Thursday, March 26, 2009

#14: Meet Me At The Morgue by Ross Macdonald

A parole officer gets drawn into a kidnapping plot when he is convinced one of his parolees is innocent. In trying to find the kidnapped child, our protagonist gets drawn into a dark tangle of broken families and failing marriages in Ross Macdonald's Meet Me At The Morgue.

Like many, I find Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer mysteries one of the touchstone series of contemporary crime fiction. Macdonald's eye for the inner lives of people as well as the external world he lived in (centered around California) is unparalleled. I long ago devoured most of the series.

This is a non-series work, but features a lot of the key themes of Macdonald's writing. A bit more workmanlike than some of his novels, but features several memorable turns of phrase and passages of fine writing.

I bought this for a quarter at a library book sale and read it even as the yellowed pages were falling out of it. Made me hanker to find more Ross Macdonald that I had previously not read.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

#13: Real World by Natsuo Kirino

In the Tokyo suburbs, a troubled teen clubs his mother to death and goes on the run, drawing four curiously disaffected classmates into his web.  The four girls' misguided efforts to alternately help and hinder their classmate "Worm" end in suicide, more murder,  and general mayhem, in Natsuo Kirino's noirish psychological novel Real World.

Although I have enjoyed a fair slice of anime, manga, and Japanese horror films, I don't think I knew enough about Japanese culture to fully understand what Kirino was trying to say about her teenage protagonists; but most of the story can be applied to desensitized and pop culture-glutted young people anywhere.  Chilly prose and chilling storytelling throughout.

I borrowed this from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Friday, March 13, 2009

#12: The Black Path by Asa Larsson

Lawyer Rebecka Martinsson, reeling from the traumatic events of her recent past, retreats to her grandmother's old cabin in northern Sweden and eventually gets drawn into a local brutal murder by steadfast cop Anna-Maria Mella.  The victim is part of a debauched, jet-setting elite group with messy business ties that both women try to unravel in Asa Larsson's philosophical thriller The Black Path.

I found Larsson's first novel Sun Storm a solid legal thriller, but the second, The Blood Spilt, almost a rewrite of her first effort. The storytelling is quite different here and relies on a much larger group of characters, including giving a broader role to the police characters from the first two novels.  Larsson jumps around from viewpoint to viewpoint, killers to victims to hunters, weaving more of a psychological study than a true mystery.  The ending, especially, leaves the reader to draw a few of their own conclusions. 

Overall I found The Black Path to be a solid read for those familiar with the more morose, meandering writings of the Scandinavian mystery writers.  I will look for the next in Larsson's series.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

#11: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

A youth being raised in a shack in the middle of a vast opium field learns he is the clone of El Patron, the hard-hearted ruler of the country called Opium, a sliver-sized dictatorship between a crumbling U.S. and a socialist Mexico. When he comes of age, and realizes what El Patron has kept him around for, he strikes out for adventure in Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion.

I was actually about halfway through this interesting sci-fi story when I realized it was written for the young adult market; hard to believe from the description I gave, but it really is appropriate for that age range, as well as adult readers.

I liked Farmer's writing style and appreciated that the plot veered away from European- or American-centric storytelling. Even though Nancy Farmer seems to write primarily for the young adult market, I will look for more of her writing.

I started listening to this one on audio book on loan from the Indiana University East library, but when I had to return it I quickly went to Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana and checked out the text version to finish it up. A solid read.