Biermann's detective is caught up in several murder investigations that involve racism, a serial killer, a band of vengeful feminists, and other denizens of an apocalyptic, millennial Berlin. The novel is a satirical and kaleidoscopic view of Berlin street life just as the Soviet bloc was coming apart but before the fall of the Wall, is amusing and entertaining, and I wish more of her work were available in English. Violetta is a self-conscious "novel," in the sense that there is literary as well as social satire, and the point of view jumps all over the place, but the surface level of the narrative itself is always lively, frequently funny, and at the same time very dark.
Biermann's novel is in a way a meta-noir, a commentary on the form, as well as having some nostalgic looks backward toward the Berlin of Christopher Isherwood's famous stories. Violetta is a lot of fun to read, and shares a bit in the detective's point of view, mostly with Alicia Gimemez-Bartlett's Petra Delicado novels from Spain: both have a comic tone though Violetta is darker and perhaps more decadent and where Petra is at least at first hesitant and inexperienced, Karin Lietze is at the world-weary peak of her career. Once again, I wish that there were more of Bierman's work available in English, and perhaps at least that Violetta will find enough buzz on-line to encourage Serpent's Tail to bring it back into print.
One further comment about "foreign forgotten friday": is anybody interested in a challenge? Look for forgotten crime fiction from beyond your own borders and language and let us know what you find.
Escape Your Chair parkrun to take place in Dundalk next weekend
McFetridge is telling a story with a big canvas, not with a single main character but with a complex and shifting cast of characters that flows from one book to another. It's also even more cinematic in the style, with narrative that sticks to the point of view of the person "on camera" at any particular moment, and elliptical, sometimes street-slangy dialogue that's very realistic, once your ear and eye gets used to it some is in quote marks, some not, sometimes there's "he said" and sometimes not : the style moves very fast, shifting among the characters in short sections headed with the names of the characters who're at the center of that section, within the longer chapters.
There's also no introduction to the characters, old or new: but trust me, go with the flow and it will all start to come into focus, moving unpredictably toward an unconventional end, rather like Elmore Leonard to whom McFetridge is favorably but perhaps too often compared, since his voice is distinctively his own even though he pays homage to the Detroit master in several ways in the new book.
Army vet from Detroit, who has come to Canada to meet with J. There's no artificial "clockwork" plot bringing all of them together: instead, it's character that drives the story forward, through dialogue, toward several conclusions that only seem inevitable once you've reached them. There's a lot of background to the biker gangs in Canada, explaining much of what was assumed in the earlier books and moving the gang's story forward into a new phase.
The violence and the power of the gangs and the powerlessness of the cops to do much about them might seem to give a dark, pessimistic tone to the story, but instead, there's a strange positive attitude for at least the survivors of the events: you might not want to meet any of these people cops or bad guys in dark or even bright alleys, but they're very engaging in McFetridge's telling of the tale. Among Canadian crime writers, McFetridge is the one who's next book I'm most looking forward to, and his on my A-list of international crime as well. I usually save the discussion of covers for the end of a review, but the contrast in cover and title of the U.
Michael Stanley is of course the pen name of the writing team Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, South African natives and long-time friends whose writing career began with a provocative idea for getting rid of a corpse ultimately resulting in A Carrion Death and the creation of their main character, Kubu, whose name means Hippo in Setswana, the language of Botswana where the books are set, and whose name describes his physique.
A Deadly Trade, to use the more compact version of the 2nd novel's title, begins with a murderous night in a safari camp in northern Botswana, to which local cop Tatwa Mooka is called and, feeling the need of more senior assistance, calls his friend and superior officer Kubu, who comes up from the capital, Gaborone.
Lennon takes the lead
The set-up is rather like a locked-room mystery, and many aspects of this series resemble traditional mysteries and cozies: Kubu's family life is rather sweeter than one might find in the case of a noir detective, and many of the secondary and incidental characters are drawn with almost the same assumption of basic goodness as one finds in the Botswana novels of Alexander McCall Smith. But within those characteristics, A Deadly Trade is essentially a police procedural, hammering away at a crime that grows more complex as it is investigated, rather than simpler.
And the placid home life of Kubu is disrupted by threats and kidnappings as the spreading disorder pushes in. It's not just the murders and the villains actual and suspected that deepen the tone of the novel, there's also as the mysteries begin to be solved by Kubu and Tatwa a portrayal of southern African realpolitik, in the relations among the governments and police forces of the region and also in the "traffic" at the heart of the novel I can't get more specific without giving too much away.
- Lennon takes the lead.
- People who bought this also bought....
- Bloody Sunday (1972).
The contrast among the political complexities, murderous crimes, and positive rather than gloomy and flawed main characters create a whole that will probably be interesting and enjoyable for McCall-Smith fans as well as procedural and noir fans maybe stretching the limits that each group has set for itself, in terms of genre boundaries. The portrait of Botswana gives a sense of culture and countryside but also a sense of a peaceful, almost innocent, people caught between larger and more dangerous forces on all sides. Perhaps someone knowledgeable about the country can offer an opinion about the accuracy of Michael Stanley's portrait of the country and its residents, but from the outside it seems rather accurate and certainly sympathetic and believable.
Tuesday, June 08, Giuttari, Downing, and Jungersen.
I suppose everyone goes through patches where everything you pick up to read disappoints, and I'm on a string of those. Not that they're bad books, necessarily, they just don't hook me in. I started reading Christian Jungersen's The Exception last week and just haven't been able to get into it: it's about 4 women who work for a genocide information organization in Denmark--but the book isn't about genocide, for the most part, it's about the tension that develops among them in the workplace. The premise is actually brilliant, an investigation of evil and of the structure of personality are we all multiple personalities?
There are also death threats from outside the group , kidnapping, heroism, and eventually murder: but mostly it's the four characters being irritated and irritating. Maybe I've been in too many workplace situations like that, but I just couldn't take the atmosphere in this fictional workplace.
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The Exception is very well written and flows along smoothly though it's a bit long , and there are some nice twists along the way, some of them having to do with the title and the possibility of doing evil, a very interesting topic, and a fruitful one for crime fiction. I just couldn't stay with the characters. I've started David Downing's Stettin Station several times and just end up putting it down every time. It's well written and very evocative of World War II era Berlin, already at war but since the Americans haven't entered the war yet, the main character, who carries a U.
I'm not a huge fan of historical mysteries, particularly anti-Nazi ones, but what keeps stopping me is that this particular book is about movie stars in Nazi films, rather like the plot of Inglorious Basterds, which I though was an awful movie and top brass in the hierarchy, more than about the grim everyday life which was the strength of Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir books, in my opinion. I'm sure most readers will disagree, maybe I'm just getting up on the wrong side of the book cover lately. The most recent of my string of bad reads was Michele Giuttari's The Death of a Mafia Don, which I also started and dropped several times before making it all the way through.
The best part of this book is that Giuttari's main character, Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara of the Squadra Mobile of Florence, is offstage a lot more than usual. The book is more interesting when the other characters, even the mafia ones, are at center stage instead of the pompous, self-impressed Ferrara plainly based on the author, a former Florentine cop.
The book is like the others in the series so earnest, too, without any leavening of cop humor or any side interests on the part of the main characters. La Piovra ends rather differently, though, with little of Ferrara's ultimate success in bringing anyone to justice.
The Final Silence (Jack Lennon Series #4)
Millions of readers worldwide can't be all wrong, though, I guess--I'm just being dyspeptic again, probably. I do enjoy riding around Florence with Ferrara and the other characters: a bit of nostalgia-by-crime-novel that's very pleasant. Tuesday, June 01, Crime in Argentina.
Ernesto Mallo's Needle in a Haystack translated by Jethro Soutar and published by Bitter Lemon Press uses unconventional means to tell a difficult story. There are two threads to the tale, one beginning with Detective "Perro" Lascano, who is dispatched to a site where two bodies have been discovered, and finds instead that there are three bodies, showing evidence of two different crimes. One of the crimes is political this is the era of the "disappeared" and the dirty war, with the military freely attacking dissidents in the interests of power and ideological purity.
The political crimes can, of course, not be investigated. Along the way, he also discovers a young radical woman on the run who resembles his deceased wife, and who disrupts his comfortable but empty life.
The other thread deals with Amancio, a privileged but feckless young man who can't support his lifestyle or that of his wife and has resorted to money-lenders giving rise to a good deal of anti-Semitism, since the loan shark is a Holocaust survivor. Amancio has recourse to a school friend who is now an Army officer as well as to the loan shark's greedy younger brother as he digs himself further into debt and approaches financial and social ruin.
Along the way, many aspects of s Argentina are explored, including the expropriation of the children of the disappeared and the moral justifications indulged in by the power structure for this and other atrocities. Though far from perfect, Lennon and Fegan are both depicted as admirable characters for defending justice. Fegan has been hiding in New York City, working as a carpenter. Unfortunately, Italian thugs flush him out of cover; they threaten to reveal his true identity to those who are looking for him if he refuses to be their muscle.
Fegan is having visions of a young girl trapped in a blazing fire. He shares a psychic link with young Ellen who is having nightmares of being on fire. This child, considered strange by several characters, appears to have invisible friends with whom she has conversations.
The Final Silence
This is the novel's only supernatural element. Fegan returns to Belfast when he strongly suspects that his beloved Marie and Ellen are in danger. In Collusion , the mysterious Traveller is definitely the novel's antagonist. He has no qualms about killing innocent people; to him, it is just a job. A teenager and a housewife are just several of his victims who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The bedridden Bull O'Kane, who hired the Traveller, reminds me of the wealthy, vindictive Mason Verger of the film Hannibal ; confined to a wheelchair and life-support system, Verger sought to capture and destroy the elusive Dr.
Hannibal Lecter. Bull O'Kane's evil insanity is truly revealed when he, for unknown reasons, orders the death of his chauffeur, Declan Quigley, who saved his life at the Middletown massacre.
Collusion is highly recommended reading for those who enjoy gritty crime drama, especially Irish noir. This complex thriller contains numerous twists and surprises. It is rife with mystery. For example, who at the PPS is in collusion with the Traveller? The ending itself was surprisingly sad and depressing and makes the reader wonder if there will be a sequel. One can only hope. Nevertheless, I will be eagerly awaiting Stuart Neville's next novel.