Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “crime fiction”

Katie’s #26 #CBR4 Review: The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr. Ripley is not a book I would have picked up on my own for fear it would be too dark.  However, I’ve been enjoying doing group reads a lot and this was the next book for the Constant Reader Group on Goodreads.  The book tells the story of Ripley, a man sent to Europe to talk an acquaintance into returning to the United States.  Instead, he begins desperately wishing he has his acquaintance’s life and even murder won’t prevent our amoral protagonist from achieving his goals.  I’m sure you can see why I was worried about it being too dark!

Read more here…

Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #11: The City & the City by China Miéville

Target: China Miéville’s The City & the City

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Crime Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Weird Fiction

I don’t really understand how I missed that China Miéville always writes about cities.  Probably because the first book I read of his was Embassytown, which, despite the title, isn’t really about the community of Embassytown.  Every other novel of his is heavily reliant on the social setting of a city and each is colored by the nature of the starring city.  Perdido Street Station is about New Crobuzon, a darker version of our New Yorks and Los Angeles.  The Scar, set in the same world, is defined by the community of liberated slaves and kidnapped victims that populate the floating city of Armada.  In contrast, The City & the City doesn’t explore the title cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma as much as it examines the political and psychological implications of the unique setting of the twin city-states.

Besźel and Ul Qoma occupy the same physical space.  That’s the entire premise of the book.  At some point in the distant past, a prehistoric culture shattered a city into a patchwork of two nations that exist in the same place but are kept apart by psychological pressure and the mysterious forces of Breach.  The book never makes it clear if there is a supernatural force at work behind this separation or if it is just a case of nationalism taken to an obscene extreme, and ultimately it doesn’t matter.  You need to accept the idea that two people walking down the same street can be in different countries based solely on the clothes that they wear and the way that they walk, or the rest of the book isn’t going to be compelling.

Read the rest of the review…

Kemp Ridley’s #CBR4 Review #08: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union seemed like a perfect choice for my next read because it involves two of my great loves: alternate history stories and hardboiled detective fiction.  For the most part, I enjoyed The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.  The setting was very well thought out and engaging: The area around Sitka, Alaska, was used to create a temporary home for Jewish refugees during World War II, and became more or less the largest concentration of Jews in the world after the state of Israel failed in 1948.  Now, however, the handwriting is on the wall and Reversion, the return of the settlement to Alaskan control, is looming, causing great uncertainty and upheaval.

The protagonist is one Meyer Landsman.  Landsman was a great homicide detective until he and his wife – also a cop – divorced following the medically necessary termination of a pregnancy.  Landsman couldn’t handle either the loss of the child or the loss of his wife, and is now a broken shell of a man living in alcoholism and despair in a sleazy hotel.  When one of Landsman’s fellow losers turns up shot to death, he becomes personally affronted that someone would be murdered in his hotel and begins to struggle to put the pieces together.

Complications rapidly ensue – the ex-wife, who was formerly posted out of town, returns and becomes his superior officer; the dead man is the son of a local crime lord and was formerly believed to be the potential Messiah; and Landsman’s sister, dead in an accident, maybe didn’t die so accidentally after all.  Hovering over it all is the specter of the Reversion and the Jews’ mad scramble to figure out whether they’ll be allowed to stay or forced out into a new Diaspora.

If that sounds like a lot, it is, but Chabon handles it all smoothly.  The novel ticks along, hitting all the right noirish notes, as Landsman stumbles around, seemingly always one step behind the bad guys, swinging wildly back and forth between alcoholic despair and the desire to show his colleagues – and his ex-wife – that he’s done with being a fuckup.

The thing that irked me a bit was the ending (and here come the spoilers, so beware).  It just seemed too neat.  Landsman solves the case, he gets his ex-wife back, he kicks the bottle, he unearths the conspiracy — and boy, is it a humdinger of a conspiracy, too.  Practically every inch of this guy’s life to date is steeped in failure, in loss, in death, in suicide (successful or attempted) and yet he pulls it all out in the end?  Really? To say the least, I found the ending unconvincing and a bit of a letdown.  It was like Chabon decided he needed to put a sugar coating on a bitter pill, but rather than making me feel better it just turned my stomach. (I realize that most people may not have the hunger for bleakness in crime fiction that I do, so this may not be an issue for some of you.  But there it is.)

Kemp Ridley’s #CBR4 Review #06: The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo

When I’m not reading massive tomes on history, I really enjoy crime fiction.  I tend to gravitate toward the old stuff – Hammett, Chandler, Cain, MacDonald – but lately I’ve been reading more recent writers, too.  One of my favorite crime writers going right now is Jo Nesbo, who chronicles the adventures of the rather unfortunately named Oslo police inspector Harry Hole.

Nesbo has never let me down, and this book is no exception.  An apparent serial killer is loose in Oslo, killing his victims and leaving behind tiny red diamonds cut into the shape of a pentagram.  As he investigates the serial murder, Harry continues to be obsessed with proving that one of his fellow detectives is responsible for the death of his former partner, a story arc that began with Redbreast and continued through Nemesis.  Unfortunately that fellow detective is also the department golden boy, while Harry himself is a problematic, binge-drinking alcoholic who has begun showing up at crime scenes while drunk, which has not exactly been the best thing for his credibility.

The novel is too tautly written for me to say much more, lest I inadvertently spoil anything.  The Devil’s Star is nasty, dark, angsty noir, and Harry is a complex, fascinating character (kind of a grittier version of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch).  With that said, it is a poor place to start for anyone who hasn’t read the other books.  Plot points from the previous two novels play a major role in this one, and approaching it without that knowledge would rob the story – the ending, especially – of much of its impact.  Nesbo is one of the best writers in crime, and if you enjoy that sort of thing at all you really owe it to yourself to check him out.


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