Posts Tagged ‘mystery’
Sonika and I both reading the same book at the same time! Exciting! And no one was more thrilled than I when she posted her review first.
The third book in the Millineum trilogy also made me angry that Stieg Larsson has died, but it was also a confirmation of his talent. Unlike the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire (link to my review), which picks up after a year has passed since TGWTDT, this book starts on the same night that the previous book ends. I greatly appreciated the continuity and jump into action without any explanation; it shows a great deal of trust in the readers’ intelligence, as well as confidence in the story.
There really is very little that can be told about the plot of this book without spoilers- and without revealing the ending of the past book. I will say I found it both immensely satisfied me and left me longing for more of both these characters and Larsson’s work. It was a solid wrap-up to the main plotline trilogy, though I agree with Sonika that quite a bit more could have been explored. Yet I appreciated that the lives of the characters after this mayhem were not quite clear; it was a nod to their complexity and the just-near-enough-to-the-underbelly world they exist in.
As an additional note, my brother was not so thrilled with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, in part because it is so plot-driven and he wished the characters were a bit more philosophical about their actions. On this point, I have to agree that the characters act first and think later- if ever- about alternative options, but I would also be surprised if readers wanted their murder mysteries to have less plot and more long, descriptive scenes. Am I wrong about this?
For a succinct overview of the trilogy, plot and characters, I’d recommend the first part of the NYT book review. Otherwise, I’d tell you to hurry up and read the previous two books so you can enjoy The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Net.
Yep. I did it. I went out and bought it in hardcover the first second I could. I scoured bookstores for the whole month of May (not knowing and being too lazy to look up the actual release date) anxiously awaiting the nanosecond when I could get TGWKTHN into my greedy little hands. I was even stalking TARGET. JUST IN CASE. It was on June 1st (a whole WEEK after its release!) that I found it in my local Borders and snapped it up. It certainly made that day redeemable as having an anxiously awaited book to read on the train makes going on said train up to Boston for a stupid routine doctor’s appointment that will only last ten minutes, yet you are on the train for an hour to get there – half hour on the T, which inevitably makes you motion sick – another half hour on the T back to South Station – and an hour on a rush hour train watching powerful women wielding TWO Blackberries simultaneously – it makes that day worthwhile.
I can’t say much without getting all spoilery, so I will just say that it was awesome. It was awesome and a corollary to its awesomeness is that I am now firmly pissed off that Steig Larsson is dead.
I kind of morbidly wonder if the Millenium trilogy would have been as popular if he’d been around. There’s a certain mystique to “… and then he DROPPED DEAD.” about the books. It’s also really amazing to think of how wildly they’ve been selling (the Borders clerk – one of my former coworkers – commented that they’ve been flying off the shelf) when the author of said books hasn’t been around to do book tours and interviews and shit like that. No one, NO ONE in the world has an autographed copy of these books. Kinda eerie.
And while I wouldn’t mind reading an interview talking about his inspiration for Lisbeth Salander, I’m really pissed off that he’s not writing more books. I expected TGWKTHN to kind of wrap up all lose ends, but it really ends rather ambiguously. The main plot line is resolved, but there’s no real sense of “finality” to the ending. There’s a lot more “And then?!” that could be explored in subsequent books.
Which, of course, could definitely go into the territory of “Should have quit while he was ahead.” But I’m pissed that WE’LL NEVER KNOW because he didn’t “quit.” He bit it. He wrote three amazing books and then had the audacity to die before they were published.
So, there you have it. I loved the book and Stieg Larsson is a jerk. A dead jerk.
UPDATE: According to Wikipedia, the Millennium series was supposed to contain up to 10 books!
Larsson left about three quarters of a fourth novel on a notebook computer in Gabrielsson’s possession; synopses or manuscripts of the fifth and sixth in the series, which was intended to contain an eventual total of ten books, may also exist.
YOU JERK. YOU DEAD, DEAD JERKITY JERKFACED JERK YOU JERKFACE AND YOU HAVE THE FACE OF A JERK.
After I finished In the Woods and found out Tana French’s follow-up book was about the fascinating and as-yet underdeveloped character of Detective Cassie Maddox, I went to my used bookstore the next day. Readers, I was fully prepared to pay full price for the book in the event that Half Price did not have it. That’s how serious my craving was- I was willing to jettison both a bargain price and Amazon to have it in my hands immediately.
Fortunately, the universe came through for me and there was a lovely unblemished copy of The Likeness in stock AND on the clearance shelf. Never have I felt so taken care of by mystic forces.
The Likeness picks up six months after the end of In the Woods. Cassie has transferred out of the murder department and into domestic violence- until the body of a girl who looked exactly like her AND who was using her former undercover alias (Lexie Madison) is found in an abandoned cottage .
Now comes the part where French tests the reader: exactly how much are you willing to suspend your disbelief? But hey, I watched Iron Man 2 over the weekend, so I was game. A scheme is hatched for Lexie Madison’s roommates to be told she survived the stabbing and is coming home- but for Cassie to be sent in undercover as Lexie to determine possible suspects for her murder.
Still reading? If so, then the rest of the book is quite fascinating, especially as all of the roommates are English majors. Cue the drunk but philosophical talks and the big dreams of not working and just writing for the rest of their lives. I understand; I’ve got the same dream, which is why I have plans to move to a Vermont farmhouse and co-found a commune. But still, it’s quite interesting to watch the group attempt to resist pressures from the “real world” by refusing to engage with their parents or discuss their pasts.
The really dissatisfying part of this book to me was the romance angle between Cassie and another detective Sam. I thought it was unconvincing, underdeveloped, and maybe it’s just because I really liked Rob Ryan, but I was not a fan of their romance at all. I kind of hope that French breaks them up in the future. I also hope I see a lot more of Cassie and Rob Ryan.
In the meantime, I’ll be bidding my time until French’s third book comes out, which focuses on Frank Mackey, the detective who coordinates Cassie’s undercover operation in this book. I might even have to buy it in hardback. Of course, this will mean my copies don’t match and paying full price. We’ll see whether my thrifty Virgo tendencies can hold out, but I’m betting I’ll be beating down the bookstore door on July 13.
A week ago, I did not know who Tana French was. I was wandering through my happy place- a used bookstore after a particularly stressful day at work, and I picked up In the Woods on the clearance rack for two reasons: 1) I liked the cover and 2) I remembered having vaguely heard of this book. I took it home and could not put it down, and then immediately went out and bought French’s second book (also on clearance- win!), and all told, I have read through 900 pages of Irish murder mystery in the past week.
In the Woods opens with the dead body of a teenage girl being found in an archeological dig site. Enter Detective Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox, and throw in an extra complication: this is the same location that Ryan and two of his friends went missing as 12-year-olds. Only Ryan was found, with blood in his shoes and socks, and no idea what had happened to his friends. This event changed the trajectory of his life, especially given his efforts to avoid thinking about the trauma, right up until this case. Enter themes of identity as well, given that very few people know that Ryan was the kid who survived, and it’s a perfect storm for our Irish boy.
French uses the first person, which makes Ryan’s recounting of the case and his not-so-gradual breakdown intensely immediate. In the Woods was not a car wreck that I couldn’t turn away from, but rather a car wreck I couldn’t escape, as I was in the car with Ryan. I wondered what kind of a detective Ryan had been prior to this case, and worried about his liver, and wanted to yell at him when he made his predictable but annoyingly dumb mistakes.
Oh, what a meltdown it was, and still, I liked Ryan at the end of the book, and wanted much more of him and Cassie. And I wanted more of French’s writing, which was surprisingly elegant given that the grisly crime works are not where I go looking to find prose that will move me.
This book is definitely a first novel and was not without its flaws, but I think the fact that I could not put it, or its follow-up down, speaks for itself. Additionally, this was the perfect book to satiate me until The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest comes out later this month. And for anyone to whom I’d like to recommend Larsson but worry about the graphic violence and triggering scenes, I finally have an alternative recommendation: Tana French.
I’ve been waiting for this to come out in paperback since I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in paperback and I like my books to match. (YES HELLO VIRGO TENDENCIES. NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN.) Problem is, it took so long that it’s been nearly a year since I read TGWtDT… for the first time. Yep. I got two-thirds of the way through The Girl Who Played With Fire and went back, bought a new copy of TGWtDT (because I had “loaned” mine to Nuno’s brother in Portugal, where it still resides) and read it all over again.
I don’t necessarily think that you need to do this. The story of TGWPWF stands up on its own, certainly. There are a lot of references to TGWtDT, but they’re very well explained and there’s absolutely no reason that you need to have read it first – unless you’re a nrrrd like me. I went back because I couldn’t remember the details, which was making me mental. “Oh yes, I remember something about that… but, I don’t remember exactly how that happened…” As mentioned, I’m a Virgo and so there is this tendency towards completism that sometimes borders on neurosis. Certainly this is true with me and books.
My neurosis may have to bend on the “matching books” thing when The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest comes out. It’s either buy the hardback or re-read the first two in the series when the paperback comes out. CONUNDRUM. I could always buy the hardback, and then sell it to the used book store and buy a paperback copy later… IT IS VERY HARD TO BE ME.
… coming back to this draft, having now finished TGWPWF – it is no longer difficult. I will buy that book in hardcover the NANOSECOND that it is released. In fact, I am pre-ordering it on Amazon RIGHT. NOW.
The ending? I have never before read a book that literally got my heart rate up. I usually read at night, before I go to bed, and last night I got to the climax of the book. The perfectly paced book that leaves you a nice little trail of bread crumbs here and there. I figured out the big reveal about fifty pages before it’s unveiled, which is certainly what Larsson is aiming for and I don’t feel like any big genius for figuring it out. It’s not spelled out point blank, but any reasonably clever person who’s read a mystery before can figure out the mystery identity by the time it’s revealed. I honestly couldn’t keep reading as I’d taken a sedative before I started reading (a common occurrence for those of us who otherwise don’t fall asleep until 4AM and yet need to live normal lives), so the second I got up this morning I picked up the book.
Note: I never do this. Ever. I never read in the morning. Maybe in the afternoon, but it’s just not my habit to read first thing in the morning. Even on a Sunday. But I had to. I had to finish the book. And now I’m cursing myself that I finished it before TGWKTHN has been released because AAAHHHH EFFIN’ CLIFFHANGER GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH…
Which seems an appropriate note to end this post on.
The Club Dumas started off as a really great, geeky murder mystery and then dissolved into silliness about halfway through, which was a let down. It opens with wonderfully seedy characters and a good sense of humor that comes through despite the translation. And hey, it’s a book about books, which is always awesome.
The plot is a bit complicated to recap, so I’m borrowing from Amazon’s blurb by Publishers Weekly: The hero is Lucas Corso, an itinerant rare-book hunter who’d gladly sell his grandmother for a first edition. When a wealthy cookbook publisher and bibliophile is found hanged in his study, leaving behind an original handwritten chapter from Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, antiquarian book dealer Flavio LaPorte asks his friend Corso to authenticate the manuscript. What begins as a straightforward assignment soon complicates into a bewildering tangle of literary gamesmanship as the book detective finds himself swept into a real-life adventure-serial and crime novel rolled into one.
Intriguing, right? And so I picked it up and was rather captivated by Corso and his upfront but less-than-savory actions. Dead bodies follow Corso wherever he goes, but it’s unclear whether it’s related to the Dumas chapter or the books on summoning the devil he’s also tracking down (though the nature of the latter search would seem to lend itself to dead bodies). Additionally, he hooks up with a dark-haired girl who keeps saving his life, appears to be the devil incarnate, and doesn’t care at all about The Three Musketeers. All of these factors seem promising, and yet, I was incredibly let down by the lameness of the ending.
However, I will say that for a book geek, this was a great read in that several dozen books were mentioned throughout the novel, as well as details about old school book-binding, printing, and a fairly interesting history of Dumas and his works. For all of these reasons, I’m not sorry I read it. I’d just advise focusing on these areas of the book rather than whether the plot holds water.
As a side note, this book was also the basis of the movie The Ninth Gate with Johnny Depp, which I have not seen.
I realized I had a Nevada Barr book on my shelf that I hadn’t yet read, Blind Descent, and so I picked it up and in less than a day, I have established a mental list of all the reasons I will never be a spelunker. Reasons number 5 through 82 relate directly to this book and the idea that someone might try to off me while I’m in a hole in the ground. Worse yet is the idea that they might fail the first time and continue to try to kill me while I’m climbing my way back to the surface.
And that is the plot of Blind Descent in a nutshell, except the bad guys try to kill one of National Park Ranger Anna Pigeon’s friends the first time around, and then it gets a bit kamikaze after the initial failure. At the beginning of the book, Anna is called from her home park to Carlsbad Caverns to help with the rescue of a caver, who also happens to be one of her friends who works with her at Mesa Verde. This establishes the reason for a trip to a new park (and I tend to like how Barr does this, as it makes it a bit more plausible than always having her ranger permanently relocate), and then Anna is told her friend is asking for her.
Now, I’d like to point out that even though you might feel this is a bit weak plot-wise, THIS IS A DAMN GOOD FRIEND. Because if Sonika climbed into a hole and then wanted to see me in the center of the earth, I’d send a few books and some extra batteries for her flashlight with a note saying I loved her along with the actual rescuers. And then I’d sit at the mouth of the cave and eat s’mores.
But Anna is a much better friend than I am, or she succumbs to peer pressure, and she wanders right into this cave with the rescue crew. And this isn’t the main, well-explored cave. No, this is Lechuguilla Cave, and that very name should strike fear into your heart. Fortunately for the reader, parts of this book do take place above ground, which offers a break from the oppressive descriptions of dark, scary places. Much like in Orhan Pamuk’s Snow, in which the writing generated the feelings of quiet and winter light, Blind Descent feels stifling and dark, and this is a tribute to the writing.
While this isn’t Barr’s best book, neither is it her weakest, and it endeared me to Anna Pigeon once more- so much so, I picked up another of Barr’s books to reread this weekend. After all, nothing says vacation like rereading a murder mystery set in the great outdoors.
Lisbeth Salander kicks some serious ass. That’s really all there is to say about the Swedish punk private investigator/hacker featured in Steig Larsson’s books, and after finishing the second book in a flurry, I am really lamenting his loss and already dreading the end of the third book. It took no time at all after I finished the first book for me to bite the bullet and shell out for the second, even though it is still in hardback.
The Girl Who Played With Fire does drop off a bit from the first in storyline quality, although that’s to be expected when one of the main characters becomes a murder suspect and spends half the book in hiding. Throughout the book, Larsson deals with sex trafficking and violence against women in Sweden, which makes Lisbeth all the more impressive (to me) as a survivor. This is reminiscent of Dragon Tattoo, of which the original title translated to be “Men Who Hate Women.” Good times, clearly. Larsson’s books aren’t for the faint of heart, however, as he never shies away from details in disturbing situations.
Long story short, if you liked the first one (and I can only think of a few people I know I wouldn’t recommend that book to, primarily because of triggering scenes), you’ll probably pick up the second, and while it won’t top Dragon Tattoo, it will still leave you wanting to read more of Lisbeth Salandar and Mikael Blomkvist, and hey, if you hate those characters, each book is packed with at least 50 others to entertain you.
Wow, I loved The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I simply could not put it down, and did not want it to end, which explains why I shelled out hard-earned dollars (well, earned dollars) for the hardback edition of the next book, The Girl Who Played With Fire, which I’m currently reading.
There are really few people I can think of who wouldn’t like this book. A Swedish journalist is convicted of libel and has to step back from his magazine to ensure its survival, so he accepts a job from an old rich businessman to solve the disappearance/find the murderer of his niece who disappeared 40 years ago. The journalist recruits a hell of a character, a female private investigator, to help him, and the two of them get caught up in a murder mystery. I will say there are definitely some uncomfortable scenes and themes, including some that might be triggering, but overall, this book rocked my socks off, and I can only hope the next two are as good.
Background: Steig Larsson turned in three manuscripts before he died. This one is the first novel, Fire is the second, and the third will be released in May 2010.
My parents trekked to Kansas City a few weekends ago for Father’s Day, and while they were here I took them to I Love a Mystery, which is a kick-ass independent bookstore. While we were stimulating the economy, we picked up an older Nevada Barr mystery that had slipped through the cracks: High Country, which is set in Yosemite.
Anna Pigeon is undercover as a waitress at Yosemite after having been called away from her home park in Mississippi to lend support when four people disappear. All four are in their 20s or early 30s, and hope is fading as its winter. And though this is the reason for Anna to be in Yosemite, the missing people take a bit of a backseat to her coworkers in the restaurant, who are all a bit off their rocker in varying degrees, and her two roommates who scored a bad bag of weed and end up in the hospital. All of this later makes sense, but for awhile, it’s a bit distracting.
All of that fades away, however, when Anna goes on a hike… by herself… and meets the bad guys face to face. You can see that coming a mile away, right? Still, there’s a great 100 page chase scene that kept me awake long after I had become delirious from exhaustion. At the end of the chase and the subsequent kidnapping, however, I still was left feeling like this wasn’t Anna’s, or Barr’s, best foot forward.
But just because it wasn’t my favorite in the series doesn’t change the fact that High Country was a better-than-decent read, kept me tense and had these gems for quotes that I wrote down:
Secrets were like rabbits. If you got two in January, by year’s end you had two hundred. (If I was tweeting that, I would direct it at Mark Sanford.)
(When Anna is thinking about her promise to her fiance not to die on this trip and her cat.) One could break promises. It was allowed. One could not abandon one’s cat. Not and retain any hope of heaven.
It’s true. Sonika and I both have cats that have neither been loved or fed EVER (respectively), and somehow those cats keep making it in the car every time either of us moves.