I can't begin to tell you how much I hate star ratings. They don't really reflect a) how much I enjoy/can't stand a book, and b) they're rather subjec...moreI can't begin to tell you how much I hate star ratings. They don't really reflect a) how much I enjoy/can't stand a book, and b) they're rather subjective at best. But I'll go with a 3.75 here.
The blurb for this novel by Times UK reads "an absorbing psychological thriller," and I'd go along with the "absorbing" part of that statement. Thriller, no. So if that's what you're expecting, forget it. However, getting back to absorbing, that's precisely what it is -- with some very twisty bits along the way. I've done a longer review with a highlightable spoiler section (since I give an opinion on what would have been a better ending) at the crime page of my online reading journal; if you go there, be sure you've read the book before you start highlighting.
here's the gist:
A woman in her 70s returns to her family home after being away for some time in a convalescent hospital. Her physician son, Martin, comes every so often to see her to make sure she's okay; otherwise her only company is her housekeeper, and Elsa Préau has a lot of time on her hands. One Sunday afternoon, she is awakened from her nap by the sound of a swing squeaking and the sounds of children at play. Watching out her window, she notices a little girl and two boys outside playing in their back yard. Watching the Desmoulins children becomes a pastime for Elsa, and she notices the same thing every week: the little girl playing with her younger brother, while the older boy sits still and quietly, "constructing totems with bundled twigs and flat stones" under a weeping birch tree. The more she watches, the more she notices that the older boy has very little interaction with the rest of the family. She also never sees him with the other children when they're out walking with their father. She starts keeping a record of what she sees, along with other observations, in a small moleskin notebook, writing about the dirty condition of the older boy's clothing, his grayish skin, that he only went outside on Sundays, and that he never played with the other two. She's drawn to him not only out of curiosity, but because he has an incredible resemblance to her grandson. In her notebook, she begins to refer to him as "the stone boy." Determined to get to the bottom of things, she starts asking around, only to find out that according to the local school, the social welfare office, and the little girl herself (who has started taking piano lessons from Elsa), that there are only two children living in the house behind Elsa's wall -- that the "stone boy" does not exist. Elsa decides it's time to take matters into her own hands.
I am of two minds about this book. First, I thought it was very well written, especially because the author has constructed a story that plays quite nicely on reader expectations and then proceeds to turn them all on their respective heads. Ms. Loubière also weaves some powerful contemporary issues into the story through Elsa's letters to the mayor and other officials as well as in her notebooks and in the last few pages where all is revealed. I have to admit to being so wrapped up in this story that everything else just sort of fell by the wayside and I accomplished absolutely nothing at all during my day while reading it. But after finishing it, I realized that this book could have had a much better ending that unfortunately I can't reveal without giving away the show (hence the above-mentioned highlightable spoiler section at the reading journal blog).
A book that had me as wrapped up in it as this one did can't help but be good, and I'd definitely recommend it. This is not going to be one of those novels that goes down in the annals of great literature, but it's a great way to while away the hours on a rainy day. It's also an amazing character study much more so than it is a thriller, and the way the writer plays with our heads is simply topnotch, ultimately delivering a one-two punch that will hit you in the gut.
Review soon, but for now, I'm looking for a new home for this book, so if anyone in the US would like my copy, it's yours for the price of commenting...moreReview soon, but for now, I'm looking for a new home for this book, so if anyone in the US would like my copy, it's yours for the price of commenting first. (less)
Well, let's put it this way. I found five stories I really liked (out of 21), two I gave an honorable mention to and well, that's about it. To say I w...more Well, let's put it this way. I found five stories I really liked (out of 21), two I gave an honorable mention to and well, that's about it. To say I was disappointed is a bit of an understatement, but on the plus side, the five I really liked I thought were very well done. If you're at all interested, I've written something up about this book at my online reading journal, where I've called it a "big meh." (less)
like a 3.25 - it's a good book, leaning more toward the thriller side than the books I normally read. I've written more at my online reading journal,...morelike a 3.25 - it's a good book, leaning more toward the thriller side than the books I normally read. I've written more at my online reading journal, so if you want the long version, you can click here.
In Australia, PI Cliff Hardy, whose work has slowed down a bit, is hired by the owner of a speakers' agency to make sure nothing happens to his client Rory O'Hara, a whistle blower whose work has left him with a lot of enemies. O'Hara is going on a speaking tour, ready to spill even more. It sounds like an easy job, but things start to go wrong almost right away when a woman on the tour is found dead, putting Cliff out of a job. But wait. Her brother offers him a lot of money to find out who killed her and why. Starting with the group of people on the tour, Cliff soon begins to discover that there's much more here than meets the eye - ultimately putting himself and a woman he's fallen for into a great deal of danger. As he moves across the country, he also realizes that someone is pulling a lot of strings -- but exactly who and why is what he has to find out.
Even though the plot is a bit twisty, Silent Kill is not a difficult book to read due to the author's very simple writing style. The story takes a convoluted path but is easy to follow, plausible, and it becomes a hybrid mystery/thriller that kept me turning pages. Although the murderer is identified before the end of part one, and that piece of the mystery is over, there's still Hardy's "simple problem" to solve: who was so worried about what O'Hara might do with his recent information that they set a killer in his midst? Here things sort of move into thriller zone, not my usual fare, but for those who enjoy them, there's plenty of high-powered action, conspiracies to sink your teeth into, and a solution that resonates with the times. All you have to do is pick up a newspaper to confirm what I'm saying.
Overall, it's always fun discovering a "new" author -- although Corris has been around a long time, he's a new blip on my international crime author radar that needs tracking. I think I'd recommend Silent Kill to people who are intrigued with thrillers that lean toward the action-packed, political side - not my usual forte but I did enjoy the way the author writes and above all, I enjoyed meeting Cliff Hardy. (less)
I don't think it's fair to give a star rating to this book when I'm so torn. Maybe a 3, I don't know -- I'm not a big critical reader, more on the cas...moreI don't think it's fair to give a star rating to this book when I'm so torn. Maybe a 3, I don't know -- I'm not a big critical reader, more on the casual side, but this book has some issues.
I have a longer entry about this novel at my reading journal, where I do a plot summary as well as what's written here, so click if you want that, hang here if you don't.
To be very honest, I'm sort of torn in my reaction to this novel. There is quite a bit about this novel to like - but it also has its down side, which is why my reaction is sort of muddled here. I'll start with the positives.
I was very much taken with the family history being so prevalent throughout the story. Cordelia, for example, often turns to Brumwitt's paintings that she's so carefully studied -- Woody once told her that the "history and the future" of the family were to be found in Brumfitt's paintings; he'd "painted all of the memories of Loosewood Island, even the ones that hadn't happened yet." At one point in the story, she even references a painting during a radio call for help to describe a situation she doesn't want everyone listening to know about. This same technique is used by the author at various important points where the paintings mirror what's happening, helping to move the action along so that he doesn't have to spend a lot of time describing what's going on. I also liked how he incorporates the tourists who have at some point decided to stay on the island who have set up a community of artists, and the "Brumfitt walks" that people can take. Another positive aspect of this novel is the closeness of this community of long-time island regulars who now find themselves being invaded by contemporary issues that are encroaching upon the way things have always been on the island -- the modern meth trade for easy money that substitutes for the traditional hard-work ethic, the arrogance of the seasonal tourists who build their houses and complain about the lobster boats blighting their ocean view, lobster poaching, and outsider views on lobster fishing that pits money against sustainability. Then there are the characters in the Kings family. The sisters have their spats, which is realistic; I was most especially drawn to Woody for his ability to reign in his daughter when she got too uppity and gung-ho, and to Cordelia for sticking up for herself, for the value she places on family history and tradition, and because as scrappy as she is, she ultimately ends up not coming across as some one-sided tough-as-nails person who captains her own lobster boat.
Now for my issues: In the first part of the book, where the author introduces the family's mystical lore, the island's history, and the Kings girls during their childhood, the writing is just so good, flowing very nicely and sucking me right into the story. I remember thinking at page 84 that if the rest of the book is written like this, I knew I was going to love it. Alas - we not too much later take a turn into sheer melodrama, centering on the drug dealer who came back to the island after his father died. When some of the locals get wind that he's on the island, not fishing but dealing meth, they take care of him in their own way. Add to this a murder subplot involving a showdown at sea, and the combination of the these scenes left me surprised at how much the book's tone had changed and had become reminiscent of a western movie or modern-day vigilante flick. The change highlighted for me the overall inconsistency in the writing. And while I was really into the Kings' family relationship, and wanted them to turn out well, the ending got plain sappy. Plus, let's get real: the whole King Lear thing just didn't come across as well as it might have.
I'm really torn on this one. For the most part, I liked the people in the Kings family, I was taken with the idea of this small, closely-knit island community facing some tough issues and changes coming from the outside. I didn't even mind the more fantastical elements built in to the novel's beginning, although one later instance in particular came across as a little too far-fetched to be taken in stride as just another moment of magical realism. It's just that the unevenness of the writing got to me after a while and left me kind of shaking and scratching my head. I'd tentatively recommend it based on the positive aspects mentioned above, and I will say that even though this book may not be a favorite of mine for this year, I'm still going to pull out my other novel by this author (Touch) and give it a try.(less)
I have a lengthy review on the crime page of my reading journal, so if you want the longie, click here. Otherwise, read on.
As Sorrow Bound opens, DS Aector McAvoy in Hull, East Yorkshire, is called to a horrific murder scene which might be gang related - McAvoy's boss tells him that the murdered woman had recently spoken out publicly against street dealers wrecking the neighborhood. When another woman is murdered, the police make a discovery that throws the gang-related theory right out the window. However, while Aector is busy with the police-mandated shrink, moving his family into a new home and trying to function in this investigation with very little sleep, a drug runner makes a serious error that will bring a cocky, self-styled "prince of the city" drug dealer with a lot of serious, well-placed protection behind him crashing into the life of one of McAvoy's colleagues and into the lives of McAvoy's family.
David Mark's third entry in this series featuring DS Aector McAvoy is the best he's written and also the darkest of all three books. For some people the dark tone of the novel may be a drawback, but for me, it's a definite plus. He ratchets up both the tension and the darkness, and there's nothing at all formulaic to complain about in this series of police procedurals. Once I picked it up, I didn't want to stop reading it.
So here's the big niggle (which is really hard to scoot around since I don't really want to give anything away): one of the main recurring characters does something that is so totally out of character and so completely unexpected that it absolutely threw me into "WTF?" mode. Then not long afterward, the same person, who you'd think would be so frightened as to listen to advice at this point, does something so foolishly stupid as to be just plain dumb, also very much out of character. I suspect that the repercussions that may follow for the last scene in this novel will lead to a major game changer for what's next in the series, and to an even bigger angst-fest than I've seen in any of the McAvoy novels so far. And since I'm a big fan of both McAvoy and of David Mark, I will be waiting right here to see it all unfold.
While you most certainly can read this book as a standalone, I'm a true series purist so my advice is to start with The Dark Winter and continue with Original Skin before reading Sorrow Bound. I found that by now I have a better feel for the very angst-laden DS McAvoy and what drives him. Just a heads up: this is no cutesy little cozy.
My thanks again to Blue Rider Press for the lovely copy they sent me to read. (less)
This one's a 4.5, and I do have to say that while I was reading it, nature provided the perfect backdrop -- hard rain, thunder, and lightning so brigh...moreThis one's a 4.5, and I do have to say that while I was reading it, nature provided the perfect backdrop -- hard rain, thunder, and lightning so bright it flashed through the closed blinds. I would also like to say that Valancourt Books has done readers a huge favor with this reissued classic -- they have made it widely available at a very good price -- have you seen the cost of a used crappy mass market paperback of this book?
absolutely no spoilers ahead:
The Elementals focuses on two Alabama families, the Savages and the McCrays. They're linked together through marriage and the fact that both families have for years spent their summers at Beldame, "a long spit of land, no more than fifty yards wide," where there are three tall gray Victorian homes, "large, eccentric old houses such as appeared in coffee table books on outré American architecture." Back now at Beldame after the strange funeral of Marian Savage is her son Dauphin, who is married to Leigh McCray and has inherited the family fortune; Leigh's brother Luker and his too-wise-for-her-years thirteen-year-old daughter India McCray from New York City; Big Barbara McCray, Leigh and Luker's mother, married to Lawton McCray, a candidate for US congressional representative, and the faithful Odessa, who's worked with the Savages for as long as anyone can remember.
One one side of this narrow piece of land is St. Elmo's Lagoon; on the other is the Gulf of Mexico. At high tide, Beldame is cut off, becoming a virtual island when the Gulf flows into the lagoon. The McCrays have a house on the gulf side; just opposite their house on the lagoon side is the house belonging to the Savages. The third house nobody lives in. No one can: the sand dune at the end of the spit has been encroaching on that house so much so that, as India notices on first seeing it, it "did not merely encroach upon the house, it had actually begin to swallow it." The third house holds its secrets, as do the McCrays and the Savages regarding their own childhood experiences with the third house. All anyone will tell India is that she should stay away from it, but India has a mind of her own, and off she goes exploring. And then ..., well, to say more would be to wreck the experience for someone else.
There are so many excellent things about The Elementals -- the characters, the slowly-paced beginning moving slowly toward an ever-growing anticipation of dread and then headlong into the horrors -- but one of the best features of this novel is the author's ability to capture and evoke the sense of place in his writing. There are various schools of thought either yea or nay on place as a character in a novel, but here that's just how it is. The isolation of Beldame, the third house with the sand covering it both inside and out, the beautiful waters of the Gulf, St. Elmo's Lagoon, the channel, the sand, and above all, the paralyzing heat and humidity of a southern summer that sucks the energy right out of a person -- the way he brings all of this place to life allows it to act not only on the characters directly, but also on the reader. He's captured the Southern summer heat with its god-awful humidity so perfectly that I could totally feel it while reading about it. Even better, by the last sections of the book, McDowell has perfectly combined those rising temperatures with the increasingly-growing horror, producing a kind of claustrophobic atmosphere that remains with the reader nearly up until the last moment of the story.
I loved this novel. If you're considering reading it, do not look at any reviews where they give away the whole shebang -- if I had known what was going to happen I wouldn't have enjoyed this book nearly as much. And speaking of that, read this book very carefully if you are at all interested in trying to figure out the main mystery surrounding Beldame and the third house -- it's never overtly stated (which I thought was a good thing), but I think you'll find that there are answers there to dig out. The one thing I didn't like about this book was that the pacing seemed kind of off at the very end -- much more rushed than I think it should have been given the tone of the rest of the novel. But what the heck. It's one of the best supernatural horror stories I've read in a very long time. Maybe modern readers of hack/slash gorefests will find it somewhat tame, but I certainly didn't. (less)
I've read a lot of books by Mary Roberts Rinehart, and sadly, The After House just isn't all that good. A word of warning at the outset: this book was...moreI've read a lot of books by Mary Roberts Rinehart, and sadly, The After House just isn't all that good. A word of warning at the outset: this book was published in 1914 and there are a few racial/religious epithets in the story that most people wouldn't use today, so please keep in mind that their usage reflects their common acceptance of the time.
Ralph Leslie has simultaneously just finished medical school and developed a case of typhoid that lands him in the hospital. He's broke and a friend of his feels sorry for him, wangling him a space aboard the Ella, a luxury yacht that is about to set sail on a cruise. Still weak from his illness, he comes on as an "extra man," working with the crew, and in case the butler becomes ill (since he's a 'poor sailor,') Ralph is told that he should be ready to take his place. On sailing day, nineteen people leave port. By the time they return, four of the nineteen are dead at the hands of a murderer with a penchant for axe wielding, a suspect is being held on board, and everyone is frightened out of their wits. Ralph decides to do a little sleuthing when he's not helping to sail the ship back to port, but more than a few people are hiding things that make his job a little difficult. His biggest job, however, is trying to prevent anyone else from being killed.
Once you get past the initial (and somewhat tedious) introduction of the players on the Ella, as well as the ongoing romance element (ick), there's a decent mystery here, although personally when I got to the solution, I had to cry foul. Although the author peppered her book with lots of little details and clues for the reader to sock away until guessing time comes, she didn't give the right clues to allow for any armchair detective to even come close to her solution. Unfair!
However, this book has an interesting history behind it. It was Mary Roberts Rinehart's own take on a similar, true murder case where a man had been found guilty and had been protesting his innocence for seventeen years; The After House was her version of the case where she offered a plausible, alternative suspect in an effort to get the case reopened.
I won't be adding The After House to my list of favorites written by Rinehart, but two of her novels, The Album and The Man in Lower Ten, are very much worth trying out if you're a vintage crime reader. (less)
Maybe a 3.75 on this one. The Drowning Pool is Ross Macdonald's second book in his Lew Archer series, but it's my first foray into this author's work....moreMaybe a 3.75 on this one. The Drowning Pool is Ross Macdonald's second book in his Lew Archer series, but it's my first foray into this author's work. After this book, I think that Archer is a guy I will enjoy reading more about. With eighteen series novels and two short story collections, there's a lot about this world-weary gumshoe to explore.
Lew Archer is called upon to investigate an anonymous poison pen letter sent to his client, Maude Slocum. Maude's beyond worried about her mother-in-law, Olivia, finding any more letters that might be sent, since she, her husband James, and their daughter Cathy are reliant upon Olivia's financial support and live in her house. Archer's been given very little to go on, but he wangles an invitation to a party at Mrs. Slocum's house, allowing him to size up both the situation and the people who attend, one of whom just might be the letter writer. When he decides to call it quits for the night, he takes himself and a fellow passenger he's picked up near the house down to a bar in an oil-rich California town called Nopal Valley, only to be picked up as part of a murder investigation, since it seems that Olivia has drowned in the backyard swimming pool. As it turns out, Archer was the last to see her alive, so the police really want to talk to him. But Olivia's death is merely the tip of this iceberg of a case, and as Archer soon discovers, only the beginning of a number of deaths that ensue as he doggedly tries to get to the truth.
The Drowning Pool must have caused quite a stir when published in 1950, with its crystal-clear references to homosexuality, prostitution, dysfunctional families, and illicit sex. Macdonald also explores the corporate world here along with the rich and extremely powerful people who inhabit it, and the defacing of once beautiful California landscapes.
Character-wise, Archer is intriguing. He hates phonies. He's on the front lines of understanding what human beings can do to themselves and to each other, but at the same time, he demonstrates compassion and empathy when people open up to him about their troubles. He says in this story that he doesn't know what justice is, but
"Truth interests me, though. Not general truth if there is any, but the truth of particular things. Who did what when why."
and in this book, his need to get to the "truth of particular things" lands him in hot water more than once, but he never stops looking until the end. Speaking of the end, I'm not so sure it's the best ending this book could have had, but as Archer himself notes, "The happy endings and the biggest oranges were the ones that California saved for export."
I love discovering "new" authors, and I liked The Drowning Pool enough to merit another go at Macdonald. The plot is heavy and convoluted, but well worth it in the long run. Recommended mainly to readers of hard-boiled fiction, but people looking to connect with classic American crime fiction will like this one as well. (less)
Since I'm into history and the publisher mailed me this book a while back, I've just finished Pulitzer-prize winner Kai Bird's The Good Spy: The Life...moreSince I'm into history and the publisher mailed me this book a while back, I've just finished Pulitzer-prize winner Kai Bird's The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames. I'd never heard of Robert Ames before, but now I'll never forget him. I've made a very lengthy post at the nonfiction page of my online reading journal, so if you want the long of it, click through. Otherwise, you're just getting my impression of the book here.
Ames' life and work as a CIA agent and then Intelligence Officer in the Middle East, as well as the glimpses behind the scenes at politics and policymaking are all very well portrayed here, and there may be some small merit in the author's thesis that when Ames was killed in the 1983 bombing of the US embassy in Beirut, a sizeable chance for peace in the Middle East died along with him. He had the both the ear and the confidence of formidable players there, he worked tirelessly to help put out flames before they became raging fires, and gave up much of his family life in the interests of peace. A Good Spy is a most excellent read, and it is definitely a book that a)I'll never forget b) I urge everyone who has an interest in trying to understand the current situation in Middle East to get a copy of and c) has definitely spurred my interest in further reading.
I'm still in a little bit of shock after having finished this book. Well worth every second. (less)
Before I say anything else, let me just note that there is a translation issue going on in this novel, but if you can get past that, the book is amazi...moreBefore I say anything else, let me just note that there is a translation issue going on in this novel, but if you can get past that, the book is amazing.
I've written a longer post at the crime page of my online reading journal. If you like chatty, more detailed reviews, click on through; if you're happy with the barebones, read on. [In this case, I'd go with the blog, but suit yourself].
Morituri may be among the most atmospheric of novels I've ever read. Set in 1990s Algiers, the reader becomes immersed right away into the dangers that exist on the streets. For the main character in this book, Police Superintendent Llob, even the most simple act of getting to work just might be his last. He has become a "privileged target" in a city where the cops have to "disguise" their routines as a security precaution. Firemen recovering corpses are blown up because bodies are often booby trapped. The city is under a zealously-enforced curfew, random bombings are nothing new, and people in high places are bought and paid for. Islamic fundamentalism is rearing its head in the city and throughout the country, and the civil war is in full swing.
Llob is tasked with taking on the thankless and, as it turns out, very dangerous task of finding the daughter of the highly influential Ghoul Malek. But it's what he doesn't know that should worry him -- here, nothing is at all what it seems to be. While this novel is definitely an action-packed crime read, there's way more to it than simply following cops around in their investigations.
Morituri is really an amazing novel, but the reading was really tough in places because of the idiomatic or other language choices used in translation that often threw me off. I eventually learned to get over the translation issue, although it still made for a choppy read. Having said that, the story turned out to be excellent, but very dark, very edgy, and the descriptions of Algeria during this time are just downright scary. It is also a novel chock full of contrasts.
I've already picked up book two in this series trilogy (Double Blank, Autumn of the Phantoms), so obviously this first book was good enough to merit the reading of the second installment. This probably isn't a book for everyone, but readers of dark and edgy crime fiction should like it, once they get past the language issues. (less)
Like 3.5 stars seems about right. I have a longer post about this book at my online reading journal; if you want a rundown on the short stories and a...moreLike 3.5 stars seems about right. I have a longer post about this book at my online reading journal; if you want a rundown on the short stories and a bit of controversy over one of them, go take a look.
There are eleven very weird stories by Philip M. Fisher (1891-1973) in this book. I'd never heard of him before, but now I'm going to try to find some of his other stuff.
*= I really liked this story
Introduction by Stefan Dziemianowicz "The Recent Demise of Professor Manried" (1917) "Queer" (1918) * "The Strange Case of Lemuel Jenkins" (1919) "The Ship of Silent Men" (1920) * -- One of my personal favorites in this volume, maybe the best one here. "The Master of Black" (1920) "The Man Who Put Himself Into His Work" (1920) [originally titled "Into His Work"] "Worlds Within Worlds" (1922) "Lights" (1922) "The Devil of the Western Sea" (1922) * "Fungus Isle" (1923) * "Beyond the Pole"(1924),
Beyond the Pole is basically a better-than-good, not great collection of strange tales. Some you have to use a mental machete to hack through the scientific jargon, making the stories a bit tedious in the reading, but even those are underpinned by otherwise cool storylines. It seems like the author wanted to make sure that his readers understood the science, so he added long sections of exposition to make everything clear. When authors do that sort of thing, though, it has the opposite effect on me -- I just get bored. And that's my biggest critique of this book -- the author's style. Other than that, I'm very happy to have found this guy -- I love weird, I love pulp, science fiction is okay and when you throw all of that in the mix, that's what you get in this volume.(less)
3.25 stars. Let's put it this way...not one of my favorite King novels.
This is the short review; the longer one is at the crime page of my reading j...more3.25 stars. Let's put it this way...not one of my favorite King novels.
This is the short review; the longer one is at the crime page of my reading journal.
Detective William (Bill) Hodges has recently retired, and sits watching mindless television day after day, often with a gun in his lap and thoughts of suicide not too far off. When he left the force, he left behind a few unsolved cases he'd been working on, but the one that haunts him most is that of the Mercedes Killer, so named because he drove a big Mercedes into a gigantic crowd of people waiting in line behind ropes for the opening of a job fair (promising 1,000 jobs) on a foggy morning, killing several including a baby. But Bill's ennui is about to be lifted -- he receives a letter from someone who says he's responsible, telling Bill that since he is such a big failure, he should just kill himself. The letter writer, who just a few pages later we're told is Brady Hartsfield (aka the "Mr. Mercedes" of the title), tells Bill that he can communicate with him via a very private chat/social site called Under Debbie's Blue Umbrella, where the "perk," as he calls himself, has already set up Hodges with a user name. Bill knows that he should probably turn the letter in to his old partner Pete, but he's intrigued -- and he wants to nail this guy. Rather than inspiring Bill to eat his gun, the letter gets his blood flowing again, and he decides to take this bad guy on -- but on Bill's terms.
Mr. Mercedes is a good enough read for a lazy couple of days in that laying-on-the-beach kind of book-that-you-can-read quickly sort of way. It's definitely a crime thriller with no supernatural elements involved, the perfect escape novel when you want something sort of mindless to read while you're relaxing in the summer sun. I'm afraid I didn't enjoy it as much as others seem to have, but that's okay. I'm sure that even without my vote it will become a huge bestseller. (less)
Actually, I finished this a little while ago, not today. I really, REALLY liked this book. I'm just posting a way shorter version of the longer post I...moreActually, I finished this a little while ago, not today. I really, REALLY liked this book. I'm just posting a way shorter version of the longer post I wrote at my reading journal blog; if you want the longer one, just click here.
A few months back while blurb-reading through the longlist for Australia's Stella Prize, the blurb of Moving Among Strangers caught my eye. I have no idea why -- I had absolutely no clue who Randolph Stow was, so really, my interest probably shouldn't have been so piqued. But it was as if this book somehow managed to exert some strange, weird pull on me and all I know is that I had to have it. While Randolph Stow, his writing, and his feelings about being a writer in Australia are all certainly a big part of this book, it is also a very personal sort of memoir of the author who, because of her interest in Stow, comes to understand more about her mother and father, and finds herself reconnected to long-absent members of her extended family. It is indeed a little gem of a book that combines her own family story to the story of this writer who penned the line "we are here as shipwrecked mariners on an island, moving among strangers, darkly." As I read through her memoir, this line out of Stow's The Girl Green as Elderflower (one of two epigraphs) came to take on a surprising amount of meaning in both lives.
Considering that I had no clue who Randolph Stow was when I first picked up this book, by the time I got to Ms. Carey's description of coming upon the location of the original merry-go-round by the sea in Geraldton, I was actually compelled to buy a copy of Stow's book of the same name. Moving Among Strangers is a lovely book that has a bit of a painful personal edge throughout that a reader can't help but to notice, offering a much more in-depth experience than say a straight-out biography of Stow would have. Ms. Carey also expresses herself in a straightforward way so as to make her book extremely reader friendly and accessible. I am not a big memoirs person, but truthfully, given that I was unfamiliar with the subject of this book, I was completely engrossed in this book the entire time I was reading it. It is definitely a book I can most highly recommend. (less)
Wow. I went to get publisher info (ISBN, # of pages) from Amazon and and was floored by the negative reviews of t...moreARC, courtesy of Harper -- thank you!
Wow. I went to get publisher info (ISBN, # of pages) from Amazon and and was floored by the negative reviews of this book. In my opinion, they are largely uncalled for, but hey - chacun à son goût, as they say. I mean, there are a lot of books I didn't like that people absolutely loved, so whatever. Personally, I had a great time with this novel and have already recommended it to a number of people; I've also put it on the list for my book group to read in 2015. Obviously, I liked it. A lot.
Slava Gelman comes from a family of Russian immigrants who had settled in Brooklyn. He'd made a conscious decision to "become an American," to leave his grandfather Yevgeny's "neighborhood of Russians, Belarussians, Ukrainians, Moldovans, Georgians and Uzbeks" and set his sights on working for Century, a longstanding and prestigious magazine, "older than The New Yorker and, despite a recent decline, forever a paragon." Staying in the neighborhood would keep him among the ranks of those who ". . . don't go to America," except for the DMV and Brodvei," or who "shop at marts that sold birch-leafed switches" to "whip yourself in the steam bath and rare Turkish shampoos that reversed baldness . . ." but this is not what Slava wants. He had to leave, in order to
"strip from his writing the pollution that reposessed it every time he returned to the swamp broth of Soviet Brooklyn."
In short, to write for Century, he had to get away, to "Dialyze himself, like Grandmother's kidneys." So it's off to Manhattan and a sparsely-furnished, affordable studio apartment. As he's about to find out, getting away is not so easy.
As the novel opens, it's July, 2006, and just after 5 am, Slava is surprised by the ringing of the telephone. It's not because it's so early, but rather because no one ever calls him, not even his family, since he'd "forbidden" them to call. He doesn't answer it, but the second time it rings, it's his mother telling him that his "grandmother isn't." She'd died alone in the care facility. He hadn't seen Grandmother Sofia for about a month, and now she's gone, and as his mother puts it, it's the family's "first American death." After the funeral, Yevgeny asks him to write a narrative that would allow him to collect reparations as a victim of the Holocaust. He hands Slava an envelope, addressed to Sofia who was registered at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. When Slava notes that this was for his grandmother, not his grandfather, his grandfather tells him to make it up. As he states,
"Maybe I didn't suffer in the exact way I need to have suffered ... but they made sure to kill all the people who did. "
Eventually Slava gives in, and he starts thinking about all of the things that his grandparents never told him, and how he really knew nothing about his grandmother's life and what she'd gone through. What little he does know goes into the narrative, and the rest, he invents but makes fit the story. His work is so good that word spreads, and Yevgeny pimps him out to write other narratives for friends. Each one builds a little more on the made-up, missing details of Sofia's life, and Slava begins to find it easier to lie, to fabricate, to make stuff up. He gets so good at it that he even starts doing it at his job at Century -- and it spills over into other parts of his life as well. However, the narratives he writes also have a few unintended results for Slava that he probably never could have predicted.
A Replacement Life made me laugh out loud in a few spots, especially when it came to the older folk in this book and the insider look at the Russian immigrant culture from someone who is part of it. On the other hand, it's also very touching, not only in terms of family relationships but also because of the history that's recalled in this book. Another positive: the Holocaust is a very large part of this story, but the terrors of the Holocaust, for the most part, are kept in check so you can focus on the modern-day narrative. And I don't understand why people have complained about the writing style: it's obvious that Mr. Fishman enjoys playing with language and playing with other writers' words in his own way. I found it very easy to read in terms of writing and style. This book I can definitely recommend -- and not simply as a summer read. (less)
Once in a while I pick up a crime novel that literally blows me away. Cemetery of Swallows, published by Europa Editions as part of their World Noir s...moreOnce in a while I pick up a crime novel that literally blows me away. Cemetery of Swallows, published by Europa Editions as part of their World Noir series is one of them. By the last few chapters I was literally talking to the main character out loud saying "come on! I know you'll figure this out! I know there's got to be a logical explanation!" I don't tend to get that excited in the normal course of crime reading, but the twistiness of this novel put me through the wringer and kept me there up until the last minutes.
French police superintendent Amédée Mallock is famous for his work on difficult cases. He lives alone, and considers himself “the king of the homebodies” since having lost his wife and son some years ago. He has haunting and recurring dreams about his little boy, and never talks about him to anyone. He's a great cop and he has a great team. One of his team members is Julie, a captain in the police force, and a week before we first meet Mallock on a plane to the Dominican Republic, she tells him she must take a special leave because of her brother. Her distress is so obvious that Mallock has to ask her why. She relates a very unusual story to her boss that started a week earlier. One morning, her brother Manuel Gemoni was watching a video a friend gave him about cigars (which he's passionate about) and cigar making in the Dominican Republic, when he recognizes a face on the screen. He doesn't know who it is exactly, but he knows he has to kill him. Abandoning his wife and baby, he travels to the island nation, where he waits in a place he knows the guy will eventually show up. When the opportunity arises, Gemoni kills him in front of a number of witnesses and is himself wounded and then arrested. The only thing Julie really knows is that upon his arrest, her brother made a bizarre statement that no one understands:
"I killed him because he had killed me."
I have a post about this novel on the crime page of my reading journal blog , but for now I'll say that Cemetery of Swallows is not only innovative, but it's also one of those books where you literally have to wait until the very end -- only then does the light bulb go on and you get to the "aha" payoff moment. It also offers armchair detectives a puzzling challenge. I've also decided on the strength of this one that whatever this guy writes in the future, I'll be buying as soon as it's published. (less)
A 3.75 rounded up. I have to say that imho, this is the best of Ms. Datlow's Best Horror of the Year collections so far. Sure, there are some stories...moreA 3.75 rounded up. I have to say that imho, this is the best of Ms. Datlow's Best Horror of the Year collections so far. Sure, there are some stories that didn't work for me, but that's to be expected in an anthology. Recommended for readers of horror who prefer to be frightened cerebrally rather than by gore splattered all over the pages.
My favorite in this book: "The House on Cobb Street", by Lynda E. Rucker. Listed below is the table of contents; I've given an overview at my reading journal's weird fiction/horror page so if you want the long version, feel free to click through.
“Apports” by Stephen Bacon “Mr. Splitfoot” by Dale Bailey “The Good Husband” by Nathan Ballingrud “The Tiger” by Nina Allan “The House on Cobb Street” by Lynda E. Rucker “The Soul in the Bell Jar” by K.J. Kabza “Call Out” by Stephen Toase “That Tiny Flutter of the Heart I Used to Call Love” by Robert Shearman “Bones of Crow” by Ray Cluley “Introduction to the Body in Fairy Tales” by Jeannine Hall Gailey “The Fox” by Conrad Williams “The Tin House” by Simon Clark “Stemming the Tide” by Simon Strantzas “The Anatomist’s Mnemonic” by Priya Sharma “The Monster Makers” by Steve Rasnic Tem “The Only Ending We Have” by Kim Newman “The Dog’s Paw” by Derek Künsken “Fine in the Fire” by Lee Thomas “Majorlena” by Jane Jakeman “The Withering” by Tim Casson “Down to a Sunless Sea” by Neil Gaiman “Jaws of Saturn” by Laird Barron “Halfway Home” by Linda Nagata and “The Same Deep Waters as You” by Brian Hodge(less)
4.5 rounded up Simply amazing -- and if anyone is looking for something well out of the mainstream and very different, give this one a try.
for a longe...more4.5 rounded up Simply amazing -- and if anyone is looking for something well out of the mainstream and very different, give this one a try.
for a longer review, you can click here; otherwise, read on.
At the age of eighty, Phiroze Elchidana (Elchi) sets down his life story. The son of the head priest of a Zoroastrian fire temple, Elchi lived with his parents and his brother Vispy. Elchi flunks his graduation exams, and while supposedly studying for the retake, he takes to wandering all over the city of Bombay instead, later recalling his solo outings as "the best moments of my youth." One day, he finds himself at Doongerwaadi Hill, the estate of the Towers of Silence, where he starts spending all of his time enjoying "the sanctuary of its woods". It is a Parsi religious estate where, after certain rituals, the dead are placed for the vultures and the hot sun "in a final act of charity."
At the age of 17, while accompanying his mother to a funeral there, Phiroze happens to notice a young girl who then disappears; upon returning the next day, she finds him. As he notes, "it only took that first physical touch," and they knew they were destined to be together. The girl is Seppideh (Seppy), whom, unknown to Phiroze, is an estranged first cousin as well as the daughter of one of the khandhias, or Parsi corpse bearers, who bring the corpses to the Towers of Silence and prepare them for mourners and their ultimate fate. Her father demands that if the two continue to see each other, Phiroze must marry her, work and live out his life as a corpse bearer, a situation that will make Phiroze a pariah to his family and all outside of this small community. Despite his father's wishes, Phiroze gladly accepts the terms. The remainder of the novel focuses on his life in this very traditional and secluded community, which in time, slowly begins to undergo change, while on the outside, India is rapidly changing, moving from the end of its colonial period into independence and partition, and later, on into the modern era.
Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer is a love story, a story of a son's relationship with his father, and it reflects largely on love and loss, life and death. It also offers a look at this very insular community of khandhias. The author examines the marginalization of this group in the bigger context of society -- including how their work affects the lives of their children when they're ready to enter the wider world --, the working conditions that these people were forced to endure, and how many of the people chose this life to escape the horrific poverty that would otherwise be their fate. There's more -- I'm only scratching the surface here. I also love how the author writes, combining dark humor, honest emotion and some genuinely moving moments, all sprinkled throughout with ironic touches to create a wonderful and extremely readable story.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It is a beautiful and moving tale that totally captivated me. (less)
Moving back and forth in time across an entire century, Everland is the story of two very different groups of explorers in Antarctic...more4.5 rounded way up
Moving back and forth in time across an entire century, Everland is the story of two very different groups of explorers in Antarctica. The first, in 1913, is set in the heyday of British polar exploration; the second, marking the centenary of the first, takes place in 2012. Despite the passage of a full century, unmistakeable and eerie parallels exist between both expeditions.
In March, 1913, the captain of the British ship Kismet dropped the mate and two others off in a dinghy to begin their journey for a short stay at an unmapped island the mate christened Everland. The idea was that while the men, Napps, Millet-Bass, and Dinners, were exploring the island, the rest of the Kismet's crew would be sailing around Cape Athena "for a last geologizing excursion," and would meet back up with the team in just two weeks. The Kismet sails off, but immediately problems set in, beginning with a storm that made the four-hour dinghy journey last about six days; unbeknownst to the three explorers, the Kismet had also suffered in the same storm and had to stop to make repairs. It wasn't until April that the Kismet returned to take the three-man team home, but only one badly-frostbitten, nearly-dead man was found on the island. What happened on that island became the stuff of legend. In fact, one hundred years later, in celebration of another three-person expedition that is about to be launched to Everland from the Antarctic base Aegeus, the film night pick is a 60s "classic" called Everland, a movie the group knows by heart about the 1913 ill-fated venture based on the "famous book" written by the captain of the Kismet. The novel goes back and forth between the two expeditions, chronicling the events during both. The similarities are notable -- the flaring resentments, the tensions, the dangers and ultimately the choices that are made among each team for survival echo across the century.
While both accounts are tension filled and downright distressing in parts, and while there is plenty going on here, the theme running through the book is that that reality is often distorted, replaced to suit various motivations, leaving an altered version of events to following generations as fact and history. In both cases, the stories that emerge comes are products of collaboration and self-serving motivations, while the real truth of both will remain behind forever on Everland. In the meantime, reputations are made, both positive and negative.
This book is in a word, stellar. I've offered only a bare-bones outline, but it's going on my shelf of favorite books of the year. It is a very engrossing read that left me frustrated whenever I had to put it down. Highly recommended.(less)
review shortly; in the meantime, this is an ARC and it needs a new home. Anyone in the US who wants it can have it ... just be the first to comment. I...morereview shortly; in the meantime, this is an ARC and it needs a new home. Anyone in the US who wants it can have it ... just be the first to comment. I'll even pay postage. (less)
I never do this, but I have to confess to buying this book because of the ukiyo-e art on the cover. It is called "Ōtani Oniji II...morelike a 3.8 rounded up
I never do this, but I have to confess to buying this book because of the ukiyo-e art on the cover. It is called "Ōtani Oniji III as Yakko Edobei in the Play "Koinyōbō Somewake Tazuna," a fact I picked up by visiting the website of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The artist's name is Tōshūsai Sharaku, and he produced this piece in 1794. As it just so happens, Sharaku plays a featured role in this book, although the story is set in modern times (well, at least in the 80s when it was written). The Case of the Sharaku Murders is a good book, although it's probably more appealing to people who have an interest in a) the history of Ukiyo-e or Japanese art in general, b) Japanese history, and c) murder mysteries anchored in the world of academia. Geeky me has a fascination with all three. Another thing I ought to mention before launching into this book: the dustjacket notes that it is "specially selected for the Japanese Literature Publishing Project, started in 2002 " to promote the awareness and popularization of modern Japanese literature to the world."
The Case of the Sharaku Murders begins on a dark and windy night with two men looking for someone along the cliffs on Japan's northeast coast near Tanohata. The man in question has a vacation cottage there, and a phone call made earlier in the day had led the two men to search for him. One of the searchers is the man's brother-in-law, Mizuno Keiji, who had filed a missing persons report when the search proved fruitless. A newspaper article four days later reveals that the missing man is Saga Atsushi, an award-winning calligrapher, chairman of the Tokyo Bibliophilic Society, scholar of ukiyo-e and a "central figure in the Ukiyo-e Connoissership Society," and that his body had been found floating in the ocean, picked up by a man on a squid fishing boat. The verdict is suicide. At Saga's funeral, two university friends, Ryohei and Yosuke, run into each other for the first time in over two years. Both had (at different times) been students at Musashino University, and both had studied under Professor Nishijima, who taught art history, who is a foremost authority on ukiyo-e, and an expert on the artist Sharaku. Ryohei became Nishijima's research assistant while Yosuke, who took a job in a trading company, had a falling out with another alum and Nishijima student Yoshimura Kentaro. Nishijima's powerful clout in the art world ensured that the students he favored would acquire great jobs in publishing, museums, and other forms of mass media. The action starts when Mizuno sells Ryohei a book from Saga's collection, a painting catalogue of Akita School paintings. Going through the preface, Ryohei discovers something interesting -- and teaming up with Yosuke and his sister Saeko, he begins a research project of his own that might possibly turn out to be the greatest find in the world of ukiyo-e. But, after people connected to Ryohei, Yosuke and their quest begin to die, a police inspector begins to wonder if the death of Saga was a suicide after all.
While there's so much more to this book, murder is at its heart, and there are a number of possible suspects to keep things interesting -- once the author leaves the history of ukiyo-e behind. I would estimate that about one third of the book is an exposition on the history of this art form, although since the story involves Ryohei's research, it seems justified here. On the other hand, he throws in so many names, places, and historical periods that I had to start keeping a list of who was who, where they were, yada yada. Once the writer gets back to the mystery, there is twist after twist, especially one really big one that I never saw coming, turning the story completely on its head. The point is that this is a book I had to take my time reading -- it got a little boggy with so much detail -- but the payoff was a good, solid whodunit. Along with the history of ukiyo-e and a smattering of Japanese history, it also explores the "dog-eat-dog world" of academia and the professional rivalries that exist within the art world.
The Case of the Sharaku Murders is only the first of a trio called the "Ukiyo-e Murder Trilogy," but the other two have not yet been translated. Although I would definitely read another book by this author based on this one, it's not a book for people who want a quick, slam-bam mystery so while I recommend it, it's definitely not for everyone. If you are into Japanese fiction, or Japanese art history, it might be right up your alley, but it's so specialized and detailed that I can understand people being less than awed. However, as I noted earlier, sticking with it brings a very nice and twisty payoff. (less)
Just a super book, and you can read more of what I think at the weird fiction page of my online reading journal if you aren't happy with the short ver...moreJust a super book, and you can read more of what I think at the weird fiction page of my online reading journal if you aren't happy with the short version here.
Here, in The Complete John Thunstone, all of Wellman's John Thunstone's stories have been collected in one volume, and while they're not all spine-tingling extravaganzas, the book is amazing, providing me with hours of pure weird and pulpy pleasure. First in this book comes all of the short stories, in some of which Thunstone takes on his arch-nemesis Rowley Thorne, who Ramsey Campbell says in his introduction "Manly Remembered" is Thunstone's Moriarty.
Thorne also returns in Wellman's novel-length story "The School of Darkness," at the end of this volume. Thunstone's love interest appears in these stories as well: Sharon, Countess Monteseco, although Thunstone does everything he can to prevent himself from getting deeply involved with her because of the threat to her from Rowley.
Aside from Thorne, Thunstone finds himself doing battle with the Shonokins, who claim to have existed long before "the Indians," who "took this country from creatures too terrible...to imagine, even though they are dead and leave only their fossil bones." According to one of them, the Shonokins "allowed the Indians to come," and retained only a few limited domains. When people trespass into these "limited domains," they meet with trouble -- and Thunstone is not far behind. The Shonokins have a ring finger longer than all of the fingers on their hands; they also can't tolerate being in the presence of their own dead.
Thunstone meets up with strange magic and powers not just with the Shonokins or Rowley Thorne, but comes across an Eskimo wizard, a woman who won't stay dead and buried, and regular people who somehow find themselves entangled in bad juju, usually because of their own greed.
After the short stories is Wellman's novel What Dreams May Come (not to be confused with the movie or Matheson's novel), where Thunstone, already in England, hears about a strange ritual in the village of Claines and decides to go and witness it for himself, only to be caught up in some very strange experiences.
The collection ends with "The School of Darkness," which wasn't nearly as good as What Dreams May Come, but still fun. Thunstone and three others participate in a symposium where they are to talk about their research and experiences, but of course, they get sidetracked with the return of who else? Rowley Thorne. The college where they are speaking has a long history involving witchcraft and diabolism, and Thorne becomes involved with the local coven whose leader and members have their own agenda for the future. Thunstone and his fellow participants have to combine their strengths to fight off a powerful enemy, whose tricks involve murder. I liked this one, but parts read like a group of superheroes who come together, put their respective rings together that go "bzzzzt" and voila, their powers are strengthened. Here they all smoke a pipe filled with magically-protective materials rather than wear rings to touch together, but still.
The Complete John Thunstone has moved into the ranks of favorite books in my library, and I can most definitely recommend this work of pulpy goodness with just the right touch of weird. There are a couple of Lovecraft mentions as well as a reference to the Necronomicon included, the stories are good, old-fashioned cool pulpy delight, and when it comes down to it, this entire book is 600+ pages of fun. (less)
I'll post my review of this book here because LibraryThing and the publishers sent me this edition, but I have to make a sort of embarrassing confession: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher, but couldn't get started on it right away so I set it aside to be picked up later. When I was ready to read it, which was like 2 weeks ago, I went to find it, and it was nowhere. It had just disappeared. I looked through each and every bookshelf and each and every book to find it (which in my case, is like looking for a needle in a haystack), and it didn't turn up. I went to find one on Amazon and to my horror discovered that the book is not scheduled for publication until July. Then I went into full-on panic mode because I had committed to reading this for LibraryThing's early reviewers' program for April so I bought a new, UK copy of A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal. Considering the pound to dollar conversion rate, I ended up paying about $40 for my stupidity. But I will say this: it was worth every penny I spent on it and more.
A Spy Among Friends, which is, in Macintyre's words, "not another biography of Kim Philby," ... "less about politics, ideology and accountability than personality, character, and a very British relationship that has never been explored before." Macintyre notes also that the "book does not purport to be the last word on Kim Philby," but rather "it seeks to tell his story in a different way, through the prism of personal friendship..." and his work succeeds on every possible level: impeccable research, the very-well developed investigation of Kim Philby's dual character, and frankly, despite the fact that it's nonfiction, it reads like a highly-polished, top-tier espionage novel, making it reader-friendly for anyone at all interested in the subject.
Macintyre's account brings new life to this very old and well-covered story: he sets Philby's story among friends, most notably Nicholas Elliott of MI6 and James Jesus Angleton (who had met Philby in London at the age of 24, and for whom Philby right away became "an elder-brother figure), who ultimately became an ultra-high ranking member of the CIA. Both men trusted Philby implicitly and both refused to believe that he was a spy the first time he came under suspicion after the defections of Maclean and Burgess. As Macintyre examines the respective careers of the three high-level spies, their social interactions, their proximity to each other over the course of their work as spies, and their ties to upper-class British society with its private clubs, the best schools, etc., he also establishes how easy it was for the trusted Philby to carry away much highly-secret information and hand it over to his Soviet contacts. As Macintyre notes, one of the "weaknesses" within the intelligence community was how natural it was to trade information, since agents are not able to share it with anyone outside of their small circle. Philby, a big drinker, boozed it up with Angleton, for example, during lunches in Washington DC when after being transferred there as MI6 chief (selected by Angleton himself); Angleton and Philby exchanged info while drinking bourbon, eating lobster, and having cigars at the end. In one particular Albanian operation that ended in possibly hundreds of deaths, Macintyre notes that "Lunch at Harvey's restaurant came with a hefty bill." Philby's relationship with Elliott was one of even stronger ties and a stronger long-term friendship; Elliott would have never in a million years banked on Philby, with whom he shared his secrets, as putting those secrets to "murderous use."
Throughout this entire book, Macintyre focuses on Philby's "two faces," his dual nature as a "double-sided man," where "One side is open to family and friends and everyone around them,..the other belongs only to himself and his secret work." As much as friends and family thought they knew him, the real truth was that
"Philby was spying on everyone, and no one was spying on him, because he fooled them all."
Among other things, Macintyre also examines the effects on the friends and family left in the wake of Philby's betrayals, the divisions between MI5 and MI6, and the results in human terms of Philby's work in passing along info to the Soviets.
A Spy Among Friends is extremely well written, and even though it's a work of nonfiction, the story kept me on edge up until the last minute. In fact, one of the most eye-opening sections of this book is at the point where Philby's been outed in 1963, and Nick, Philby's biggest supporter, takes it upon himself to be the one to get him to confess. If this conversation hadn't been recorded, one would think it was the work of a master spy novelist. Then, when Macintyre has written his last word, the reader comes upon a short, but wonderful afterword by John LeCarré that the reader should absolutely not miss. In fact, anyone who's even remotely interested in Kim Philby, or anyone who has enjoyed Macintyre's previous work should not miss this book -- it is simply stellar.
4.5 (and bought in the UK) First question: Does Jo Nesbø's new book match the level of awesomeness of his others? Why, yes it does!
For one thing, Nesbø...more4.5 (and bought in the UK) First question: Does Jo Nesbø's new book match the level of awesomeness of his others? Why, yes it does!
For one thing, Nesbø is the master of twist. He is also the best at keeping my innards tied up knots while I'm reading, hoping everything is going to come out okay for the characters I've grown attached to. In this newest book, that trend continues. He's one of the very few authors who can write a nearly 500-page book and make it go so quickly that I surprise myself after each day's reading as to how far I've gone. The Son, which, in case anyone is wondering, is not another installment of the Harry Hole series; it's a standalone which means that if readers haven't got through Nesbø's series books, it's okay -- relax -- no need to rush. But do read them if you haven't.
The Son is a fast-paced tale about justice, revenge, redemption, and longstanding secrets that find their way into the present. The story begins in a prison cell, where prisoner Sonny Lofthus is doing time for a number of crimes he didn't commit. He has an arrangement: he confesses to crimes in order for heroin to supply his drug habit, his way of coping with the suicide of his father, policeman Ab Lofthus, whom he admired very much. Sonny is a man with a "blissful Buddha smile," and someone to whom the other prisoners can turn to for "confession," preferring Sonny over the prison chaplain.
When the chaplain enters Sonny's cell one day to tell him about another murder that he'll be taking the rap for, Sonny's on board. But things change in an instant when another prisoner, dying of cancer, enters Sonny's cell and tells him that his father's death wasn't a suicide, but a murder. The prisoner tells Sonny that the suicide note left by his dad was a deal he made with his killers: in return for leaving the note, Sonny and his mother would live. Now Sonny wants revenge, and after escaping from prison, sets out to take it. However, the murder of the prison chaplain and the murdered victim whose death Sonny was ready to take the rap for of course cause the police to intervene -- and when other people start dying, Chief Inspector Simon Kefas and his trainee Kari Adel of the Homicide Squad in Oslo start looking for connections between the deaths, and ultimately find them. That's all I'll give way for plot because I don't want to wreck it, but the story takes a number of strange twists and turns until ultimately old, long-buried secrets slowly rise to the surface leading to some incredibly gut-twisting moments and tough choices to be made throughout the novel.
I am one of the pickiest crime readers I know, and I loved this book. It's one of those stories where I found myself rooting for the bad guy even though he leaves several bodies in his wake. At the same time, the actions of the "bad guy" in this book have to be measured against others who are truly evil -- and as always, Nesbø manages to create some absolutely nefarious, totally repugnant villains. But the motivations of pretty much all of the main characters come under scrutiny at some point, even the so-called protectors of the peace, proving that there are some matters that cannot be measured in categories of black and white, good or bad. As the novel progressed, I couldn't help but want Sonny to make it -- to escape the cops, to do whatever it takes not to end up back in prison, or worse. I don't normally take a killer's side, and I do like to see justice done, but as readers will discover, here it's all a matter of relativity. I can't explain it without giving things away, but justice becomes sort of a floaty term in this novel. There is definitely a lot of violence here but Nesbø fans will probably be expecting this; there are a couple of personal relationship subplots that do not interfere with the overall action but rather enhance and intertwine with it, and overall, it's just a super terrific novel that I hated having to put down each time real life called. My only real niggle has to do with Nesbø's decision to insert a character who lives across from Sonny's family home ... the scenes that this character were in just didn't do it for me. Even though it is through him the reader gains some valuable insight, I think things could have been handled better and differently. But even so, although this caused a slight flow issue for me, overall the book is one that any serious Nesbø fan should definitely not miss --the action, the mystery at the very heart of it all, and Nesbø's excellent storytelling all win the day and come together in a truly outstanding crime novel.