domingo, setembro 29, 2013

"Police" by Jo Nesbo

Police: A Harry Hole thriller (Oslo Sequence 8) (Harry Hole 8) - Jo Nesbo

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It’s 10 minutes after the hour and I’ve done it again. I hate missing the first part of my favourite show. Call it obsession, call it silly, but I have to see it from the start or I don’t feel it’s worth watching at all. Yes, I could figure out what happened, but it’s just not the same. Harry Hole also knows what it’s like to be on the ground-floor of something important even though he only puts an appearance after one-third of the book... The first one-third without Harry sets the stage for what comes afterward... And what a ride it is!

The book goes from here to there, then back to here again. It is horrible twisted, unpredictable, completely gory and twists and turns like a game of scrabble.

That saying this book is not for the faint hearted and is extremely dark and violent, but it's an unputdownable read nonetheless. 

I started it mid-morning and the next thing I knew was that it was starting to get dark outside and I had read the whole book in one sitting and was thirsty and hungry! Do not read this book on a train as you will miss your stop! It grabs you straight from the start!

But "Police's" story is not meant for pure entertainment in my view. There’s a heightened sense of urgency and force here that makes it sometimes painful to read. It's an experience in itself.

Grisly murders abound. The stakes are higher in the book as its members of the force are being hunted and killed. Not only that, but their deaths are a brutal reenactment of cold cases.

“Police” allowed me to identify with the investigation, giving me access to the minds and feelings of the frustrated investigators as I shared their experiences, concerns and suspicions. That's the department where the Scandinavian Crime Fiction excels by depicting deeply psychological, highly individualistic portraits of twisted motivation. 

On a different level I fondly remember the way Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall depicted Sweden in the 1960s and 1970s and allowing us to follow the investigation in each book without any kind of trimmings.

Scandinavian Crime Fiction allows me to be inside the head of the main characters. There's not a better recommendation for a book in my view.
It's quite clear you’re in the hands of a master of the form.

quinta-feira, setembro 26, 2013

"Cold Killing" by Luke Delaney

Cold Killing - Luke Delaney
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This book is more convoluted than a writhing snake...

The gimmick of the book is the fact that the main detective has the ability to put himself in the killer's shoes, and sort of empathizing with him. I think I've never came across something remotely similar.

Apart from its convoluted nature (inline with today's Crime Fiction standards), I've kind of liked it, but with some reservations. The author, new to me, took some well-trodden ground, and wrought havoc with my expectations. 

The plotting is excellent, the narrative convoluted and sparky at times . He weaved his cast with the hand of an artisan and created a set of convincing protagonists. There’s a rich density to the layering of points-of-view, but the most unsettling feature of the book is the author's use of first-person-narration amongst various third-persons’ (victims, police, suspects), making the overall effect quite effective. 

The pervasive use of the "I" pronoun in the book, without identifying the source of the voice made me start doubting my initial assumptions about the culprit. 

The bad part for me was the palpable artificiality. I felt I was being lead in one direction, and then, all of a sudden, another red herring, to plant the seeds of doubt. This happened several times, putting me out of the story in consequence. 

sábado, setembro 21, 2013

"Attack from Atlantis" by Lester Del Rey

Attack from Atlantis - Lester del Rey
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In August I was strolling in Cascais to buy my usual Santini Ice-Cream, when I went into the Galileu Bookshop, which specializes in vintage book of all kinds. In a bookstand outside the bookshop there were lots of SF books asking to be browsed. Among lots of crap, there was this rarity (also crap but read on).

I've got almost of the books beloging to the Del Rey/Ballantine bookline, bought a long time ago. This one was missing in my Del Rey collection. For 2.20 euros it was quickly ratified LOL.

I've read almost all of Lester Del Rey books. Unfortunatelly this one is one of the worst, being "Runaway Robot" and "Marooned on Mars" probably two of the best in my mind.

This one is an over the top novel that left no room for believability. I won't dwell on the writing itself. It'd be out of context with today's writings standards. For me the pay-off came from a different direction: I like reading Vintage SF... Enough said.

segunda-feira, setembro 16, 2013

"Dark Times in the City" by Gene Kerrigan

Dark Times in the City - Gene Kerrigan
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My first Gene Kerrigan book.

The writing is tightly drawn, using very short scenes to drive the narrative along. 

The prologue is good, but then I struggled to get into the story at the beginning. The reason I think I had trouble with at the beginning came out almost at the end of the book, which jumps back in time to provide the back story as to why Walter Bennett was the target of an assassination. 

I think the book would have worked a little better if it had started with this part. I don’t think it would have mattered if I'd been introduced to Callaghan character until much later in the book.

Kerrigan is good at writing about the police force and Dublin and I'd have also preferred to have had more scenes involving them. 

Similarly there is a sub-plot with Oliver (Callaghan’s neighbour) that wasn't as fully developed as it could have been (he gets bumped off in the middle of the book). 

These though are just minor quibbles and the book does work as it is.

I’ll be keeping my eye out for more of Kerrigan books.

quarta-feira, setembro 11, 2013

"A Cold Red Sunrise" by Stuart M. Kaminsky

A Cold Red Sunrise - Stuart M. Kaminsky
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Another 2013 discovery, as far as I'm concerned. Never heard of the guy, so everything came as total surprise. Sometimes it pays off to read something quite unexpected.

I've been digging up all of the Edgar Awards. Before getting hold of the complete list, I thought I knew everyone there was to know on the Crime Fiction Scene. Not so.

One of the things that surprised me was the portrayal of Siberia, which is quite mesmerizing. It captures an undeniably beautiful world frozen in time, not taking notice of the passing hordes of barbarians or Communists. Kaminsky is also wonderful at presenting the intrigue, the atmosphere and the complexities of Moscow during and after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

The use of arctic for mysteries was relatively rare in the past, as far as I'm aware. Now we have Boris Akunin and the likes (Scandinavian Crime Fiction). In 1989 I don't remember anything remotely similar.

I've been always a sucker for the use of "place" as a literary device. The setting, the place, the local geography in many cases is as important as the plot. It is fair to say that the geographical elements set these novels apart and account for a large part of their popularity. For me that's one of the explanations for the Scandinavian Crime Fiction recent popularity, which sometimes also uses the geography artifact as a character as well and to good advantage (vide Arnaldur Indridason's novels set in Iceland).

There's something about these frigid landscapes that makes the Crime Fiction setting ideal for it.

Stuart M. Kaminsky was not on my radar. Now he is. Rostnikov is also very fond of Ed McBain novels... What's there not to like about a guy like him?

There was only two quibbles: Plot predictability and one of the sub-plots taking place in Moscow does not seem to add anything new to the novel.

Now I've got to find out whether there are any more of these Rostnikov's novels out there.

sábado, setembro 07, 2013

"Never Go Back" by Lee Child

Never Go Back: A Jack Reacher Novel - Lee Child
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Child has outdone himself. Probably his best novel to date.

I think no one, in his right mind, values Child for the quality of his prose, as I stated in another review (High Heat). 

In his entire body of work, it's quite difficult to find noteworthy prose. 

The question we should put forth is: Why then is Lee Child's books compulsive reading? Is it for the well-drawn characters? Is it for the compactness of the prose? Is it for the plots? (Does anyone remember them after a while...?)

No, to all of the above. Story-telling is the keyword here. I call this the unputdownable factor. Child's books have plenty of that!

Should this be classified as a guilty pleasure? Not really. For me Child's books are just stuff I enjoy despite their flaws.

Reacher rules. Bland page-turners they surely are, but they're no doubt great fun.

"Shards of Honor" by Lois McMaster Bujold

Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Saga, #1) - Lois McMaster Bujold
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I first read it in 1996 when I was still quite in love with the SF-genre (I still am, but the parameters now are quite different...). 

Just to state that I have a history with SF dating back to the 80's. 
Why did I started reading SF? I don’t really know. I was always fascinated by everything science-related, ie, where I could learn about science. Maybe that’s why I went into SF, where the plot is often the driving force, where the intricacies of world building really start to matter and add up. 

Let’s not get sidetracked. Shards of Honor is the book worst of the series. Unfortunately it's the first in the series. At the time I remember thinking whether it was worth reading the rest of the series available then. I just have one piece of advice, for what it’s worth. Hang in there. What's comes afterwards (Barrayar, etc) is not exactly high-octane prose, but it's quite above par SF-wise.

My reading it again, was in part provoked by a recent review by Head-in-the-Clouds. I was just plain curious whether the book withstood the usual test of time... 

I've started digging up all of my ancient SF paperbacks from over yonder and all of a sudden I had Shards of Honor in my hands... Time to give it another go (I've "found" as well "Attack From Atlantis" by Lester Del Rey... It's up next).

The book starts off well enough, with an adventure storyline featuring two people abandoned on a planet and having to work together to survive. So far so good. Things started going downhill when the sequences between these two characters were indifferently written. There's no real chemistry between them. I got the feeling Bujold was trying to get something out of the book that in the end didn't quite work out as planned. 

This is quite a good example of bad old-school SF: stodgy prose, mechanical dialogue and somewhat stilted character reactions. All of this does not add up to a particularly exciting book.

Despite the fact that it's plagued throughout by mediocre sci-fi clichés, boy meets girl on alien planet, trashy romance, etc., it still has a very interesting twist at the end that sets up Barrayar, which is the first really above-average book in the Vorkosigan series.