Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Another Deliciously Dark Nesbo - The Snowman

Hot on the heels of Hole’s The Redeemer, I’m racing through another Jo Nesbo:
By now we know that Harry Hole struggles with an alcohol problem and we’ve seen his efforts to work out in a basement gym.

We are privy to the fact that he had and lost a once in a lifetime love: Rakel. And the Snowman rocks because we get more vicarious drool time via extended peeks at quality time between the two lovelorn love birds. Thrillers, when the author is male, often appear to be thinly cloaked excuses for a male romantic genre. In other words, here is where we women get to glimpse what might be romance from the male point of view.
In The Snowman, we might have a serial killer or such is what I gather and I’m past the page 100 mark. Now, it’s interesting that we seem to require exotic criminals - psychopaths and serial killers and all. Personally, I find the Higashino approach more satisfying - of finding the criminal or crime in the most ordinary, as a chance surrender to a dark instant.
As for other highlights of this very yummy read, we have, interspersed, snippets of what Indians call ‘gyan’ - info/trivia… So far we learned about the mating habits of some kind of seal and about an interesting veterinary procedure using a fascinating cutting and cauterising implement.
It’s so sad to find readers at a library endlessly borrowing an Alistair Maclean or Jack Higgins when Nordic Noir titles gleam outstandingly at hand!

So, if you are one such, loving the crime genre but stuck in a worn out groove, or if you know of anyone wallowing in such stagnation, do just buy The Snowman.

And what better time than with the film being released this year?


Wednesday, July 05, 2017

A Taylored Read - The Escape by C L Taylor

A most marvellous monsoon wedding anniversary in Goa was much boosted by some very entertaining reads. In fact, I was glad to find a goodly pile of novels and other books in the reception at the Lazy Frog, Carmona.

 All my choices were thrillers. And, besides The Redeemer and others, I had The Escape by C.L. Taylor.  

What impressed me about this novel, for one thing, are the strong friendships between women. Mother and daughter, friends and even strangers. I was almost envious!

Also, though this is not an outstanding book by most measures, the author has managed to offer the portrait of a certain type of man. Men are, by and large, very nice. However, it is possible to find some traits such as portrayed in this story in a scarily large section of the gender. I do hope that will not be taken as any sweeping indictment of the sex. It just happens that there still exists a tendency to not only downplay but, worse, take advantage of certain anxieties a women might have or express. Some 'feminine' moods or mindsets, a section of society might, sadly, readily agree upon as typical. And, alas, there are men who do not seem to be able to restrain themselves from using these manifestations in a woman to help label her unsteady or even unreliable. I realise that this is a most messy paragraph! Basically, it's all too easy to allege that a woman is being governed by her own 'unnatural' urges. The contradiction is that these are considered natural in a woman as opposed to some supposedly calm and rational behaviour in men.

Jo Blackmore becomes a typical case of how terrible it can be when such a thing happens. Now, who's going to believe a thing she says? And, more importantly, who's going to believe her innocence?

There’s the tension of being on the run with a little one in tow but Taylor’s focus and forte relinquish this line and opt instead for some amazingly magical scenes like the one where Jo has just entered the quaint hotel in Ireland and something happens. There is an almost glow to that scene or maybe the Feni at the Seaman’s Nest on the riverside just kicked in.
I sort of had the same experience - the use of the present tense was a bit distressing, if I remember right. But, like that person’s friend, I soon couldn’t put it down.

I’m not sure if I’d deliberately look out for more by C. L. Taylor but it was just right for a rainy holiday read and I see that she hits the right note with many female readers on Goodreads and elsewhere.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Redeemer - A Redeeming Read by Jo Nesbø

I will never feel happy confronting my vacuum cleaner now that Jo Nesbo has revealed its sinister possibilities
Indeed. And that is a powerful reason for lovers of the genre to read the redeemer. What more can we ask for than a nice gruesome scene or two cozily ensconced in the cold hard body of a narrative?

The story opens with some boy-girl stuff. Youth camp. For me it brings back memories of a Soviet novel for young adults. Fancy that! Ages ago, in the early seventies, there existed young adult fiction. In a commie country! Somehow we are constantly made to feel that repressive regimes spell the death of good literature or art. Yet time and again this stifling of creativity spawns a significant and commanding outflow. A vanguard. Avant garde...  To return to the book in hand, the Nordic countries all share somewhat of the same pool of archetypes as the ex-Red countries. This factor might be what makes for the popularity of the Nordic Noir genre.

The camp is part of the Norwegian Salvation Army’s setup. 

I knew precious little about the Salvation Army save through mentions en famille. My folks had been in the UK before I was born. But all I was privy to was a sense of contempt and grudging admiration. I can’t really tell you if this attitude was on par with their outlook on people from the Hare Krishna foundation or the Jehovah's witnesses. My only takeaway is how the author has brought in a well known entity without introducing flavours of approval/disapproval or any such thing. Yet it makes for authenticity and atmosphere. And fits well with the broader theme of the region’s struggle with drugs. A thread that runs through the works of Mankell and others from the area. Also, besides the world of the addict, we are exposed to the measures set in place by nations in that part of the globe - drugs distributed to addicts via a governmental initiative. While I cannot say for sure that this novel applauds or denigrates such policies, it is, undoubtedly, a healthy piece of information for readers in other parts of the world which trudge through issues across the inhospitable terrain of colonial hand me downs. The pleasure and value of books is that they divinely allow us into the many worlds of others, other regions and other practices, thus enriching and empowering us. 

The setting set, the novel rapidly plunges the reader into the scene of what is surely a rape. The rapist’s face is not seen but surely we know who he is. Flashes of a disturbed personality emerge early. As if this were not enough to get the adrenalin flowing, we are presented the hero, Harry Hole, and there is a ferocious dog attacking him. For me, this dog remains a major highlight of the story. Because, as it so happened, we were chased by a very angry dog around the time I’d read that chapter. The universe’s way of making a book more exciting? More pertinently, my dirty habit of skipping pages and reading a book every which way has left me in the dark about the abovementioned canine. And so I am tortured by the following questions:
Who killed the dog?
Who ate it?

And this brings us to the genre of the serial detective. This protagonist remains one and the same across a series of novels. Disconcerting if badly handled as the reader has to be privy to things that have happened to the protagonist earlier than the now of the novel. I would say that the author has done a good job of it. We painlessly get to know that Hole drinks way too much. That he had a love interest. That things have soured between them. That this is because of the compounding of Harry’s determined pursuit of a high ranking wrongdoer in the police ranks to his habit of consuming massive amounts of alcohol. 

Crime and punishment on many levels, then, is also a charm of the book. Sooner than you can say genocide you’re transported to the Serbia-Croatia conflict. Time past and time present fuse explosively to bring some answers and more questions in an entertaining roller coaster ride that has you hurtling through romance, horror, geographies and urban landscapes such as shipping containers. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we now have an assassin. A hitman in Hole country. He doesn’t speak a word of the local language. A challenge in itself. But who is he after and who has he shot? And why? Who hired him? There are challenges for the detectives as well - here’s a man with a face that can’t easily be recognised. A good ploy in a detective novel: you’re given almost everything on a plate and yet none of those clues work. Only Harry Hole knows the whole story! 

There are enough spoilers online to help you make up your mind about reading this book or not and so I’m done so far as that goes. Were I to know a book had all or some of the above ingredients I’d buy it in a flash.

Having read it on a monsoon vacation in Goa, I’d fulsomely recommend it to anyone who loves a good crime read. Best read when it’s raining outside. Ideally served with cold meats or anything that works all the better to get you into the Nordic Noir mood.

2017 promises at least one Harry Hole film. I do hope I get to see it.