April 22nd, 2011


Books 37-38: Firewall and The Return of the Dancing Master

Book 37: Firewall (Kurt Wallander 08).
Author: Henning Mankell, 1998. Translated from the Swedish by Ebba Segerberg, 2002.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Paperback. 534 pages.

A man is found dead at an ATM, the apparent victim of a heart attack. A day or so later two teenage girls are arrested for a brutal attack on a cab driver that leaves him mortally wounded. The girls confess, showing no remorse for their crime. At first these appear to be two open-and-shut unrelated cases. However, as Wallander seeks to understand why the girls murdered the cab driver an unexpected link between the two cases is revealed and he uncovers a conspiracy that is much more complex and wide-ranging than he could have imagined.

Poor old Kurt Wallander! In this novel he is feeling more and more out of place in a world increasingly dominated by computers and the internet. I had waited a while to read this book, partly because until the release of The Troubled Man this year it was the last Wallander novel, so I wanted to prolong the goodbye to a beloved character and partly because I had watched the BBC's 2008 adaptation and wanted some time to pass before I tackled the book. So while I knew the general plot and outcome, it remained a satisfying read for the characterisations, sub-plots and Mankell's close attention to the details of the investigation.

Book 38: The Return of the Dancing Master.
Author: Henning Mankell, 2000. Translated from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson, 2003.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Paperback. 520 pages.

The main character of this stand-alone police procedural.is Stefan Lindman, a young police detective on extended sick leave. When he hears about the brutal murder of Herbert Molin, a retired police detective who had been his partner early in his career, he decides to investigate. He travels to Northern Sweden and teams up with a local police detective who welcomes his input. The inquiry becomes increasingly complex and dangerous as Lindman uncovers the links between Herbert Molin's death and a global web of neo-Nazi activity.

Mankell always includes social and political themes in his crime novels and here it is the continuing influence of the Nazi movement in Europe. The narrative takes an unexpected turn part way through as the perspective shifts in some chapters to the murderer. In this case, knowing whodunit challenges readers' preconceptions and actually increases the mystery. I have come to trust Mankell and he again delivered a compelling story with plenty of twists and turns.

Mankell's novels are 'slow burns' rather than 'thrill-a-minute' types and the complexity of the plot does warrant close attention. My slight disappointment was that Stefan in the novel bore little relationship to Stefan Lindman as he appeared in the first season of Yellow Bird TV series, developed from Mankell's story treatments. Yes, I had a bit of a crush on that Stefan but less so on the his original incarnation in the novel.

Books 8 and 9

Book eight
The Psychopath Test - Jon Ronson

Ronson is a British journalist with all the stereotypical quirks and strange humor you might imagine in that mix. He's anxious and nosy, slovenly and with teeth only an Appalachian would be proud to own.
And yet ... he is something of a new journalist whose self-deprecating ways earn him entry where few other reporters go: with the extremist groups and their charismatic leaders, whom he chronicled in "Them." He is perhaps best known for "The Men Who Stare At Goats," a look at the New Age Army unit that trained, and believe, they could walk through walls and kill said animals simply by staring them down.
In other words, he disarms the crazy because he appears he might could be one of them. And without judgment, he details the sorts of everyday madness the rest of us don't understand.
In "Psychopath," he's done it again. This time, clearly, he's looking at one a single realm of mental illness: psychopathy. Sociopaths, as suffers are also known, are often the charming if disturbingly unfeeling con men of the mentally ill.
Ronson's delves into the issue after meeting Tony, a petty criminal who claims to have faked madness to avoid jail. Instead, he's sent to a British asylum for the criminally insane and can't be released. Doctors have accepted that he lied in the hopes of not being locked up but have now diagnosed him as a dangerous psychopath. This is shocking to Ronson, who at first feels sympathy for this man who shows up in a flashy suit for their meeting, while all the other inmates/patients are decked out in sweats.
Ronson is a bit of conspiracy theorist himself, which makes him open to trying every angle of his topic. First, he trains to become an expert in spotting psychopathic behavior, which he learns is often spotted in political and business leaders.
Then he begins to argue that the whole diagnosis is over-used, both by psychologists and journalists looking for madness to explain cruel or unusual behavior from the simply disturbed, like Tony.
Still, his conclusion is grim. Psychopaths do exist. There is little that can be done to stop them before they harm others. Knowing how to spot them can help, perhaps. But only if you can distinguish between the dangerous and the obsessive when a fine line is often the only difference.

Book nine
Thieves of Manhattan - Adam Langer

Ian Minot has a problem. A 30-something orphan of modest means, he longs to be a writer. He has spent years in New York City following the path he believes will make him a published author: submitting his stories to magazines and agents, trying to chat up agents while working as a caterer to their swanky parties and writing his quiet stories in the hours after dutifully working a barista job with a would-be actor and a sometimes artist.
But his stories are too small, his focus on characters too distracting from plots that rarely arc or jump. His delicate self-esteem breaks down not after churning that so many deceitful and lying writers are being heralded for their "true: memoirs. It's when his Eastern European girlfriend, who also writes small stories, begins to rise that Ian feels himself beginning to fall.
Enter the Confidence Man. Jeb Roth is a former book editor and frustrated writer who jumps from his career out of sheer anger that his firm is publishing one of those lying manuscripts he had initially refused.
Roth has a plan: let Ian rewrite an over-the-top novel that Roth himself penned, only claim it as true. Once he is heralded for his bravery and ability to overcome, Ian can turn the tables on the industry by telling the real truth. Agents, publishers and reviewers will all be embarrassed by the lies they've so eagerly embraced.
Of course, Langer's dark humor and outlandish social commentary won't let that happen. Our culture has been so warped, reality and dishonesty can become interchangeable. Ethics have given way to profit.
Mere satire on this topic isn't enough. He engages film noir, screwball comedy and adventure stories all to make his case. That is, lies can often reveal the truth about people far better than authenticity.
Eric in Robe

No. 27 for 2011

Title: Ashes of Midnight
Author: Lara Adrian
Rating: 4/5
Book: 26/50 (54% completed)
Pages: 353 pgs
Total Pages: 10,597/15,000 pages (70.64% completed)
Version: Book
Next up: Shades of Midnight by Lara Adrian

This one was not my favourite book of the series. It was still good and a page turner but I missed reading about a member of the Order. This book was about Andreas, who is a Breed vampire over in Germany. The members of the Order were involved, however, it wasn't as much as I would have liked. Overall, it was still a good read.

xposted to 50bookchallenge, 15000pages and bookworm84

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El Corazon

41. Scream at the Sky...; 42. The Walking Dead, Volume 9...

Scream at the Sky: Five Texas Murders and One Man's Crusade for Justice
by Carlton Stowers

Started: April 18, 2011
Finished: April 22, 2011

A well-written look at the 1984-85 murder of five young women in Wichita Falls. I'd never heard of this case before, but this book made for a compelling read. 227 pages. Grade: B+
The Walking Dead, Volume 9: Here We Remain
by Robert Kirkman

Started: April 20, 2011
Finished: April 22, 2011

Not near as good as the previous volume--but that would have been tough to do. Still, this was a good enough read. I kind of wished the Rick-Carl venturing out on their own plot line had lasted a bit longer but I also like the new characters introduced at the end of this one. 136 pages. Grade: B+
Total # of books read in 2011: 42
Total # of pages read in 2011: 10,754
  • cat63

Book 27 for 2011

Fifth Quarter by Tanya Huff. 456 pages

Sing the Four Quarters wasn't my favourite of Tanya Huff's books, so while I always planned to read this book set in the same world, I wasn't in a huge hurry to get to it. It was actually a bit easier to get into than the first book though. it begins with Vree and Bannon, a team of brother and sister assassins, being sent to kill the leader of a besieged city. But he isn't quite what he seems and he steals Bannon's body, having poisoned his own, leaving the siblings both stuck in Vree's body.

They pursue him, intent on retrieving Bannon's body, but things only get more complicated....

A good interesting story with some nice twists. I was put off a bit at first by Vree's obvious attraction to her own brother, but it's made very clear that this is an unhealthy thing and that their relationship generally isn't really good for either of them and is unnaturally close because of the way they were raised as assassins by the army. In fact the theme of the book is probably Vree breaking away from that (symbolised by a moment late in the book when she severs herself irretrievably from her past) and finding her own identity as an individual and not as part of "Vree and Bannon" or of the army.

And there are hints of setting things up for a direct sequel.