At the time the author wrote this book, he'd been free from his heroin addiction for tlike a 3.8 rounded up.
my copy from the publisher -- thank you!
At the time the author wrote this book, he'd been free from his heroin addiction for ten years. White Out is his story of his addiction and then how he came to kick it. I won't go into great detail about what he wrote per se, because this is a book that actually has to be experienced -- it reads like he sat down at his computer and just let everything pour out of himself.
While a grad student at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, starting at age 21, Michael Clune lived the life of a heroin addict for years, until he got to a point where on a visit to his parents in Chicago he was picked up by the police, thrown in jail and then given a choice of prison or recovery. In between those two times, his experiences and his feelings often flow here in stream-of-consciousness-like prose, where he also reflects on memory, addiction, and time. The book gets into his introduction to heroin, his addiction (and the denial that he's an addict) and his ongoing relationships with his demons. In fact, other than the central metaphor of "white," one of the themes that runs consistently through this narrative, he spends a lot of this book talking about "the first time." As he tells his readers, the first time is "dope's magic secret."
"Then I see a white-topped vial. Wow. I stare at it. It's the first time I've ever seen it. I know I've seen it ten thousand times before. I know it only leads to bad things. I know I've had it and touched it and used it and shaken the last particles of white from the thin deep bottom one thousand times. But there it is. And it's the first time I've ever seen it."
“It might seem like I’m kind of obsessed by the first time I did dope. No shit. If you’re writing a book about this, and you don’t use at least this much space writing about the first time, you’re not being honest.”
Well, honest is what you get in this narrative, written in a style that can often come across as repetitive, but one which tries to convey what it was like for the author during the addiction years. His writing style seems to mirror his inner unraveling, but it makes sense and coheres in a bizarre, offbeat sort of way. Through it all he reminds his readers that the heroin is still "right over there" which, if you think about it, is pretty frightening.
I liked this book. I'll probably never really gut-level understand what Mr. Clune went through, and for someone like myself who picks up a personal account like this, I don't think it's fair to say that his experience can be entirely comprehended within the scope of a couple of hundred pages. That's not a negative -- this is his unique story, a way for him to try to relate his unique experience which was pretty frightening, even considering the positive outcome. But I think this book is probably best suited for readers who are close to someone who is an addict and who may want to try to glean some insight from Mr. Clune's experiences. It's definitely an account I'd turn to in that situation.
3.75, read in April of 2013. Another I forgot to write a goodreads review for! better late than never, though.
I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of3.75, read in April of 2013. Another I forgot to write a goodreads review for! better late than never, though.
I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of this novel, so to Trish at TLC Book Tours and to the publisher, a big thanks.
As an avid reader of international crime fiction, I have books from several countries around the world, but The Missing File is my first crime-fiction novel from Israel. It is also the first in a projected series (which I deduced from the final words "to be continued" at the end of the book) to feature detective Avraham (Avi) Avraham, who works out of a small, depressing office in Holon, close to Tel Aviv. As a police procedural it is not quite the same as most books in that category, although Avi shares the what's-becoming-ever-more-traditional detective/personal life angst of many other well known fictional crime solvers. Right away the reader is clued in that this story may actually be something different: a mom comes in to report her son missing and Avraham tells her to go home. The story continues with different twists and turns that also signal that this is not going to be your average police detective novel. No formulaic resolution for this author -- he is bringing something a little different to the crime-reading table in this book, and that's a good thing.
The case of missing 16 year-old Ofer causes Avraham a great deal of anxiety and causes him a major amount of second guessing himself throughout the story. Without going into any great detail about plot, the case takes some very strange turns. The Missing File, however, is less about the plot and more driven by character -- Avraham is supposed to be an ace detective but there are times that as a reader, you'll find yourself a) questioning decisions he makes to the point where it's difficult to understand why he's held in such high regard and b) wondering whether or not this case is ever going to be solved.
Avraham works in shabby surroundings, has to deal with a younger, more tech-savvy fellow detective in his squad who gets his boss's attention with his modern theories, and Avraham also comes home to an empty house every night, to watch Law and Order while picking off every mistake in the TV detectives' cases that would make them unprosecutable. He is constantly second guessing himself on the job and when he makes mistakes, he's virtually inconsolable; when he realizes he's brushed off a mother's concerns and the son still hasn't returned the next day, it causes him to dive into the case with a vengeance.
If you're looking for the average point A to point B solution, this is not the place where you'll find it. I appreciate anything beyond the ordinary, and Mishani has certainly given me that in this novel. Many readers have noted that the action in this book is slow, and that is definitely true. They've also noted that the action in The Missing File is not exactly what they're used to in a police procedural, and that is also the case, but from where I see it, that's a plus. My issue isn't with either one of these points; for me careful character development is key to any first novel in an ongoing series. Plot, pacing and solutions are important to me as well, but when I pick up what may be a series opener, I want to know if I like the main character enough to continue with a second installment. On finishing the book, Avraham still remains a mystery -- while we have a few clues as to what makes Avraham tick, I'm still not sure what lies beneath this very different detective. Then again, trying to discover that unknown factor just might be a very good reason to pick up the next book in the series. Definitely recommended, it should appeal to crime-fiction lovers....more
My very grateful thanks to Soho, for my copy of this wonderful book. The Fame Thief might be, in the author's words, an ode to "all the beautiful andMy very grateful thanks to Soho, for my copy of this wonderful book. The Fame Thief might be, in the author's words, an ode to "all the beautiful and not so beautiful girls everywhere who lose their way in the world without stumbling over anyone kind."
We're back in Hollywood territory once again as Junior takes on a sixty-plus year old mystery. This time he's not being blackmailed, but he's been summoned and hired by Irwin Dressler, a career mobster who pretty much controlled everything that went on in Hollywood for years. Dressler is in his 90s, and is taken care of by two thugs named Tuffy and Babe, but he is still one of the most dangerous old men around and someone to whom no one says no. Junior has been picked up by Dressler to find out who destroyed the career of Dolores La Marr, an actress who was once known as "the most beautiful woman in the world," and a Life Magazine cover girl way back when. One night in Vegas, 1950, the cops raided a party and everyone was picked up and tossed into jail, but everyone was bailed out within a couple of hours. Everyone, that is, except Dolores. A picture taken through the bars of her cell --"no sleep, no shower, no hairbrush, " makeup everywhere from crying -- turned up "everywhere," followed by more stories leaking pictures of Dolores with known criminals. As Dolores notes,
"One day I was the wide-eyed innocent from Scranton who was hitting it big in the sticks, and a week later I was the Whore of Babylon, I was a gun moll, I was a paid companion, I was a prostitute...I was over."
Dressler wants to know who set her up back then, and Junior starts looking into Hollywood's past, which is more than connected with the mob. But when he starts digging, people start dying.
The Fame Thief is another fine entry in this series, and like the other two, filled with that sarcastic, snarky humor that sets this series apart as well as that insider view of Los Angeles. There are a couple of diversions here not found in the others, though -- first, a step back in time to get the picture from Dolores' point of view, cool because I love when the past meets present in any novel; second, well, let's just say it's an element that took me by surprise and one which I was not so keen on, but I won't spoil it. I think all in all, this book may have been my favorite as far as storyline (without the final chapter), and I'll definitely look forward to the next installment. ...more
3.5 stars -- my thanks to Signal 8 Press for my copy.
The past catches up to ex-con Brendan Lavin, who gets out of prison and tries to reinvent himself3.5 stars -- my thanks to Signal 8 Press for my copy.
The past catches up to ex-con Brendan Lavin, who gets out of prison and tries to reinvent himself in order to avoid going back. Brendan owns a bakery which isn't doing too well, but still he hangs in there. He's come to a low point -- there's enough money to pay one bill out of many, and he has no money for fun things. While he's struggling, he receives a visit from his girlfriend's cousin, one of his old partners in crime. Brendan went down for the last job they pulled, kept his mouth shut and in return they took care of him. Once free, Brendan had no desire to be around them -- but now his past is looking at him in the face. The cousin, Tommy, offers him a job with his old crew, which Brendan turns down flat -- but when he can't pay the increased rent the landlord demands, he has second thoughts and goes back to the old life and his former cohorts in crime. The job gets botched pretty badly, with Tommy ending up dead and desperate, Brendan decides to make a clean getaway and start over somewhere else. China is about as remote as he can think of, so he steals a passport and makes his way to a new place and a new life. Things go well for several years -- he has started over with a new name, has a family and has built up a good business, but eventually, Brendan's past manages to catch up to him, threatening him and his new life.
Kjeldsen has written a good story with a main character you can't help but feel sorry for, even though he's done some pretty bad things in his time. Brendan's mom was a heroin addict, his dad bailed, he hooked up with the wrong people and went to prison for his crimes, but at the same time, he is determined to make something of himself and turn his life around. You can actively sense the frustration and the feeling of utter hopelessness that pressures him into becoming a criminal again; later, his conscience and his pulled-apart self often comes to him in the form of dead Tommy. Yet there's also the Brendan who's later become an active dad, and who will do anything for his family, especially when the situation gets pretty dire. Kjeldsen, who lives there, obviously loves Shanghai and has a great deal of insight into its character -- he evokes the city as a place of both past, present and future, a "disparate" city that all comes together "into one unified and dynamic system, inseparable, and complementary parts of a whole...". Here Shanghai hits all ends of the spectrum -- between migrants with their wooden carts on one hand and "rich Westerners and locals in gleaming new Maseratis and Bentleys," on the other; with gated communities and "luxury penthouses" juxtaposed against the "corrugated metal shacks" and shelters made of old shipping containers. There's also a lot of action in this book -- but here's the thing -- all of that action and emotional buildup throughout the novel comes to a really quick ending that reads more like a chronological account than a continuing story. It's like there's a series of events that buzz by so quickly that it's almost a "then this happened, then this happened, then this happened," kind of thing, with very little to flesh out events, not really keeping in line with the way the rest of the book read. Normally I get upset when authors use a lot of extraneous verbiage to pad out their stories; here I wanted more. I think if the author had added more of Brendan's post-Shanghai experiences into the mix, keeping in tune with his storytelling skills up to that point, it would have been much better, finishing off with more of a bang, reflecting the idea of Brendan's continuing effort to start all over again. One more thing -- the Chinese word "nai nai" (奶奶) refers to the paternal grandmother, and when Brendan talks about his daughter's Chinese grandmother, he uses that term. Just a little thing, really, but it grated.
Considering it's a first effort, it's a really good one but in this case, less is definitely not more. Recommended. I hope Mr. Kjeldsen does well and that he starts another book! ...more
I have the Five Leaves Crime version of this novel -- the cover picture is so much better than the edition listed here. (Give it a look-see here.
As I'I have the Five Leaves Crime version of this novel -- the cover picture is so much better than the edition listed here. (Give it a look-see here.
As I've been known to say for some time, I like my crime fiction dark and edgy. The Killing of Emma Gross is both of those things, and is based around the real-life case of Peter Kürten, the so-called "vampire of Düsseldorf" or "monster of Düsseldorf," a serial killer who plied his trade during the days of Germany's Weimar Republic (1919-1933). The author is quick to point out that the "vampire" label didn't actually originate at the time, but Kürten's crimes were definitely beyond heinous, as he brutally preyed on women and young girls. While those crimes and the "monster" who committed them are definitely a focus in this novel, the book examines a detective's quest to solve another murder, that of a young prostitute named Emma Gross, also a real victim, but not one of Kürten's. He claimed her as one of his, but it was a false confession. There is absolutely, I repeat, absolutely no light in this novel, but it is definitely a story worth looking into.
Detective Thomas Klein of the Düsseldorf KRIPO (kriminalpolizei) has accomplished the impossible. He has arranged to meet Peter Kürten and put an end to the fear plaguing the streets of Düsseldorf. Kürten is arrested and taken away, but not by Klein; that honor went to his rival, Detective Inspector Michael Ritter. Ritter and Klein are at odds not only because Klein worked on his own to arrange Kürten's arrest and withheld important evidence, but also because Klein had previously been sleeping with Ritter's wife Gisela. When Kürten is brought in, Klein is put away in a cell as well and worked over -- part of Ritter's revenge and anger toward him. When the police start to question Kürten, however, he won't speak to anyone about the case except for Klein, so Ritter is forced to release him and accept that Klein will be a part of the investigation. Kürten is only too eager to talk -- he confesses to all the murders and as proof that he really did them, takes police to the body of a little girl they'd been looking for and others not previously known about. But when he confesses to the murder of Emma Gross, something is off -- he gets the details wrong. In the meantime, another man had supposedly confessed, was taken to trial and convicted of the murders of Emma Gross and two others; that man now lives in a mental hospital, too mentally ill to be put away in prison at the time. Klein realizes that two of the murders confessed to by Kürten were ascribed to this other man, and if that's the case, perhaps the killing of Emma Gross was done by someone else entirely. Following only the slimmest of hints and leads, Klein sets about to find Emma's killer and help clear the name of the man falsely accused.
The Killing of Emma Gross is very straightforward, no unnecessary detours are taken throughout the novel, and the historical era is well conveyed, although perhaps not as fully as I'd expected. It's nearing the end of the Weimar era (1929) and the author captures ordinary citizens' frustration at inflation and unemployment, the Communists who took on "capitalist corruption" and printed their versions of the "truth" in their newspapers, police brutality and corruption, and the darker, seedier side of the city during this time. In one scene that I'll probably never forget because of the image it made in my head, Klein walks into a club where a bizarre cabaret is going on, performed by women dressed in nothing but a Kaiser Wilhelm mustache and a helmet. The time and place are not conveyed as well as they are, say, in Marek Krajewski's characterizations of this period in his Eberhard Mock novels, but there's enough here to transport the reader. Aside from that issue, the author is a master of sleight-of-hand (I can't explain why, but just trust me here), his central mystery is very well focused, as is Klein's investigation. There's also bonus at the end of this book for anyone who may be remotely interested in the real-life Peter Kürten -- a timeline that takes the reader through his crimes up to his eventual execution in 1931.
I'd recommend this novel for readers of very dark crime -- this book is definitely not for the faint of heart, nor for anyone looking for a happy ending. It's edgy, gritty and I have to say, one of the better books I've read in the area of crime this year. It is a no-nonsense, cutesy-less novel and I hope he continues this trend in the next book he writes -- considering that this is his first novel, I'm amazed to discover that his way of writing crime fiction matches the type of work I look forward to finding and reading in this genre. Super....more
The scene is Boston, starting in the 1970s. The FBI has made it a top priority to clamp down on organized crime (in this case, the Mafia, populated byThe scene is Boston, starting in the 1970s. The FBI has made it a top priority to clamp down on organized crime (in this case, the Mafia, populated by the Italians of North Boston). John Connolly, a very young FBI agent, is called to the Boston office to work in the Organized Crime unit. The idea was that if he could find someone to rat out the Italians, the FBI's job would be made much easier. Connolly begins to cultivate James (Whitey) Bulger, a former acquaintance from Connolly's old neighborhood in South Boston. Bulger was a career criminal, beginning his future occupation as a young boy, and he and one of his associates, Steve Flemmi, had ties to the Italian mob in Boston. Whitey was also part of a gang in Southie. He became an informant for the FBI, and in return, he was given protection by the FBI. His information was very helpful and did help to put away some of the Mafia guys, but in the meantime, he also gave info on anyone in South Boston that he considered might be standing in his own way as he rose up through the ranks of the criminal underworld.
The authors, Lehr and O'Neill, used a variety of first-hand sources to not only write this book, but to break the entire story in the Boston Globe. What they examine here is basically the true cost of the information provided by Bulger. While he's giving them good information, he's also being allowed to literally get away with murder.
I won't go further into this book, but I picked it up the other night and could hardly put it down once I started. I guarantee you that if you have an interest in organized crime, this is a no-miss story. I would like to say that I was appalled by the sheer abuse of power from members of an institution created to protect the American public, but frankly, it's getting harder and harder to be surprised any more.
Very well written and very taut; I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in organized crime, the FBI, in the so-called Irish Mob in the United States or in true crime in general....more
My copy of this book is so old it's not even listed here; it's published by Methuen, the 14th edition that I found in a little antique/book3.5 stars
My copy of this book is so old it's not even listed here; it's published by Methuen, the 14th edition that I found in a little antique/book store near my house and paid a dollar for. The Red House Mystery is not a bad read -- neither is it, as Milne says in his introduction, "very nearly the ideal detective story." It's a country-house, locked-room sort of story, with lots of red herrings, two amateurs playing at Holmes and Watson and an ending that I sort of guessed but not really. It's also one of those books where you have to make yourself get through the first few chapters, but after that you'll encounter pretty smooth sailing the rest of the way.
Antony (Tony) Gillingham, the less important son of a privileged family, came into an inheritance at 21, and decided to see the world -- through its people. Now at age 30, he has decided to go and visit a friend, Bill Beverley, whom he met earlier while working at a tobacconist's shop. Bill, it seems, is a guest at a house party at Mark Ablett's Red House, and Antony decides to go and see him. As it turns out, he arrives just in time for a murder -- that of Robert Ablett, Mark's "wastrel" brother from Australia who had just recently arrived. Everyone else is asked to leave; Bill and Antony stay on at the house until the inquest with Mark's cousin and protégé Matthew Cayley. Having time on his hands, and "wanting a new profession," Antony decides that becoming a "private sleuthhound," and "being Sherlocky" are just the ticket, and tags Bill as his ever-faithful Watson. Anthony's already got the murderer pegged, but how he/she did it is another question altogether. While Bill sees it as a Sherlockian lark, Tony sometimes finds the going tough:
"Of course, it's very hampering being a detective, when you don't know anything about detecting, and when nobody knows that you're doing detection, and you can't have people up to cross-examine them, and you have neither the energy nor the means to make proper inquiries; and, in short, when you're doing the whole thing in a thoroughly amateur, haphazard way."
Now here, refreshingly, is a character who understands his limitations -- and the possibility that he could be wrong about some things actually occurs to him from time to time. Nevertheless, the two do a proper bit of sleuthing here, even if at times it seems as though they're playing at silly buggers.
The amateur approach to crime solving here is interesting and I'm sure the author meant well, given his "passion for detective stories," but when it comes right down to it, there are several PPIs (problematic plot issues) that are really noticeable, especially for avid crime-reading junkies. Still, it's a fun little mystery novel, and I have a secret fondness for stately English-manor mysteries, so I found it quite enjoyable -- more so for the two main characters and how they go about pretending to partake in a Sherlockian adventure than for the plot itself. I also loved the introduction to this book, where Milne (yes, the Winnie-the-Pooh guy) talks about his love of detective stories and his ideas about the elements of the perfect detective story. I have to agree with him on most points.
Some readers may find the language a little stilted -- one reader noted it as being "tedious," but fans of crime writing during this era are used to it so it's not really that big of a deal. And there's nothing at all tedious about it. If you're looking beyond Agatha Christie for a 1920s-period novel, you might enjoy this one. ...more
If you want the longer version, it's here; otherwise, read on.
Laird Barron is probably the only recent author I've read who can put together a compilaIf you want the longer version, it's here; otherwise, read on.
Laird Barron is probably the only recent author I've read who can put together a compilation of his stories and keep me totally involved, off balance and maximally creeped out through the entire book without any exceptions. He's also one of the few horror writers in my experience who writes his stories with prose to equal pretty much any literary author, and he does not rely on cheap thrills, hack-em/slash-em gratuitous gore or gross shockers to strike a genuine chord of fear that continues to resonate long after the last page has been read. The dark atmosphere that envelops the book as a whole hits you the minute you open to the first story and then never lets up. Obviously I really liked Occultation; there's absolutely nothing like a few excellently-terrifying stories to get the adrenaline pumping. I just wonder where this guy gets his inspiration -- oh, strike that...I don't think I want to know.
As in Barron's The Imago Sequence, there is a focus here on the cracks in our "earthly architecture" allowing the unearthly inhabitants of the cosmos who lurk there to peek in or wander on into our landscape; more importantly, they also allow for the more earthbound to catch an unwanted glimpse of what's out there waiting in the shadows. Occultation also continues Imago's themes of absorption and transformation, although this time there is a bit more focus on the occult and the workings of madness than in the previous work, with more than a hint of our own mortal insignificance as aligned with the greater powers that lurk. Here's a quick rundown of these frightening little tales:
1. “The Forest,” a brief tale that in hindsight serves as a thematic preview to the following stories. A cinematographer, Richard Partridge, is invited to what will become both a reunion and a goodbye in the New England woods. His host is a world-famous filmmaker fascinated with "untangling the enigmas of evolutionary origins and ultimate destination," whose newest work offers Partridge a glimpse into Earth's future, along with the present means of communication with those who are destined to inherit the earth. Elements of "The Forest" will reappear later. 2. “Occultation," a story that takes place in a run down old motel along the desert highway. While a sleep-deprived couple boozes it up in their room, playing "Something Scary," getting high on X and stopping to have sex every now and then, a strange stain on the wall captures their attention. The light in the room doesn't work and the shadow continues to grow; in the meantime, while they partying and the shadow attract their attention, outside the room, "the world had descended into a primeval well." 3. "The Lagerstätte," which details a woman's decline into madness from her grief at losing her husband and son simultaneously in a plane crash. Or does it? Related in a manner that leaps around time in a nonlinear sort of way, the story has several jarring, discordant reflected directly from her mind, a place where the line is blurred and often shattered between hauntings, hallucinations, and reality. 4. “Mysterium Tremendum,” an offering about two couples who take a brief camping vacation into the woods of the Pacific Northwest guided by a strange antiquarian book called the "Moderor de Caliginis" found quite by chance. The story starts out slowly, but builds into one of the creepiest stories in this volume, as the group slowly realizes the truth of an earlier warning that "The Crack that runs through everything stares into you." Definitely one of the best stories in the book. The descriptions of the woods in this part of Washington are not only spot on, but downright chilling, as is the creepy ending. 5. “Catch Hell, ”which has much more of an occultish-type touch than Barron's normal fare, although it is one of the stories that definitely embodies his themes of transformation and the "dread of aloneness." A couple who've recently and mysteriously lost a baby come to the Black Ram Lodge, a former trading post in the 19th century which became a mansion before becoming a tourist spot. Just 40 miles east of Seattle in the hill country, it's a whole different world, as they will soon discover. 6. “Strappado.” Now we've come to my favorite story of the entire collection, one which absolutely necessitated a reread. Moving out of the woods, even out of the country, "Strappado" takes place in India, where two former lovers are reunited and eventually find their way to an exhibition of the work of an outlaw artist. To say more would kill it, but I came away from this story both times absolutely stunned at the sheer portrayal of the insignificance of human lives. Much like "The Procession of the Black Sloth," my favorite story in Barron's The Imago Sequence, "Strappado" is highly reminiscent of an Asian horror film. If they ever did make this story into a movie, leaving nothing to the imagination, I'd probably have to pass. It's that creepy, and the final few lines of this story really did a number on me in terms of its ramifications. The title is sort of a double entendre -- you just have to think about it for a while to figure out why. 7. “The Broadsword” features a retired field surveyor who has a secret that will ultimately return to bite him. A long-term resident of the old, arte deco apartment building known as The Broadsword, Pershing Dennard lives alone. His story starts with voices heard through a vent -- and an acknowledgement that someone knows he's listening. Once again, Barron starts the action very slowly and builds it to a horrifying climax that's still resonating in my head, and once again, there is a crossing of the "axis of time and space by means of technologies that were old when your kind oozed in brine," and a hapless human being caught in "the black forest of cosmic night." 8. “–30–" After just a minute of time on Wikipedia, I learned that " –30–" is a way journalists signal the end of a story. And indeed, an finish is captured in the beginning of this tale with the lines "You know how this is going to end." Two biologists who have past history but haven't been together for a long time are stationed together in a module within a hemisphere out in the desert of Washington state. Their work is scheduled to last for six months; the only relief is the occasional helicopter re-supply. They are situated in the former base of cult-like group called "The Family" whose killing exploits are legendary, much like the group under Charlie Manson in the 1960s. The Family is gone now, but there may be something lurking out there still. Or not. 9. “Six Six Six.” This is another story I had to reread. A young man and his wife inherit a big house in the forest, where events of the past continue to reverberate in the present and evil lurks within the very walls. Along with "Catch Hell," "Six Six Six" takes on more of a pure occult style; of the two, this one has much more of a haunted, claustrophobic atmosphere that oozes through the pages. I always wonder about the people in stories or in movies who come across a door bolted shut by every possible means and decide they absolutely must open it. Never a good idea.
I thought that after Imago the act would be so difficult to follow that it couldn't possibly be as good. Well, I was wrong. There are so many elements at work here -- human isolation, trauma, a new look at old ruins, the insignificance of humanity in a grander cosmic scheme, and more. The backdrop of the forest is absolutely perfect with its covering mists and darkness where anything is bound to jump out or worse...where things lurk just waiting to be stumbled upon.
Highly recommended -- darkness is definitely not needed for the hair on the back of your neck to stand on end. ...more
Last November when I read David Mark's crime fiction book called The Dark Winter , I was surprised at how ve(my copy from the publisher -- thank you!)
Last November when I read David Mark's crime fiction book called The Dark Winter , I was surprised at how very good it was for a first novel. Now, with Original Skin, Mark has kicked things up a few notches to create an even better second series installment, set in the Hull, West Yorkshire area of England.
His protagonist, DS Aector McAvoy, is a member of the specialized squad known as the Serious and Organized Crime Unit under the direction of McAvoy's boss Trish Pharaoh. The unit is currently under fire from the Humberside Police Authority because of the rise of violent crime statistics, not helped much by the crimes of a gang viciously attacking and torturing smaller growers as a means of taking over their farms and intimidating them. After doing his best to convince the Police Authority committee members that the unit is working hard to solve the case, McAvoy decompresses by taking a walk along the towpath by the Humber, where a) he sees two people talking that may be committee members, and b) in the water among the litter of supermarket carts, bottles, mattress springs etc., he finds a cell phone and picks it up. Curious, he picks it up, thinking he might be able to fix it. What he finds on the phone starts another investigation rolling, one that leads to a very clever and rather nasty killer whose first crime, as it turns out, was written off as a suicide. If what I've written so far doesn't spark your interest (although for serious crime readers it should whet some measure of curiosity), and you're more of a Fifty Shades of Gray type person, you can add into the mix a young woman with a unique tattoo who belongs to the world of swinging sex parties, sexual submission and sex for thrills with people she's only met online.
Keeping the action up over 427 pages in any novel of crime fiction is a tough job, but the author does not disappoint. With his excellent characterizations, a well-plotted and rather twisty core murder mystery and his look at how the local area is primed for "high crime" -- for example, the decline of local industry, lack of investment, lack of "impetus on education," and the geographical "sense of isolation," -- all working together harmoniously, the 400+ pages fly by in no time. My own small niggle here is the amount of time spent with Aector's home life, but that's a personal issue, because I'm more about the crime, less about crying babies keeping both parents awake over several nights. It's all about character development, but I'm an impatient reader.
While McAvoy is a gentle giant of a policeman and a family man, the author takes him down some very dark paths in this book, so I'd recommend it to fans of more darkly-oriented police procedurals. While cozy readers may find this book a bit overwhelming, readers who enjoy more serious crime will definitely be glued. Do not, however, start the series with this novel, but instead with Dark Winter, as things in Original Skin build from the first book. Overall -- much better than the first book and an intriguing read any serious crime reader will want to read. ...more
for a longer look at the first two books in this series, and the series in general, click here; if you're content with a brief look, keep reading.
okafor a longer look at the first two books in this series, and the series in general, click here; if you're content with a brief look, keep reading.
okay...a 3.75 rounded up.
With an asteroid only months away from crashing into the earth, the number of suicides around the world has skyrocketed. In Concord,New Hampshire, where this book is set, many of them are by hanging. So when a guy has been found dead with a belt around his neck in the men's room of a McDonald's, it seems like it's just another "hanger," but detective Hank Palace doesn't think so. He thinks it's murder and wants to do a full investigation, even though his colleagues think he's wasting his time. He's also got a sister to deal with, who comes to him because her husband has gone missing. The question here is what spurs him on when the apocalypse is just around the corner -- what is it about this guy that compels him to do what he does? And how the heck does he stay so good when the rest of the world's starting to come unglued?
The investigation in this book is not so different than in any crime novel -- it's what's going on around the police work that makes for the best reading. While global society is starting to unravel at its edges, in Concord it's getting harder to find gas, cell phone signals and internet connections, but people are becoming really clever. They're also pretty afraid of getting arrested -- with new federal government laws in place that put people away for even minor offenses, no one wants to live out their last days in a jail cell. And, as you might have guessed, conspiracy theories are rampant and organizations have sprung up, filled with people who believe there's still hope if they act -- Hank's sister Nico among them.
Considering it's the first novel in a series, it's pretty darn good. I like Hank, but I spent a lot of time wondering how he keeps it all together while things are starting to fall apart. He's overly nice, an all-around good guy, less cynical than I'd expect. The supporting characters are not as well developed as they probably could be, but that's pretty normal for a first-in-series novel. I also found the predoom setting to be a really interesting backdrop for a police novel, but the book was overall less "apocalyptic noir" in tone than I'd hoped it was going to be. The one thing I really didn't like (but understand the logic behind) was the whole Nico plot -- where she gets involved in some "nonsense" regarding secretly-constructed bases on the dark side of the moon -- that gives these parts of the book more political conspiracy thriller-weighted moments that to me seemed unnecessary.
If you are a fan of crossover novels, you'll have a sporting good time with this one, so I'd say give it a try, and definitely read this one before moving on to the second novel,Countdown City. ...more
Just 77 days away from its collision with our planet, people are trying to prepare for the inevitable. The government has put main character out of aJust 77 days away from its collision with our planet, people are trying to prepare for the inevitable. The government has put main character out of a job, and has federalized the Concord Police Force. Investigative units, including detectives, are out -- "relatively unnecessary, given the current environment." The patrol units are amped up, but now everyone reports to the Justice Department. Hank takes early retirement after being on the job only a short time, but his unemployed status doesn't curb his desire to help others. Countdown City is much more action packed than its predecessor, The Last Policeman, and I have a feeling that this volume might be the lynchpin between the first and the last novel in this series, getting everyone in place for what's to come.
The situation is rapidly becoming hopeless as the world waits for the big crash. The scientists have predicted that the asteroid will hit Indonesia or at least somewhere close, and American shores have been flooded with boats filled with people trying to escape "boomsday." Electricity in Hank's neck of the woods is no more; people are getting "aftermath ready," hoarding food and water and "whole new forms of abrupt departure, new species of madness" are popping up everywhere. Scam artists are taking what money people have left. Hank's sister is still involved in an "anti-asteroid conspiracy" group, one of several which have popped up, taking their theories very seriously. In the midst of all of the craziness, Hank's childhood babysitter Martha is missing her husband, and calls on Hank for help. Nice guy that he is, of course he can't turn her down, and despite the fact that his usual resources no longer exist, he forges ahead.
There are two main avenues being explored here -- first, the search for Martha's husband, which leads Hank down other investigative avenues, and the author's exploration of people's responses to downright dire circumstances. On one side, the litany of people and their uncivilized behavior begins to get depressing, although it's fit into Hank's investigation well so that there's no in your faceness about it. It's so realistic that after I finished this book one of my first thoughts was about all these weirdo people in real life who think a coming apocalypse could be a good thing -- and how they don't have a clue. Both avenues tie very neatly together in this novel, to produce a heck of a setup for the final volume. Some events were a little too neat, too pat, too deus ex machina, though, sadly I can't say what those are so as not to spoil the show. Despite this kind of silliness, I can recommend this book -- especially to people of a dystopian bent where crime solving is a big factor in the story. Both books in this series are really out of the box -- a good thing....more
I have to say that this is one of the finer Victorian mysteries I've read and it kept me on the edge of the chair until the end. Once in a while I wouI have to say that this is one of the finer Victorian mysteries I've read and it kept me on the edge of the chair until the end. Once in a while I would get this idea that something is dreadfully wrong here, but couldn't quite put my finger on it. However, the true beauty of this novel is the atmosphere -- London during the Victorian period -- the darkness tends to overwhelm you while you read it. It is quite good (I love Ackroyd's works) and one in which the true mystery aficionado will not be disappointed.
Set in 1880s London, the story begins with the hanging of a woman, Elizabeth Cree, who has been found guilty of the murder of her husband, but only a few pages are devoted to this act; the story begins in earnest with a murderer whose works are detailed within the pages of a diary. As the murderer does not confine himself to one killing, and as the killings all seem to take place in a part of London known as Limehouse, the panic spreads and the murderer gains a name from the press: "The Limehouse Golem."
But Victorian London itself, or at least its somewhat darker denizens, is as much the topic of this book as is this series of murders. Author and essayist George Gissing and Karl Marx both turn up as themselves here, analyzing the suffering of those on the streets and the society which causes this to happen. Ackroyd's description of London is so incredible that you'll start imagining the darkness of the fogs, the smells, the poor and all of their sufferings, the theaters that Karl Marx proclaims are the true opiate of the masses. Simply wonderful all around....more
While this is my first book by Ackroyd, it won't be my last, especially since I have 3 or 4 more on my bookshelves! At first glance, this seems to beWhile this is my first book by Ackroyd, it won't be my last, especially since I have 3 or 4 more on my bookshelves! At first glance, this seems to be a ghost story: a young man, Matthew, inherits a bizarre house from his father. Neither Matthew nor his mother even knew that his dad had owned the house, so it was a complete mystery to him. It was located in Clerkenwell, somewhere Matthew never ventured, and from the moment he walks in, he feels something about the house, and soon starts noticing strange things there. It is also a look at London past, present and future, all of these terms being, of course, relevant depending on the time period in which the story is being told. There are actually two stories here, that of Matthew, who in acquiring the house begins to question his past; and that of Doctor John Dee, who had been the previous owner of the house in the 16th century, who looks to the past present and the future; as the author notes on page 132, "John Dee...had, in one way or another, belonged to every time." And time and the temporal realm is another key theme of this novel.
I don't pretend to understand the alchemical symbolism throughout the novel, but maybe by the time I read it again, with a bit of study, I can do better the next time. For now, suffice it to say, this is another one I'd rate definitely NFE (not for everyone); it was good, but I felt so ignorant reading it that I didn't really get a chance to enjoy it....more
Set in Reykjavik, Iceland, an elderly man is discovered to have been murdered in his apartment. Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson of the police and his cr Set in Reykjavik, Iceland, an elderly man is discovered to have been murdered in his apartment. Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson of the police and his crew find only a picture of a grave hidden behind a drawer in a desk and a note that says "I am him" on the victim as evidence, and as they continue to dig, they discover that their victim had been accused years earlier of sexual assault, although never convicted. Erlendur must now reopen the original case, which leads to the uncovering of secrets that some felt were better left buried forever.
I love Scandanavian mystery novels, and this one is no exception. I can definitely recommend this one. Indridason is a fine author who sets a serious tone immediately which never lets up. The characters are lifelike and believable, and the mystery continues to build until the very end. I'll definitely be reading more of this author's work. ...more
Very brief, this reads quickly & it is easy to read as well. If, like myself, you are a fan of Japanese ghost stories, you're going to see the endVery brief, this reads quickly & it is easy to read as well. If, like myself, you are a fan of Japanese ghost stories, you're going to see the end coming on this one right away so that kind of spoiled it for me, because this story is very much in line with the old traditional type of ghostly tale from Japan.
A brief summary:
Harada-san (Hideo) is in his mid 40s, is a scriptwriter for television who isn't working all that much any more and lives alone, having been recently divorced and never taking enough time to see his college-age son. He lives in Tokyo, in an apartment which is an office building by day but which during the night has maybe one or two lit windows that one can see from the outside. He is just a drab little man with a blah life. Many years ago, when he just a boy (I think he was 12), he was waiting for his parents to return home but they never did. His mom and dad were doubled on a bike when they were hit from behind in a hit-and-run accident. He was sent to live with his grandmother, but then she died, then sent to live with his uncle, who sent him to college and then died. Well, as it turns out, one day it was Hideo's birthday and he got a bee in his bonnet to go to his birthplace of Akasuka. When he arrived, he walked into a mediocre comedy club pretty much kept going by tour bus crowds, and there he saw a man that looked just like his father. It looked so much like his dad that he couldn't help but to keep looking at the guy. At the end of the performance, the strange man invited Harada-san to come home with him for a beer so Hideo goes. When he arrives, the strange man's wife is there and she is the spitting image of his mother. From there, the tale gets stranger and stranger and Hideo Harada finds himself in great danger from the other side.
I liked this book. Again, it was somewhat stilted and formalized in translation but that's easily overcome. The dialogue sometimes was kind of silly, with little annoying things like money being called "dough" etc which seems out of context in the story. Kind of simplistic in tone, although it does delve into the whole search of self by Harada-san and why he feels like he must continue to see his "parents." Harada is a very tragic figure to begin with, and by the end of the book I was really pulling for him. When a book does that for me, then it's a good read.
Overall recommended, but don't look for something along the lines of a Noel Hynd or James Herbert type of ghost...the Japanese really have a great way of ghost story telling and this book fits into the tradition. If you are interested in Japanese ghost stories, check out those written by Lafcadio Hearn. You will so not be sorry....more
Most definitely a no-miss book, despite the fact that it was written in the 1930s. They Shoot Horses, Don't They is short (only 127 pages) but incredMost definitely a no-miss book, despite the fact that it was written in the 1930s. They Shoot Horses, Don't They is short (only 127 pages) but incredibly powerful, examining not only how much pain or humiliation a person can withstand in his or her own fight for survival or that of others, but it also looks at the utter hopelessness for some in life's unending dance toward the American dream. Stay here for the shorter review, or click here for a longer one.
Robert and Gloria, two young people who have wandered to Los Angeles in as yet unfulfilled hopes about breaking into the movie biz, meet by chance and strike up a conversation. It isn't long until Gloria tells Robert about an upcoming dance marathon that promises free food, a place to sleep and a $1,000 prize -- but the big draw for Gloria is that the marathons are often attended by directors and producers who just might have a part for you in an upcoming movie. Robert is reluctant but gives in, and the two become one of 144 couples hoping to win; half of the dancers have "made a business of going in marathon dances from all over the country;" the rest were just ordinary people hoping for that one shot at success in what will ultimately become a monumental test of endurance and a desperate fight for survival.
Dancing or staying on one's feet for 1 hour and 50 minutes, with 10-minute breaks before the next round begins is tough enough, but McCoy reminds us that what is a life-and-death struggle for some is merely entertainment or business for others. When the audience isn't large or famous enough, the dancers are put through an especially grueling "novelty" each night called the derby, a 15 minute race where the couples go around a painted oval on the floor, with the woman holding on to a belt specially designed to keep the couple together, a feat designed to bring in more watchers, which means more money to the promoters. The last couple to finish is disqualified, so the derby becomes a painful race to stay ahead. (Oh, the symbolism abounds in this novel and it's simply amazing!) People begin to stumble or fall, and the others have no choice but to step over the broken bodies and broken dreams to not be last. The promoters are especially hopeful that the show will bring in "that Hollywood bunch," and as the contest becomes more painful and competitive, the promoters up the ante with cheap stunts like an arranged marriage that will yield the couple $100 -- entirely sponsored, of course and "in line with the management's policy to give you nothing but high class entertainment." But at the heart of this story is Gloria, with her defeatist outlook which manifests itself in ongoing death wishes for herself throughout the novel. She's a misfit, and having tried and failed so many times, she just doesn't care any longer, she's hopeless in the true meaning of the word, tired of the idea that "the big break is always coming tomorrow," and "sick of doing the same thing over and over again." She's ready to "get off this merry-go-round...through with the whole stinking thing." And after the dance is over, what is there for her to look forward to? The marathon truly is Gloria's life encapsulated in a matter of days and hours.
I could seriously go on and on about this book because the 127 pages is just filled with amazing though stark-in-style writing and wonderful symbolism that doesn't bog a casual reader like myself down into frustration. They Shoot Horses, Don't They is a magnificent novel that snapshots a period of time in a meaningful although bleak manner, creating a microcosm of America with hope and hopelessness right at the center of life in a most miserable era, but also carrying a great deal of modern relevance. Definitely recommended. ...more
I rate this like a 3.85, rounded up to a 4. I see that other people have noted that this book is only available in India; I went to Penguin India forI rate this like a 3.85, rounded up to a 4. I see that other people have noted that this book is only available in India; I went to Penguin India for my copy which was surprisingly cheap with very fast shipping. On my blog entry for this book, I appended a message to whoever gives a crap about availability of books nominated for international literary awards. If you're interested, go take a look. Now on with the review.
Rebirth is Jahnavi Barua's first novel, although in 2008 she also authored a book of short stories entitled Next Door. It is narrated by the main character Kaberi, and the narrative is addressed to her unborn baby, the type of thing I normally shy away from in my reading choices. No wait. I normally RUN from this type of thing. However, to be perfectly honest, and much to my own surprise, there are several features that elevate this novel from being just another book of women's fiction or chicklit. It has a vividly-evoked sense of place and time, quality prose that does not fall prey to overdone cliches, and the reader catches a glimpse into issues facing not only modern Indian women, but a bit of India's ongoing regional, political strife that affects people in all walks of life. There is also a nice, reflective symmetry at work that is well constructed: the story takes place over the few months between Kaberi's discovery that she is pregnant and the first pangs of labor contractions, and as Kaberi is patiently awaiting the baby's emergence, she is also on a path toward her own.
Kaberi is married to Ranjit (Ron) and lives a very middle-class existence in a nice flat in Bangalore. She has been working on a children's book for about a year, unbeknownst to her husband, and the book is now ready for her to begin the editing process. But despite her environment, upscale life and her happiness about being pregnant, things are not so great for Kaberi: Ron is having an affair and living with another woman, and has moved many of his things out of the flat. Ron's behavior toward Kaberi fluctuates erratically; often when Ron wants something from Kaberi, she usually acquiesces with little protest, but he is not above using physical violence on her from time to time. Kaberi hasn't mentioned the pregnancy to her husband; she wants him to return to her not because of the baby, but because he still loves Kaberi. Actually, Kaberi hasn't mentioned the pregnancy or Ron's absence from their home to anyone; the one friend in whom she may have confided early on was killed in a bus explosion during an insurgency in Assam, and Kaberi just lets on that Ron's company frequently sends him away on business. When Ron comes to her to ask for a divorce, he expects that she will give in to his request, but Kaberi realizes that now she is in a position of strength, one that is only bolstered by a trip home to Assam when an unforeseen event occurs. Obviously there's a great deal more to the story, but to say any more would be unfair.
Yes, yes, yes, I know it sounds like the standard women's fiction/chicklit kind of story, but there is an unusual amount of depth at work in this novel which lifts the premise of this story from what it could have been to something on a much higher plane. The sense of place moves the reader from modern city -- where even in the midst of the city's hustle-bustle an open verandah attached to a flat can be an isolating experience -- to muddy roads to the lush jungle near Bangalore and then to the scenic river views in Assam where people float on barges for parties, each with its accompanying wonders and vivid colors in terms of flora and fauna. Moving along, the author never feels compelled to document incidents of domestic violence in graphic detail, nor does her main character wring her hands, bemoan her fate in a "poor, poor, pitiful me" kind of way, take revenge or take a lover to spite her unfaithful husband. The spotlight is always on Kaberi, her sense of isolation and the slow realization of her empowerment that comes about as a result of her inner strength, and the prose moves steadily and is, if anything, quietly understated. Finally, the author manages to weave in some of the political and social issues of the agitation in Assam, where people took to the streets to make their voices and agendas heard, only to be betrayed in the long run.
Rebirth is a very fast read but a good one, and if this is Jahnavi Barua's very first novel, then she's off to a running start in her writing career. I did get a bit tired of reading through longish descriptions of different outfits the women wore in this book, and the colors and styles various people used in decorating their homes -- it was just too extraneous for me to really care about and added little to the overall story. But really, if that's the worst I have to say about this book, then that's a good thing! I'll look forward to more from this author in the future.
Blood Done Sign My Name is a superb story by a superb author. I would most definitely recommend it to anyone seeking to further their knowledge of civBlood Done Sign My Name is a superb story by a superb author. I would most definitely recommend it to anyone seeking to further their knowledge of civil rights history; sadly (and as the author points out) just because back in the 50s & 60s Congress passed civil rights bills doesn't mean that these were ever fully implemented or accepted. In Tyson's book, he tells of an incident that took place in North Carolina as late as 1992, and I'm sure that the long-standing prejudices continue to foster ugly incidents into the present. So if you are interested in this topic, pick up this book.
brief synopsis; my impressions
"Blood Done Sign My Name," as the author notes on page 319 of this book, "started out as a slave spiritual. After the fall of the Confederacy it emerged as a paradoxical blues lament..." then "evolved into a gospel song," then in the 1940s sung by a group called The Radio Four, "elevates the transcendent spirit of gospel, but," notes the author, "listen closely and you can hear Chuck Berry down the line." Like the evolution of that song, the author's "hopes for this country have taken a similar trajectory," and his "ascendant spirits, like the future of our country, depend upon an honest confrontation with our own history." (319)
This book is not just another retelling of the stories of the civil rights movement ... it starts in 1970, actually, when two boys (one of them the author) are playing basketball and the other boy says to the author "Daddy and Roger and 'em shot a nigger." (1) Both boys were ten, living in Oxford NC; it was this incident which was the spark that set off the fire of unrest & violence in this small town; the book describes how the acts from both sides of the color line affected him, his family and the other members of this small town. While he keeps this story as the focal point of the book, he goes on to tell of his own roots, and his personal experiences during the volatile 70s -- during the time of Watergate, the Vietnam War -- up through the present when he took a group of students on a tour of the South. His story is fascinating & compelling; I couldn't put it down.
To be truthful, at first I wondered where all of this story about his family was going & why put it alongside a story about a terrible injustice. But eventually, it all ties together; the story could not have been done as well as it was without it.
I totally enjoyed the book and I'm going to get the author's other book now. Please do yourself a favor & read this book! ...more
Technically, this one I'd probably rate like a 3.5 or so (when are we going to get this option?)
I've read four books in this series now, and this oneTechnically, this one I'd probably rate like a 3.5 or so (when are we going to get this option?)
I've read four books in this series now, and this one wasn't my favorite, although it is still quite good. In this, the 3rd installment of the Bryant and May mysteries (of the Peculiar Crimes Unit), the two detectives and the others of the PCU are faced with the fact that someone is out to get the Whitstable family and is killing them off by incredibly deadly means, starting off with the death of Peter Whitstable, who, dressed in Edwardian clothing, decides to deface a painting on loan to the National Gallery. As more members of the family are murdered, the detectives realize that someone has a vendetta against the entire family -- and even the family's attorney, who becomes a victim of snakebite after a visit to the restroom of the Ritz. But when Bryant and May question the family as to what they know, or as to who might be wanting to take them out one by one, nobody is talking. What they are doing is screaming that the police are doing nothing, and they are threatening to sue unless they get some protection. But even then, Bryant and May find it incredibly difficult dealing with this very peculiar family. When they finally work out what's happening, the solution is probably one of the strangest they've ever encountered.
Once again, the writing is good, the characters are drawn really well (the Whitstables are so well done that you'll hate them all). Fowler's look at London's history is downright amazing (a lot of knowledge there) and as always, Bryant and May are their quirky selves. The problem here is that the solution is very clunky, complicated and difficult to understand ... I had to go back and reread it not just once but a couple of times until it made sense. But the getting there was most of the fun. Definitely recommended to people considering whether or not to continue in the series, and recommended to mystery readers who want something different. Don't start here, though... do begin with the first book. ...more