Archive for January, 2019

Verses for the Dead

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

The Short Take:

Preston and Child are back on track, returning to bizarre murder cases that require the unique mind and methods of FBI Special Agent A. X. L. Pendergast. It’s their best book in quite a while, as strange and twisty as you could want.

Why?

For some time now Preston and Child’s excellent Pendergast character has been mired in affairs related to his convoluted–and often dangerous–family relationships. This time there was only the barest allusion to a difference in his relationship with his ward in the first chapter then it’s off to Miami and a grisly murder.

The authors have also given a partner to the perpetual loner, with directions from on high that they must work together, not separately. The Pendergast mysteries always benefit from the addition of an outside point of view. Native American Coldmoon, as the junior partner on this case, does an excellent job providing this. I’m hoping that this partnership will extend beyond one book. At least that door was left open.

The mystery itself is appropriately gory and bizarre, exactly what you expect in a Pendergast case. And, as usual, the agents are working against the clock, trying to limit the number of bodies a serial murderer leaves in his wake.

It’s back to classic Pendergast. And that’s exactly what I’ve been missing.

A Little Plot:

Pendergast’s boss is tired of the way this agent breaks the rules, even if he does always solve the crime. So he saddles Pendergast with a partner before sending him off to Miami. There a woman was brutally murdered, her heart removed and then placed with a note on the grave of a woman who committed suicide years ago. Then it happens again.

For more about Preston and Child and their books, click here.

Killing Commendatore

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

By Haruki Murakami

The Short Take:

The meandering plot of this novel included many intriguing threads. Unfortunately they never really wove together. That’s not to say the journey wasn’t interesting, but ultimately it did disappoint this reader.

Why?

It’s quite possible I’m simply not intellectual enough to appreciate this work by the highly respected Murakami.  I’ve enjoyed other books by him but this one not so much. It had plenty of elements to engage you, from the finding a hidden artistic masterpiece to a bell that rings in the night… from underground. Mystical elements, characters with hidden motives, creative gridlock and renewal–these are but a few of the components Murakami includes. However, he also spends a great deal of time describing people’s clothes, the menus for solitary meals, and other mundane details. Of course, this heightens the contrast to surreal occurrences in the novel but it also bogs down the storytelling.

But I was still enjoying the read. Until the end.

There was so much rich material, including the physical manifestation of “Idea,” a portrait that reveals a person’s inner self, the disappearance and reappearance of items, and a journey reminiscent of the hero’s quest, as well as previously mentioned points. However, when I reached the end (which I won’t divulge) I was deeply disappointed. Where I was anticipating something that brought together the mysteries and other-worldly parts of the plot it never happened. In fact the resolution to the major crisis of the book was so ordinary it had me saying, “Really?”

Murakami set me up, but then he let me down.

By the way, this novel is supposedly an “epic homage to The Great Gatsby.” While that book was referenced I did not see much relationship. Again, that’s probably my lack.

A Little Plot:

The wife of an unnamed first-person narrator tells him she is seeing another and wants a divorce. After a wandering and lengthy road trip, he is given the opportunity to live in the former home of a famed Japanese artist. Here he hopes to reinvent his own artistic style. But many things intervene.

For more about Haruki Murakami click here.

 

Once Upon a River

Sunday, January 13th, 2019

By Diane Setterfield

The Short Take:

This absolutely charming book reads like a fairy tale, contains more than one mystery, and is populated by an entertaining cast of unique characters, not least of which is the Thames River. As in Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, what seems magical might not be. That uncertainty is a big part of the attraction. The richly lush prose is another. Read it and enjoy.

Why?

Setterfield’s newest novel flows like the grand river that inspires it: it starts as a trickle of storytelling, creating the atmosphere of a fairy tale. It then floods you with incredible events that impact the lives and emotions of many characters in different and permanent ways. And Setterfield’s powerful writing keeps the story from tumbling into pure fantasy, bringing in the scientific mind of Rita, the local nurse, and the objective eye of the photographer Henry Daunt to counter the wild speculations, blind acceptances, and mercenary schemes of others.

It’s a delicate balance, but Setterfield has proven herself in this arena before and she treads this path with masterful assurance. While you would not necessarily call this a mystery, puzzling situations, people and actions are found at every turn. Along with every reveal comes another uncertainty. The result is a novel that pulls you through with all the irresistibility of a strong river current.

A Little Plot:

At the Swan Inn, where storytelling is a frequent diversion, a dreadfully injured man carrying an apparently dead child bursts in. The child seems to come back to life and three families claim she is someone different: Amelia, Ann, and Alice. Cutting through illusions to get to answers is not easy. And, the more you learn, the more complicated it becomes.

For more about the wonderful book and Dianne Setterfield, click here.

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