Sunday, September 30, 2012

BOOK: Seven Days by Deon Meyer

Seven Days by Deon Meyer, 352 pages

RIP 7; review copy from RandomHouse Canada

Benny Griessel gets a little more time in this installment of detecting from South Africa. Last time he only had Thirteen Hours, this time he has a week! He his still sober, but has recently been assigned to The Hawks, a division within the police corps, which is more political.  Unfortunately, he gets assigned a cold case, but under direct pressure from a sniper, who publicly plans to shoot a police officer a day until the case is solved. That's a lot of pressure for a guy just getting his life straightened out. A new relationship with a famous singer struggling with her own sobriety just adds to the pressure.

I've already gone on and on about how much I am enjoying Deon Meyer's police books. Luckily I still have a few older books to read. Seven Days is the latest release, and since Benny is my favorite of his detectives, I was very pleased. The characterization, the plot, and the action makes Meyer's books very satisfying. The endings in this book to both crimes (the cold case and the sniper) were surprising, but were also famous endings from other mystery books that I've read. (I won't let on which they were, but they are the kind of resolution that you don't forget!) 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

BOOK: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, 369 pages

RIP 7; What's in a Name 6: topographical feature

Super creepy (and a little confusing at the end)! But what a great book! Perfect to read for Reader's Imbibing Peril.

A bounty hunter, Teddy Daniels,  is sent to a secret island off Massachusetts, home to a controversial mental hospital, where a criminally insane woman has escaped. Teddy and his partner land on the island just as a huge storm is about to hit. Ooh, atmosphere! As the men investigate, things are not what they seem. There are conspiracies, scary people, and they take us on quite a ride as they explore and investigate this hospital for the most dangerous of the criminally insane. How did a patient ever manage to escape? Then we gradually learn more about Teddy, and he has some secrets and connections as well that I can't reveal.

As the storm hits, the tension amps up, and then wow, I could not put the book down. Then the ending. Lots of twists, and I wasn't quite sure what had even happened. I talked to a friend at work who had seen the movie, and then I understood, and it was even more well done. Lehane writes superb thrillers (I have already read Mystic River) and I'm looking forward to reading one of his detective books next.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

BOOK: Dead Before Dying by Deon Meyer

Dead Before Dying by Deon Meyer, 411 pages


Thesis: Deon Meyer is my new favorite crime mystery writer. 

Supporting arguments:
1. Having mysteries set in South Africa is a unique locale, with the added layer of the racial conflicts and plenty of political conflicts.

2. Great characters!  I like that Meyer has several characters (Benny Griessel, Mat Joubert, Lemmer) that populate his books, and they are all connected, but may not appear in each book. This book was the first Mat Joubert book, with a dash of Benny, previously seen in Devil's Peak, and Thirteen Hours. I read about Joubert in Trackers, but it was his second book.

3. Police procedurals. I am often drawn to mysteries that are more subtlety labeled police procedurals. Beginning with Ed McBain's 87th precinct, up to the Iceland mysteries, and the Swedish Martin Beck books, I like reading mysteries from the police point of view.

4. Twists and turns. Meyer moves the story around, from plenty of perspectives, and new clues appear suddenly. I never have a clue who or what is going on.

5. The classic messed up cop. Joubert is barely coming out of the two year fog after his wife was killed. He is depressed, ruining his job chances, and basically a disturbed individual, like many of the good cops I like to read about. (Louise Penny's Inspector Gamauche is a lone exception to the disturbed cop) And Joubert is more together than Benny - what a mess he is! He spends much of this book in detox.

6. I still have a few older books left to read - Blood Safari, Dead at Daybreak, and Heart of the Hunter. And more excitedly, a new book: Seven Days. I just got it in the mail, and can't wait to read it. It's a new Benny Griessel.

7. The whole package - plot, character, atmosphere, great writing, great conflict. Incidentally, great translating as well, because the English version is very smooth. These are the kind of books that I can't put down, and each one that I've read has been excellent.

Conclusion: Deon Meyer is the mystery writer that you need to read if you are a fan of twisty, fast moving, police thrillers.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

BOOK: Broken Harbour by Tana French

Broken Harbour by Tana French, 533 pages

Ireland Reading Challenge; Series Goals (Dublin Murder Squad #4)

 It's a mystery series, but a most unusual series. The main character changes with each book. Sometimes previous main characters appear, but sometimes they don't. The only pattern I can see is that each main character made an appearance in the previous book. I guessed wrong from the last book, as this book has Mick 'Scorcher' Kennedy for our lead detective. I wasn't really impressed with him in the last book, but  he made a good main character and as more of his background was revealed, his character becomes more understandable.

The horrific murder here is a family that has been butchered, two children and the parents, with the wife hanging on in the hospital. Mick is juggling his own family issues, a mentally upset sister, along with training a new partner. The murder actually occurred where Mick and his family spent summer vacations, and there is some tragedy associated with Broken Harbour.

French writes about modern Ireland, including life after the economic bust after the boom. She can be a tad long-winded, but I am noticing this less with each successive book, and am enjoying her writing more with each book. Broken Harbour was a fabulous read, a touch Gothic, twists and turns, with wonderfully layered characters. As in the first book, In the Woods, there were a few threads left unexplained, but nothing is ever as it seems, and not everything can be tied up neatly. I appreciate this about French's writing. I can't wait for the next book by French.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

BOOK: Watermelon by Marian Keyes

Watermelon, by Marian Keyes, 417 pages

Ireland Reading Challenge

Summer cover. Chick lit. Great summer book.

 In what might be one of the toughest set-ups in chick-lit history (the guy has to do  something awful to the girl, leaving her to pick up the pieces), James leaves Claire THE MINUTE SHE GIVES BIRTH. Okay, not the minute, but once the baby is cleaned up and presented to the two of them. Seriously. James certainly starts this book in a desperately deep hole that may be impossible to get out of. Claire gathers her baby, some post-partum symptoms, and a few clothes, and heads home to Dublin from her life in London. Loved Claire's family in Dublin - functionally dysfunctional if you like. [There are several other books about the family, since there are at least five sisters. Maybe more. Someone is in the States. Details aren't vitally important in a book like this.] The mom hasn't cooked in twenty years; Dad does all the cleaning; one sister appears to be a drug addict, but a delightfully wonky one; another sister in uni gathers fellas around her like flies. How convenient, because how else is Claire going to meet a new fellow to help her get over the idiot James?

There is romance, there is growth, there is baby love,  there is the idiot husband returning? What will Claire do? Has she outgrown James? Will she go back with him so her baby doesn't grow up in a broken home? Marion Keyes is a chick-lit writer who will stay on my reading list. Fun and humorous, and set in Ireland.This is give me some light Irish reading to replace my beloved Maeve Binchy.

Monday, September 3, 2012

BOOK: The Paris Wife and A Moveable Feast

A delayed book review from Paris in July. I actually read The Paris Wife in July, but was then inspired to read A Moveable Feast by Hemingway. It is still a popular book, because I had to wait at the library until August. I would recommend that these books be read together and I wanted to review them together. I had very little prior knowledge about Ernest Hemingway, having never read any of his books. I knew he was very masculine with the wars and the bull-fighting, and that his writing themes would most likely not appeal to me. I was aware of him as a cultural icon. I did see Midnight in Paris, with all the artists in 1920s Paris, and read Waiting for Gertrude by Bill Richardson.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, 320 pages

 Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife, the Paris wife, narrates their life together during the five years or so that they were married. Telling the story from her perspective was a nice twist. There are oodles of books about Ernest that McLain was able to research about their life. There was a real romantic quality to their life, living the artist life, poor, in Paris. Ernest and Hadley did what they wanted, travelled around, and worked very little but still managed to get by. They were happy. I really liked this book. I liked the view of that lifestyle, even though it was so hedonistic, so self-indulgent. It makes you wonder about how art is produced - do the artists have to be mad? Does it take that suffering to produce greatness? It was hard to like Ernest, for how he treated Hadley, but he seemed to truly love her, and in his memoirs of Paris, A Moveable Feast, he touches on some regret about Hadley.

This is the type of biographical fiction I like, based on real facts but brought to fictional life with clear readable prose. Clearly McLain did her research, and reading A Moveable Feast afterward made me like The Paris Wife even more.

 A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, 213 pages

A series of essays, published after Hemingway's death, about his time in Paris in the 1920s before his first novel was published. So, the same time as The Paris Wife. Ernest writes about the people, and his writing process, and his family. He devotes some essays to Ford Maddox Ford, and F Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda and Gertrude Stein. The essays are in some ways vague, with no linear connection, other than his thoughts and impressions. Having read The Paris Wife, I knew what he was writing about most of the time. It impressed me even more about how McLain took that knowledge and wrote so clearly about their lives.

 I also appreciated Ernest's writing style after reading about the process he was going through, and what he was trying to achieve. I think I am ready to read a novel by Hemingway, based on the knowledge I know have about him. I am also ready to visit Paris, if it could be the Paris of Hemingway. Kind of like Owen Wilson did in Midnight in Paris.