Thursday, May 30, 2013

#19: The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura

A Tokyo pickpocket gets involved in a gang of thieves to help an old friend and mentor, not realizing the life-and-death stakes at hand, in Fuminori Nakamura's creepy noir The Thief.  Along the way he ends up befriending a child pickpocket and tries to keep him off the same path.

Although on the surface The Thief is a pretty straightforward crime novel, there is an unsettling air about the proceedings, everything clammy and slick with sweat, dark and rainy and cold.  With its constant grinding on of the machine of Fate, the novel actually reads like something between Richard Stark and Albert Camus.

I picked this up without knowing anything about it at the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana and read it quickly.  I have already recommended it to a few others but would say it is for anyone who likes a more offbeat crime story.

Friday, May 24, 2013

#18: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

A young woman in 1970s London has a fling with an older man and gradually drifts into the spy world (during a gradually cooling Cold War) in Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth.

McEwan's writing is generally considered literary fiction, but somewhere along the line he had to have read some classic John LeCarre as this novel seems to be a direct homage not only to that time and place but to LeCarre's works.

But there is also a literary element as McEwan explores how this young woman is used by men--her older lover, her first lover, her bosses and coworkers--as a pawn in what turns out to be a pretty low-stakes game.

I have read McEwan from time to time but was especially attracted to this novel because of the spy setting and time period.  My wife is a big McEwan fan and I bought it for her with the sly intention of reading it next (and did so).

Recommended on various levels, for serious readers and classic spy novel fans.

Monday, May 20, 2013

#17: A Bullet for Cinderella by John D. MacDonald

A vet just home from a North Korean prison camp goes looking for a stash of money buried by a deceased fellow prisoner, falling in with a good girl and a bad girl while all the while being dogged by a psychopath in John D. MacDonald's bracing noir A Bullet for Cinderella.

MacDonald is probably best known for his Travis McGee series about a Florida P.I., but I like his non-series work even better.  This was a very tough story and an old-fashioned page-turner (although those who have read the later Cape Fear might speculate if MacDonald rehashed some ideas).

This was recommended to me for my beloved Kindle and I downloaded and read it quickly.  Great for MacDonald fans and good for anyone else who enjoys hardboiled stories.

Friday, May 17, 2013

#16: The Chill by Ross Macdonald

Private eye Lew Archer goes looking for a runaway bride and stumbles across a series of murders that stretch back decades in Ross Macdonald's The Chill.

As a teenager and young adult I was a great devotee of Macdonald's Archer series and thought I had pretty much read them all until I stumbled across this paperback at a used book sale at the university where I work.  I'm glad,  as I think I appreciate Macdonald's writing even greater with more adult eyes.

Macdonald writes a great hardboiled story but includes a lot of psychological elements that makes the storytelling even more sophisticated.  If you have somehow passed by Macdonald's work it's never too late to jump in (and there have been several good movie versions as well).  Recommended for fans.