The Norwegian ambassador, a friend of the Prime Minister, has been found in a Bangkok motel/brothel with a knife in his back. The Norwegian government...moreThe Norwegian ambassador, a friend of the Prime Minister, has been found in a Bangkok motel/brothel with a knife in his back. The Norwegian government has requested that detective Harry Hole fly to Thailand to work on the case with the Thai police. Why was the depressed alcoholic Hole chosen? There are politicians that want to cover up the sordid details, and they feel the self-destructive Hole will be too busy drowning his sorrows to do a thorough investigation. But Harry sobers up, and looks deeply into the dealings of a group of corrupt Norwegian expats. The fast-paced plot has lots of twists and turns as Hole ferrets out the murderer.
The story shows lots of local color in the seedy streets of Bangkok--the world of prostitutes, drug dealers, opium dens, and pornographers. Traffic is out of control as drivers muscle their way through congested roads like a swarm of insects.
Harry found cockroaches in his room. He had "read that they hide when they hear the vibrations of someone approaching and that for every cockroach you can see there are at least ten hiding. That meant they were everywhere." It seemed that society's "cockroaches" were also everywhere in the corrupt underworld.
Cockroaches is the second Harry Hole novel. The series of books by Jo Nesbo was translated into English starting with the third book, The Redbreast. His first two books, The Bat and Cockroaches, were translated later, and give the reader some of the back story of the damaged detective.
Alma and Arturo Rivera traveled from Mexico to settle in a run-down apartment building in Delaware, and furnished it with items found on the side of t...moreAlma and Arturo Rivera traveled from Mexico to settle in a run-down apartment building in Delaware, and furnished it with items found on the side of the road. Although they were happy in Mexico, Arturo obtained a work visa so that their daughter Maribel could attend an American school for children with special needs. The beautiful fifteen-year-old girl had a fall that resulted in a traumatic brain injury.
Their neighbors, the Toro family, offer them friendship and encouragement. The Toros were legal immigrants from Panama who had become American citizens. Mayor Toro is a teenager lacking in self-confidence and overshadowed by his older athletic brother. A budding romance forms between Mayor and Maribel. The two teenagers accept each other for what they are, and form a connection.
The chapters of the book are told in first person mainly by Alma Rivera and Mayor Toro. Through Alma's voice we are shown how much parents will sacrifice in the hope of making a better life for their children, and how much love she feels for Arturo. Alma feels homesick, isolated, and is trying to protect her disabled daughter. She is unable to communicate in English, only has a bus for transportation, finds unfamiliar food in the stores, and is living in poverty. Mayor is caught between the American world at school, and the traditions of his parents at home. His tender love for Maribel leads to unintended heartbreaking consequences.
The apartment building houses other families from Latin American countries. The other immigrants' stories are told in short chapters, breaking up the main story about the Riveras and the Toros. While their stories give the book a more complete look at the immigrant experience, it does sometimes break the flow of the compelling main story. One heartwarming chapter had all the families come to the Toro apartment on Christmas to share a meal, and try to keep warm when the heating system was down for a few hours. The Paraguayan landlord says, "I like it here. I started off as the manager, but now I own the building....I try to make this building like an island for all of us washed-ashore refugees. A safe harbor. I don't let anyone mess with me. If people want to tell me to go home, I just turn to them and smile politely and say, 'I'm already there.'"
The characters in the Rivera and the Toro families seemed very real, and I cared about their outcomes. The book is food for thought about the immigrant experience, so it would be an excellent choice for book discussion groups. (less)
3.5 stars The Last Letter from Your Lover is a romance complicated by family obligations and missed opportunities. In London in the 1960s, Jennifer is...more3.5 stars The Last Letter from Your Lover is a romance complicated by family obligations and missed opportunities. In London in the 1960s, Jennifer is recovering from a serious auto accident and has severe memory loss. She does not remember her wealthy husband who treats her like a possession. She finds some hidden passionate letters, signed only with a B, and tries to piece together her secret life. Who was B?
Forty years later, a journalist Ellie comes upon several of B's romantic letters stored in the newspaper archives. Involved in a relationship with a married man herself, she sees a spark in the letters that is not present in her own life. Ellie investigates what happened to Jennifer and her lover, and also has to make some difficult personal decisions.
In addition to passion, the story also showed the problems that an affair can bring--a devastated spouse and hurt children. Historically, the book also illustrated the difference in communication from the wonderful 1963 love letters to the quick 2003 text messages. I've read two other books by Jojo Moyes, and found she was an engaging storyteller again. She has the ability to express emotions so well that I genuinely care what happens to the characters.(less)