This is one of those books that straddles the line between literary and crime novel and I'm not sure it ever really decides what it is. If the main ch...moreThis is one of those books that straddles the line between literary and crime novel and I'm not sure it ever really decides what it is. If the main character weren't so unique and compelling it could have been a disaster. As it is, I can see the misanthropic nature of the lead and the meandering plot really disagreeing with people. Think Lisbeth Salander twenty years after the Millenium books and self-hate dialed up to 11.
There is a murder or two in these pages, but Hand appears more interesting in studying the characters and how the isolation of northern Maine works in different ways on different people, especially artistic people. How some people thrive on it and some people are consumed by it and how that line can be very thin indeed.
This is a love it or hate it book and if you're not feeling it after a chapter or two, I wouldn't recommend pushing on. Hand's writing is crisp and detailed and she has a knack for describing art and the creative process, but for those looking for a driving plot or whodunit, she is not your author (at least in this one). If you like your fiction dark and black with detailed character studies or insight of damaged people just trying to figure out how to get to the next day (or the next drink), give this one a shot.(less)
For me this book falls firmly into the category of: very happy to have read, but quite happy to never read again. This is a visceral, violent book tha...moreFor me this book falls firmly into the category of: very happy to have read, but quite happy to never read again. This is a visceral, violent book that gives equal weight to both sides of the conflict and where rarely does a body appear on the page without a purpose, but it doesn't make the blood and deaths any easier to take.
Franklin doesn't shrink from presenting the dire living conditions and tenuous lifestyles of those that live on the fringes of society and he takes his time (almost the first three quarters of the book demonstrating it). It reminded me most of Woodrell's Winter's Bone in its depiction of the clannishness nature of the rural poor and McCarthy's No Country for Old Men in its lament of being unable to understand what the world was becoming.
Franklin also doesn't make any of the characters larger than life. Everyone feels very natural and the two main protagonists are chosen carefully to give the reader insight into two sides of the conflict and each character is drawn exceedingly well (though the Sheriff does seem to dissolve into drink pretty quickly).
The last one hundred pages of so falls more in line with genre conventions (and one could argue is better for it at least in terms of narrative push) in setting up the final clash between the two sides and sorting out the aftermath for our characters.
One could read into this turn of the century tale of poor rural folk versus burgeoning, affluent town's people as a larger allegory to the us-versus-them post 9/11 world. You could also just read it is a historical thriller where morality falls away in the form of madness.(less)
If I hadn't known the name on the cover, I would have guessed that Harlan Coben wrote this one. I mean that as a compliment. This has all the hallmark...moreIf I hadn't known the name on the cover, I would have guessed that Harlan Coben wrote this one. I mean that as a compliment. This has all the hallmarks of Coben's surburban standalone thrillers paired with Rector's clean, simple writing.
The start of the book drops us into the life of a seemingly normal newly wed college prof that gets brutally jumped in a bar parking lot. From there, secrets and past lives slowly start to seep up to the surface and shatter any mirage of normalcy.
It was the first third of the book that struck me was the most awkward. One of the main characters was acting oddly and it bothered me a bit the other characters just seemed to accept it. Rector wisely does not hold the reveal to the end and in retrospect some of the author's narrative choices make more sense, but it still felt a little clunky.
The second half of the book picks up more narrative momentum as the various players, twists and deceits (not to mention bodies) pile up and here Rector's writing really works as he manages to walk a fine and suspenseful line in keeping the reader guessing on ultimate loyalties.
While it didn't lack the emotional gut punch of the measured internal decay of The Grove, Already Gone is a great read that packs a pure noir punch to the chin.(less)
Creating a shallow and unlikeable protagonist and then setting him up as your hero makes for a tough challenge, even as he's being cuckolded and targe...moreCreating a shallow and unlikeable protagonist and then setting him up as your hero makes for a tough challenge, even as he's being cuckolded and targeted for murder, and I don't think Nesbo ever quite gets there. I love the Hole books and all their byzantine plot threads, but this is the first Nesbo where I wondered if the translation was creating some static. A lot of the blurbs talk about this being some sort of black comedy and I didn't really get vibe either.
After a wandering start where we come to loathe Roger Brown, the plot does get kicking in the second half with some nice set pieces (and one exceedingly gross and graphic one) and well placed plot twists. Still, even the reveals of those twists are awkward and had me reading twice to see if I missed something (only to have it explained 10 pages later on).
All in all, not my favorite Nesbo. It works in spots, but not as a whole. If you've never tried Nesbo, I'd suggest one of the series books first.
I hadn't read a Hap & Leonard before this and it probably affected my reading of this one just a bit. I think I missed out on some of the pathos a...moreI hadn't read a Hap & Leonard before this and it probably affected my reading of this one just a bit. I think I missed out on some of the pathos and surely missed out on some of the Vanilla Ride sequences.
Still, the pair remain more of the unique PIs being written today and the dialogue alone is worth the time to read. Sometimes verging on screwball, sometimes biting commentary, Lansdale smartly lets it do the heavy lifting in defining these characters.
The plot itself largely happens to the them or is told to them and I wish we had a little more time with the antagonists. After a bit of a meandering start (which I might have enjoyed more had I known these characters a bit more) it slams to a bloody and brutal conclusion.(less)
When an author gets up near 20 novels in a series, it is what it is. After a particularly dense novel, I was looking for some professional genre story...moreWhen an author gets up near 20 novels in a series, it is what it is. After a particularly dense novel, I was looking for some professional genre story telling and that's exactly what I got in the latest Davenport, a sort of prequel and current case in one.
There aren't a ton of surprises here to current fans of the series (though you could tell Sandford was having fun with the flashback bits) and not many are likely to care. The plot and writing are workman-like and delivered just what I wanted/expected. I lost myself in the buzz of the plot and turning pages for a few days and I tip my hat accordingly.(less)
This is a slim book that doesn't suffer from the economy of the prose. I've found it's vastly difficult to depict a realistic descent into madness on...moreThis is a slim book that doesn't suffer from the economy of the prose. I've found it's vastly difficult to depict a realistic descent into madness on the page without resorting to blandly stating it.
Rector does a wonderful job of showing how each choice, however bad, is organic to the character and leads Dexter down an increasingly fraught road. It's a testament to the writing that Dexter remains largely sympathetic despite some terrible choices and gross personal actions.
It's a well done story that may tie things up a bit too neatly at the end, but still doesn't waste a word.(less)
This entire books feels almost like a poem. In fact, I think it would perhaps get a better reception in that section than in the crime fiction section...moreThis entire books feels almost like a poem. In fact, I think it would perhaps get a better reception in that section than in the crime fiction section. If you've read Sallis in the past, than that previous sentence probably makes sense. If not, well, I can only recommend you try Sallis sometime, but just don't go in expecting a traditional crime book. Sallis only wears the trappings of crime because he must find it convenient. He seems most interested in the philosophy of the human condition, how we can to be as we are and how we go about living it.
As always, Sallis writes powerfully succinct and beautiful sentences that can take a familiar situation or description and tear it open so that you find yourself reading and re-reading the sentence. In fact the each of the three (very) loosely connected stories loop over and around on the same themes, but the simple, direct and fresh writing never makes it feel repetitive.
This is a hard book to review and I wouldn't be surprised if people took away completely different things from it. Sort of like a poem.(less)
For me, comparisons to Stephen King are a compliment and this, more than any other past McCammon book, feels like it could have just as easily been wr...moreFor me, comparisons to Stephen King are a compliment and this, more than any other past McCammon book, feels like it could have just as easily been written by King. It's loooong, but mostly not in a bad way, there's a toying supernatural element, overarching themes of the creative process, loads of music and pop culture references and lots of small character moments that quickly make the reader care for this rag-tag group.
In summing up this story, it feels small, a loner latches onto a small roadhouse band and starts picking members off, but McCammon takes his time and paints it on a large canvas. Sometimes this wide angle is a good thing (a great, spooky interlude at a mountaintop metal music festival), sometimes it's a bad thing (a number of repetitive scenes in and around music clubs), but it's all pretty interesting (especially if you like music) and engrossing.
A fine reminder of why I tore through McCammon's books from the 80's. The man can just plain spin a good ole yarn.(less)
Dense is the first word that will always pop to mind when asked about this book. In terms of theme and tone, it reminded me most of Winslow's 'Power o...moreDense is the first word that will always pop to mind when asked about this book. In terms of theme and tone, it reminded me most of Winslow's 'Power of the Dog.' The tentacled interconnectedness of the drug game and the almost Catch-22 nature of the US involvement.
I can easily see how this book would frustrate some readers and thrill others. It's not your straight-ahead, typical police procedural crime novel. It tells its story in a very circumspect ways and slams its primary protagonist through blind alley after blind alley. Maybe this is the way true police work goes, but for a novel it does get tiring after awhile.
The book is ultimately rewarding, but there are some fallow patches were the back story really slows the pace down and adds lots of confusion to just who's who and what's going on. If you love ambiguity and a big canvas, then this is a book for you. If you like a streamlined story with a clear cut through line, take a pass.(less)