Friday, February 11, 2011

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

A friend of mine gave me the Vintage UK edition of The Snowman a couple months ago. I've read a number of Nesbo's Harry Hole series, but kept putting this one off, likely because it was too dark for me. I wanted lighter fair. But after reading Ken Bruen's The Guards, I wanted some more gritty storytelling and Nesbo was just waiting to be picked up. If you haven't read any of the Harry Hole novels, Harry Hole is an alcoholic, work obsessed detective in Oslo. He's unpredictable and brilliant. The perfect combination. The stereotypical qualities of Hole don't do his character justice. He certainly reminds me a lot of Bruen's Jack Taylor, but has a lighter side than Taylor. But nothing about these crime novels are light. It's winter in Oslo and someone is using snowmen as calling cards for murders they're committing. It's not as funny as it sounds.

The snow in the garden reflected enough light for him to make out the snowman down below. It looked alone. Someone should have given it a cap and scarf. And maybe a broomstick to hold. At that moment the moon slid from behind a cloud. The black row of teeth came into view. And the eyes. Jonas automatically sucked in his breath and recoiled two steps. The pebble-eyes were gleaming. And they were not staring in the house. They were looking up. Up here. Jonas drew the curtains and crept back into bed.

With setting, mood and gifted storytelling, Nesbo is creating a monster (snowman and killer) that has provided me with more than one anxious moment. My lunchtime reads are now spinetinglers, literally. And I know one thing for sure. You can now add snowmen to the list of one time cute and funny 'things' that now scare the crap out of me. Snowmen and clowns. Brrr

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Recently read

Over the past couple of weeks I've raided the library and read Ken Bruen's The Guards, Jacqueline Winspear's The Mapping of Love, Nicola Upson's Angel with Two Faces, Charles Finch's A Stranger in Mayfair, and David Stuart Davies The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Veiled Detective.

That's one drunken former Irish cop, two British female detectives in the 1930s, one fancy Victorian detective and new member of Parliament and a sinister twist on the Holmes and Watson relationship.

On my TBR list for this week and next is Jo Nesbo's The Snowman, Ruth Downie's Medicus, and likely another in Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor series.

Currently listening to:
Glen Gould's The Goldberg Variations

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Rossetti Letter

In The Rossetti Letter, Claire Donovan is a Ph.D student at Harvard finishing her dissertation on Alessandra Rossetti and the letter she supposedly wrote to the Venetian officials warning them of the so-called Spanish Conspiracy.

Narrative shfits between present day Venice with Claire and her research and 1618 Venice, where Alessandra is a young single woman and one of Venice's most popular courtesan's. The two narratives, from two different eras is still an exciting tool for any author trying to make history come alive. But in The Rossetti Letter it feels too familiar. Nothing about the characters, setting or theme is original. As a reader, ther are two things I ask of from a book: something original and a protagonist I like. The protagonist may be a killer, see Edward Glyver in Michael Cox's The Meaning of Night, but I have to like the protagonist enough, to care enough to take time out of my day and follow them as their story unfolds.

On the advice of her best friend, Meredith, Claire is chaperoning a 14 year old, Gwen, on a week long trip to Venice. This gives Claire the opportunity to attend a conference and conduct some much needed research. However, Andrew Kent, famed historian from Cambridge, is giving a lecture at the conference that could possibly debunk Claire's dissertation.

Though the paperback copy I read is 434 pages long, I read the book in about three days. That's both good and bad. Good because it was a quick, effortless read. Bad because I didn't want to spend anytime with the book or the characters...for a number of reasons.

What threw me right away, was Claire's lack of knowledge about the competitive field of history that she was working and studying in. How could Claire not know who Andrew Kent is? He's a famed historian and he's writing a book on the same subject as her. Once she found out that he was speaking at the conference, wouldn't she have gone on-line to try and find out about him? Nope. She actually thinks he's a woman, named Andrea Kent. Great research from a Harvard Ph.D candidate.

The rest of the story falls in place like every other cliche book or movie. In fact, I saw this more as a movie than a book. The same feelings I had after reading The Da Vinci Code or any Steve Berry book. Cliched themes, cliched writing, cliched characters. The paperback copy has a good cover design and it the back cover copy makes the book sound interesting enough...but don't judge a book by its cover.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Redeemer redeems itself

My initial reaction to Jo Nesbo's The Redeemer, was disappointment. I had liked The Devil's Star so much, but the seemingly disjointed narrative of The Redeemer, was off putting. I like novels that attempt to take on a new narrative thread, creating narrative forms to add dimension and a story. Life isn't linear. Life, like dreams, does not follow a straight line and I appreciate narratives that don't follow in line. However, Nesbo's narrative was confusing. There wasn't enough separation in the narrative breaks. It took me a full paragraph or page to realize who the narrative was following.

But then all my initial problems with the style faded away. I became engrossed in the story and the cast of characters. I like thinking while I read, but I don't like trying. And for the first half of the book, I had to try and follow the leader. Once I got past that point and just read and enjoyed, I started to fly through the book.

Croatian hitmen, Norwegian Salvation Army intrigue, Harry Hole, alcohol and women. Great story.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Cleaned the pantry and kitchen and bought some books

After breakfast, I cleaned our kitchen and pantry. Reorganized. Then did lots of nothing. It was a gorgeous day, so my wife willingly went to the book store with me. Traded in many; purchased some more.

A Drink Before the War Dennis Lehane The first in the Kenzie/Gennaro series.

The Given Day
Dennis Lehane Epic. Boston.

Venus in Copper
Lindsey Davis Can never get enough of our man on the case, Marcus Didius Falco.

Deadwood Pete Dexter Called by some the best Western ever written.

The Rossetti Letter Christi Phillips Mystery and intrigue in 17th Century Venice.

No Name Wilkie Collins Dickens called it his best.

Armadale Wilkie Collins Two men. One name.

Remembering Laughter
Wallace Stegner Stegner's first novel.

Joe Hill Wallace Stegner Hero of the people or murderer?

Friday, September 03, 2010

Nearly another year has come and gone

Nearly a full year has past since I last posted on this blog. And although I've still been reading many of your blogs, I haven't been too active in the blogging community. With a one year old running around, my time management has been a bit one-sided. I've been reading, and reading a lot, over the past year. Mostly mysteries still, but littered with some history, travel and a couple bios. I'm still on a Sherlock Holmes kick (just finished A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullum,) but have also tasted my first Jo Nesbo, the entire Stieg Larsson trilogy and today I began Nicola Upson's An Expert in Murder. I can't wait to begin sharing my thoughts on my daily reads and hope that you'll attempt to tune in again.