Thursday, September 26, 2013

#35: The Colombian Mule by Massimo Carlotto

Three old-school criminals band together to free a colleague framed for drug smuggling in Massimo Carlotto's The Colombian Mule.

Carlotto's very tough crime novel, from the World Noir line and set in Venice, depicts a bleak world where criminals follow their own code of honor but the police follow none; and yet Carlotto fills the story with lots of dark humor.   

The Colombian Mule is also livened by memorable characters, especially Old Rossini, a former gangster whose formidable presence and rather tarnished ethics make for some of the funnier, and most frightening, parts of the novel; and his philosophical protagonist, a semi-retired crook called The Alligator.

Apparently Massimo Carlotto is very popular in his native Italy, not only for his writing but for how closely his personal life hews to his storytelling.  Recommended for fans of hard-boiled crime.

Friday, September 20, 2013

#34: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

A disgraced journalist tries to resurrect his career by investigating the suicide of the daughter of a famous, reclusive horror film director, but soon finds himself on a dark, strange path of his own in Marisha Pessl's Night Film.

I first learned of Night Film because of the interactive elements, where icons in the text can be read with a phone app to bring up additional videos and images; but this gimmick is only the tip of the iceberg in a trippy narrative.

The book has photos, mock newspaper articles, and other clues salted throughout to help the reader unravel the knotted tales alongside the protagonist (but be warned:  the enigmatic ending leaves you to draw your own conclusions).

This dense, odd mystery/horror hybrid--sort of what might happen if Stephen King wrote All The President's Men--is worthwhile for ambitious readers, and one that I have been recommending to a lot of people.

I was given this as a gift, signed by the author, and consumed it steadily.  Recommended.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

#33: The Crocodile by Maurizio de Giovanni

A good cop, unjustly accused of being a mafia informant, is shunted away to a desk job; but when a serial killer called The Crocodile--who leaves dead children and tear-stained tissues in his wake-- terrorizes Naples he is brought back to action in Maurizio de Giovanni's The Crocodile.

I have been interested in reading more Italian literature since visiting the country over the last few summers, so I was excited that World Noir, an imprint of Europa Editions, sent me several books in their new line.

This was a new author to me, but reminded me quite a bit of Andrea Camilleri and his well-known Inspector Montalbano series; and must have been the intention, as de Giovanni's protagonist is jokingly called "Montalbano" by his colleagues as the case unfolds.

The Crocodile is a compelling mystery where the grisly elements are offset by surprisingly rich slices of Italian life.  A good read for mystery fans, and fans of international literature.