Monday, August 27, 2012

#31: Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson's Train Dreams is a spare, lean, lyrical novel about a man in turn-of-the-century America who lives through great highs and great lows--but ultimately perseveres.

Johnson is a noted contemporary author who has written across the genres, including a novel about Vietnam and his most recent, in the mystery genre.  I have heard a lot about Johnson and thought this slender novel--which at first glimpse has sort of a western theme--might be a good entry point.

This is a really good slice of literary fiction that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys reading in whatever genre.  Really fine writing, with some magical elements (including a somewhat cryptic denouement) and passages of searing emotion. 

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana, and read it quickly.  Recommended.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

#30: Iron House by John Hart

A hitman tries to cut his mob ties for a new love; but when the boss dies, all bets are off, and he finds himself on the run towards an estranged brother with his own problems in John Hart's Iron House.

I had no notion of who John Hart was or what his novel was about when I picked it up on a whim on audiobook at the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library.  But I found Iron House to be a solid beach-style thriller with complex (though mostly unlikeable) characters and a twisty plot.

The Iron House of the title is an ill-run orphanage where the two brothers once lived, with one being rescued by the wife of an influential senator (a couple with their own secrets) while the other brother ends up on the street.  They meet up again as adults in the middle of multiple murder investigations as well as various other nefarious plots and intrigues.

Although it's hard to find characters to root for, Hart draws a fairly rich tapestry for a thriller and writes solidly.  For fans of an easy summer read.

Monday, August 13, 2012

#29: Misterioso by Arne Dahl

An intricately-constructed series of murders target rich Swedes, pulling an eclectic group of cops together to solve the case, in Arne Dahl's Misterioso

This band of near-misfit cops, assembled by an aloof commander with a penchant for head-butting, ends up rampaging through every level of Swedish society--from powerful, affluent secret cults to the street thugs working for Eastern European mafia families--in seeking out a killer with a growing list of deaths to his name.

With its tough, complicated cops and sardonic humor I would most equate this novel to a Scandinavian Ed McBain.  Passages about Swedish business, crime, politics, and philosophy are probably of more valuable to those with a knowledge of these things but don't drag the storytelling down too much for U.S. readers.  Interesting characters and both funny and action-packed interludes help tremendously.

This is the first of Dahl's "Intercrime" series to be translated to English, and I hope more is not far behind.  A solid read for fans of Scandinavian Crime.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

#28: Night Raider by Mike Barry

A VietNam vet turned NYC narcotics cop gets too close the exposing corruption, and finds his girlfriend dead as a warning; something snaps, and he becomes a one-man war on drugs in Mike Barry's first Lone Wolf novel, Night Raider.

Mike Barry--actually sci fi writer Barry Malzberg--passed into legend by writing a big chunk of this series of Men's Adventure novels in a single year in the early 70s.  And Night Raider has a hastily-written quality to it, with characters' names and personalities shifting and an instance of someone getting on the subway and arriving shortly thereafter in a cab.

But there is a feverish intensity to the novel as well, and a vivid depiction of the decaying Big Apple of the 1970s, before the clean-up of Times Square and elsewhere.  Barry also uses an interesting plot device amidst the carnage as the Lone Wolf of the title picks out a dealer on the street and becomes determined to follow a single thread as far as it will go, with death a constant companion.

Like a lot of Men's Adventure-type novels there is a lot of attention paid to guns and weaponry but also a rather curious fixation on engines and cars and muscle cars in particular.

I got this cheaply for my beloved Kindle and read it quickly, then downloaded the next one in the series from Prologue Books.  A quick read, but not entirely undemanding, for discerning readers.