Archive for June, 2014

The Son

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

By Jo Nesbø

The Short Take:

This terrific mystery/thriller departs from Nesbø’s Harry Hole detective series and is — hard to believe — even better. Taut, suspenseful, but without the repetitive gunfights and car chase scenes so many thrillers rely on. Rewarding to the very last line.

Why?

I have nothing against gun fights or car chases in mystery/thrillers, but they are rather predictable, and certainly relied on heavily. This book is true to the genre but also refreshingly different.

The title character is a young man who has lived in jail for 12 of his 30 years — a strung out junkie with a mystical quality that leads others to tell him secrets and ask forgiveness. When he embarks on a mission of revenge, you don’t know quite what to expect from him. And, he keeps you off balance all the way through.

Nesbø has already made quite a name for himself with his Harry Hole series (despite the unfortunate name). I find these dark police thrillers set in Nesbø’s Norway to be far superior to Stieg Larsson’s “Girl With…” books, though with a similar DNA.

So far I’ve read three Harry Hole novels and enjoyed them all very much. This one was even better. It’s not just about the crimes, it’s about love, forgiveness, and facing dead ends.

A Little Plot:

When Sonny Lofthus’ policeman father committed suicide over his corruption, it sent The Son into a tailspin of self-destruction and incarceration. He’s living only for his next fix when a fellow inmate tells him it wasn’t suicide but murder that took his father away. His father wasn’t corrupt but killed for fighting corruption.

That sets Sonny on a path of revenge; not just for his father but to right other wrongs he has taken the rap for as well.  Chief Inspector Simon Kefas is on his trail. A woman is about to fall in love. Nesbø keeps you guessing right to the very end. Excellent.

For more about Nesbø and his books, click here.

P.D. James: Mistress of Mystery

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Of course she has been inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame! Baroness Phyllis Dorothy James has 20 books to her credit (including one science fiction outing and an autobiography). Beyond that, she writes some of the most intelligent mysteries around.

The poet-policemen, Adam Dalgliesh, who solves most of her mysteries, is unlike any other fictional crime hero. Instead of quirky behavior he brings intense focus to the crimes he solves, acting with British reserve. In addition, her books are beautifully researched — often drawing on her first-hand knowledge of  the police and criminal law from years of working in the British Home Office.

As she entered her 90s, James retired her Dalgliesh series, stating it would be unfair to leave an incomplete manuscript. Instead, she ventured where most would fear to tread: bringing murder and mayhem into the world created by Jane Austen. Death Comes to Pemberly is  joy for both Austen lovers and mystery fans, set six years after the marriage of Mr  Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

I’ve only read a dozen of James’ books so far but will absolutely read the rest. Will Pemberly be her last? I hate to think so, though her website has no hints about future books. James has always been about quality of writing over quantity of output. Her last book shows that when it comes to quality, she still stands head and shoulders above most others. Is she does publish again, I expect nothing but the best. Because that’s what a Hall of Famer delivers.

The Sea House

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

By Elisabeth Gifford

The Short Take:

I was hesitant to pick up this book. The title and cover art just looked a bit icky-romance for me. However this book is a perfect representation of that old adage about covers and judgement. With two interwoven story lines — more than a century apart — revolving around the legend of the Selkies, this is a much more interesting novel, and not a romance at all.

Why?

Gifford’s first novel is set in the Scottish Outer Hebrides, both in the recent past and more than 100 years earlier. She does an excellent job of conveying the dramatic atmosphere of this cold, desolate, yet also dramatically beautiful environment.

She does an equally fine job of  portraying her three main characters: Ruth, the emotionally damaged wife trying to build a life and  a B&B in 1992; Alexander Ferguson, the young reverend from the 1860s who has a passion for mermaids and selkies; and Moira, his maid, who is equally passionate about destroying the man who brought misery and death to her family.

History, legends, and natural history are seamlessly woven into their stories, further enriching this multi-faceted reading experience. However, it is the empathy you will feel for these characters that ultimately wins you over.

A Little Plot:

Ruth and her husband are renovating an old parsonage into a bed and breakfast when the body of an infant is found beneath the floorboards, its lower legs fused together like a mermaid or seal. Ruth is determined to solve the mystery of this small baby as well as learn the hidden truth about her own connections to this isolated community. Finding the writings of the Reverend Alexander Ferguson is just a start.

For more about Gifford and her novel, click here. You’ll notice this book also comes with a slightly different title and cover. Not sure it’s right either — looks like a horror story.

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