I can understand why there is such a variety of ratings on this book. I also now understand why so many ratings are low.
The author is good at suspens...moreI can understand why there is such a variety of ratings on this book. I also now understand why so many ratings are low.
The author is good at suspense and getting his characters into scary situations. The book has an intriguing premise and there are some good twists.
Unfortunately, that's balanced by uneven writing, unlikable characters, deus ex machina elements, and its length. What was wrong with it tipped the scales for me. Around page 120, I realized that we hadn't been introduced to the hero yet. About 30 pages later, I realized that the unlikable Don Titelman was the hero. Another hundred pages and I admit I started skimming... I just didn't care about these characters and it was too much work to follow them through the convoluted mysteries of the plot.
Take A Walk Across the Sun for what it is - a fast-paced thriller about a privileged lawyer who lands in Mumbai, India, and who gradually embraces his...moreTake A Walk Across the Sun for what it is - a fast-paced thriller about a privileged lawyer who lands in Mumbai, India, and who gradually embraces his work with CASE - the Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation, a group fighting the trafficking of human beings, especially children, for sex.
A Walk also tells the story of sisters Ahalya and Sita, 15 and 17, who, after a tsunami devastates their community, are kidnapped as they try to make their way to their convent school.
This plot point bugged me a bit. Because they're well born and educated, does that make them worth more? Why not make them dirt poor - as are most of the children in the sex trade in Asia. I saw some of these kids in the Philippines and in Cambodia, which has been trying to clean up its reputation as a child prostitution destination. In the Philippines, I interviewed people rescuing child prostitutes, and I interviewed many of the children themselves - as well as children who lived under a bridge. The low value placed on human life (sometimes called sexism, racism, class discrimination) may play a part in making it easier for child prostitution to flourish. Poverty and powerlessness alongside wealth and power are the real enabler, though, whether it's Sweden or India.
A Walk isn't literature, it's entertainment with a purpose, and the fact that it succeeds is notable. (One of the first rules of writing fiction is that you're not writing to make a moral or political point, you're writing to tell a story!) Addison, with this debut novel, both tells a story in A Walk and makes his point.
I'm a snob about good writing, which is why I hesitated between three and four stars. I gave Da Vinci Code three stars. A book can be wildly popular and truly a page-turner even with too many coincidences and characters who are less developed than some readers might hope for. Most readers, however, just want to get on with the story. This suspenseful tale (will the girls be saved?) is especially for them. Character development is not the main point here. Addison does craftsman's work in telling the story, making us care about the girls, and creating Mumbai and Paris - I've been on most of those boulevards, and I was happy to recognize the Porte Saint-Denis and the arcades that few tourists see.
If you liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you'll like The Girl Who Played with Fire.
I liked it not quite as much - perhaps Larsson was at his bes...moreIf you liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you'll like The Girl Who Played with Fire.
I liked it not quite as much - perhaps Larsson was at his best with the first novel, which is a page-turner needing editing. Dragon Tattoo was more political, had great sections describing how Lisbeth hacked into computer accounts, and a love story both wrenching and hopeful beyond the thriller.
This book has some of the same; it feels very much a second book leading to a third... and fourth and fifth. From what I've read, Larsson had much of a fourth already written when he died; if his longtime lover and his father and brother can resolve their differences, that fourth book might come out. He may have had even more outlined. But his father and brother have garnered all the financial benefits of the books' success -- a father and brother Larsson had been estranged from, leaving the partner out in the cold. Or so the story goes. Does she have possession of the fourth manuscript? The sketched-out plots of the fifth and sixth book?
Whatever the story of the future books, The Girl Who Played with Fire is a much shorter, quicker read than Dragon Tattoo. I had a harder time suspending my disbelief regarding some plot elements, and although I had a hard time putting it down, I'm not running out to get a copy of the third book, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Then again, in the past couple weeks I've read , seen both the Swedish and the American films, and read Fire. Maybe I'm just satiated for now.(less)
This book put me off a few months ago - I read the first dozen pages and set it back on my shelf. Then came all those movie trailers of Daniel Craig a...moreThis book put me off a few months ago - I read the first dozen pages and set it back on my shelf. Then came all those movie trailers of Daniel Craig and I was inspired to give it another try.
Thanks Mr. Craig. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a lot of fun - and it's lasting fun. So many good books end all too soon, but Dragon Tattoo is a hefty 590 pages leading a reader on. And on. And on. Just when the main mystery wraps up, around page 490, the other one kicks in.
The characters feel enjoyably real and multi-faceted (including Sweden itself); the plot is well twisted; and the writing is invisible... you're simply there. The book also offers great insights into the best and worst of journalism, and its hero is a journalist - hooray!
I still haven't seen the movie, and a friend tells me that it's the Swedish version that's better. Hollywood prettified the characters, she complained, explaining that Daniel Craig isn't a good fit for the journalist hero.
Mmm. Maybe. I've been picturing him as the hero, however, and it hasn't hurt my enjoyment of the book one whit.(less)
The Shadow Patrol begins with the deaths of a half dozen important U.S. intelligence officers in Kabul - victims of a Taliban double-cross. Then thing...moreThe Shadow Patrol begins with the deaths of a half dozen important U.S. intelligence officers in Kabul - victims of a Taliban double-cross. Then things get rough. Two years later, the Kabul station is still in trouble and John Wells, a freelance undercover operative, investigates whether there's a traitor among the Americans. Drugs, terrorism, tough soldiers, dangerous and exotic locales -- and the writing is excellent, pulling the reader along. The writer is a former reporter for the New York Times and it shows -- he's scarily prescient with this plot. There are plenty of battles, plenty of twists.
It's for fans of the genre, and I suspect that you should begin with the earlier books -- this is number six in the John Wells series. I'm giving this four stars even though it turned out to be not my cuppa tea - but that was me, not the book, which is a solid and frighteningly real story. (less)
Piers Paul Read is very Catholic, very conservative, and this book is perfect for that audience. It's an intellectual, theological thriller, set in Lo...morePiers Paul Read is very Catholic, very conservative, and this book is perfect for that audience. It's an intellectual, theological thriller, set in London and Jerusalem. It begins with archaeologists discovering the bones of Jesus in Jerusalem, and then moves to the crises of faith resulting from that - or was it a hoax? It's also the love story between the nonobservant daughter of the Jewish archaeologist who discovered the bones, and - well. That would give too much of the plot away. Behind the plot is a well formed discussion of why conservative Christians need for there to be an actual, physical resurrection. Read of course puts a lot of his own religious beliefs into the book; they're the structure behind the plot, and if they don't match your own beliefs they might get in the way here are there. Still, it's a good, smart plot with a very satisfying ending. Recommended.(less)
The Sleepwalkers, a historical thriller/mystery set in 1932/1933 Berlin, draws readers in to a frightening Germany where so many of its people seemed...moreThe Sleepwalkers, a historical thriller/mystery set in 1932/1933 Berlin, draws readers in to a frightening Germany where so many of its people seemed mesmerized by the charismatic Adolf Hitler. It's as though they'd been hypnotized - as if they were sleepwalking. Debut author Grossman uses that metaphor to build a mystery where beautiful, foreign women really are last seen sleepwalking—and then never seen again—except for one, who turns up drowned, her legs horrifically mutilated in a way that only a master surgeon could have done.
The book is vivid and a great read in nearly every way. The hero, Willi Kraus, is Berlin's most famous detective. He's lionized for solving a case that had Berlin's people frightened. Kraus now has a problem, though: he's Jewish.
No—he's German. Grossman did a great job of making this reader really feel the injustice of that false division. It reminded me of The Last Resort, where author Douglas Rogers's father, a white Zimbabwean, was faced with the same injustice at the hands of Mugabe and his followers. Rogers's ancestors had lived in South Africa/Zimbabwe for 350 years, the old man said. He was African.
And the Jews had been in Europe more than 2,000 years—they were European. (And really! Aren't we all simply human?!)
In any case, the tension mounts as Nazi thugs close in on the police offices, on newspaper offices, and the rest of Germany.
This is a debut novel, and I was glad that the gatekeepers let it through despite it's not having a standard plot line. (This should happen here, then this, then this.) The Sleepwalkers has really got stellar suspense and drive, the characters are believable, the atmosphere is fabulous—decadent and fearful—there are no hiccups of doubt there. Grossman did his research!
My only quibble has to do with the plot—which seemed unbelievable as I was reading and also upon reflection. Then again, the Nazis were pretty unbelievable, weren't they, and any number of best-selling authors have come out in the last decade or two with ramped-up versions of history for readers of WWII-era thrillers. So it's probably just me. If you're looking for another Alan Furst, this book may leave you unsatisfied. If, however, you loved William Deitrich's fast-moving Blood of the Reich, I expect you'll love this one too. (less)