reaching those heights again. Her specialty is the psychology of her characters, and she’s often compared to Ruth Rendell, whom, ironically, I don’t really get.
Her new one is about Lt. Charles Acland, a British soldier, back from Iraq, badly scarred both mentally and physically, withdrawn and hostile. About the time of his return, a series of murders begins, and the conclusion we’re to draw is pretty obvious. Too obvious, of course.
What makes this work are the strong characters–a bodybuilding lesbian physician, a lying street kid, and Acland’s girlfriend, who has issues of her own. --John
Sonchai Jitpleecheep seems to be the only honest cop in Thailand, tho he moonlights managing his mother’s brothel, and his immediate supervisor VikornSonchai Jitpleecheep seems to be the only honest cop in Thailand, tho he moonlights managing his mother’s brothel, and his immediate supervisor Vikorn is a gangster, dealing in meth and blackmail. Moreover, Sonchai’s a Buddhist with a vastly different world view than westerners, whom he regards with condescension and pity, even as he acknowledges their power over him. He addresses the reader as farang, which translates roughly to "foreigner." It’s not a complimentary term.
In this third series entry, Sonchai is presented with a snuff movie. The victim is his former lover, who still haunts his dreams, literally, even as he sleeps beside his pregnant wife. The suspects are wealthy, vastly more powerful than Sonchai and his transsexual partner Lek, and protected by Vikorn, who’s blackmailing them.
As fascinating as the mysteries themselves, are the looks these books give us into Sonchai’s world–one of rampant corruption, lascivious ghosts, the Thai sex trade, and the wheel of karma. It’s not enough to say these books aren’t for the easily offended. You may need a taste for the lurid and exotic to enjoy them. --John
If Nature Girl, the new novel by Carl Hiaasen, King of Florida Gothic, seems a little familiar, it may be that his books tend to be a little formulaicIf Nature Girl, the new novel by Carl Hiaasen, King of Florida Gothic, seems a little familiar, it may be that his books tend to be a little formulaic.
They’re revenge fantasies, to start with, usually environmental in nature, tho in this case it has to do with a telemarketer. Character types recur. The avenger will be a little wacko, not too, but lovable and clearly on our side. In this case she’s Honey Santana, divorced mother, who thinks it’s really rude for telemarketers to interrupt her dinner. There’s usually a hot babe clearly destined for this wacko, as a sort of reward, tho in Honey’s case, it’s her ex. There’s always a clueless, sexually overconfident lout, the victim, who deserves everything he gets, which is plenty (raped by a dolphin in Native Tongue). There’s usually a grotesque, as well, some geek (in the old sense), who’s just in the book to suffer. Who could forget Chemo, the pockmarked assassin who had a Weed Whacker attached to the stump of his arm? Many of Hiaassen’s books (sadly, not this one) feature Skink, former governor of Florida, now a near-superhuman hermit and environmental avenger, who subsists on roadkill
Add some playful sex, some quick lectures on ecological balance, plenty of cartoonish violence, and lots of bad behavior, duly punished, and you have Hiassen’s winning formula. --John
I listened to the book on CD, and sent this review to Library Journal.
Aging Hollywood director Max has a houseful of guests in late March, 2003, justI listened to the book on CD, and sent this review to Library Journal.
Aging Hollywood director Max has a houseful of guests in late March, 2003, just after the second Iraq invasion. There’s Elena (his significant other, and mother of Simon), Zoe (glamorous singer, actress, and Max’s ex), Isabel (Zoe’s daughter—naïve, smart, and full of resentment for her mother), Paul (Zoe’s partner and life coach—ascetic, and something of a charlatan), Stony (Max’s agent, who’s been secretly carrying on with Isabel since she was 16), Simon (hiding from college, playing a penis in a student musical), Charlie (lone Republican), Delphine (Zoe’s Jamaican mother), and Cassie (Delphine’s friend).
Except for several sexual encounters, not a great deal actually happens, other than the conversations the characters have about movies, current events, and each other.
Russian investors want Max to make an epic version of Taras Bulba. Max wants to make a small, intimate movie, My Lovemaking With Elena. Jane Smiley clearly chooses the latter approach here, a slice of life emphasizing characterization. Reader Suzanne Toren gets a chance to shine, with a variety of voices and accents. Not as explicitly satirical as her academic comedy Moo, Smiley’s novel holds the listener’s interest, and most libraries will want it. --John