Saturday, April 25, 2015

#17: How to Get Into the Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak

A young Polish woman living on the margins of Los Angeles dreams of entering a Russian club across the street from her apartment, but learns to be careful what she wishes for in Karolina Waclawiak's How to Get into the Twin Palms.

Waclawiak's novel is a well-done contemporary immigrant story, alternating between humorous and heartbreaking as we follow her journey, which mirrors a mythological descent as aggressive wildfires prick at the edges of her existence.

Vivid in portraying both the lives of expat Eastern Europeans and the fringes of California society, How to Get into the Twin Palms is a worthwhile read.

I bought this from the independent publishing house Two Dollar Radio and read it quickly.

Friday, April 24, 2015

#16: W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

Private Eye Kinsey Milhone gets involved in two seemingly unrelated cases; in the first, a former private eye colleague is shot and killed, and in the second a homeless man turns up with her name in his pocket.  How both these cases gradually, and then suddenly, become intertwined is the story behind W is for Wasted, Sue Grafton's latest in her long line of alphabet mysteries.

My wife, an English instructor and avid literary reader, has always listed Grafton as a guilty pleasure; I think I stopped reading around D is for Deadbeat but decided, in my year of reading only women authors, to give it another go with her latest.

This is a solid private eye novel with a very complex protagonist whose personality has evolved slowly over time.  Interestingly, although many years have passed in real time, the novels still take place in the late 80s, a seemingly far away pre-internet and cell phone era where real sleuthing by phone book and 3x5 card was preeminent. 

I listened to this on audiobook from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana and will definitely dig into more of these.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

#15: The Beige Man by Helene Tursten

The cops of Goteborg, Sweden, have their hands full when two joyriding kids, escaped from juvenile detention, run down a retired cop; near the crime scene, they find the corpse of a young girl.  How these cases become linked, much to the dismay of Irene Huss and her team, is the core of Helene Tursten's The Beige Man.

For those in a post-Dragon Tattoo funk, Tursten's novel is a welcome addition to the Scandinavian mystery canon.   

The Beige Man is a very tough, above average police procedural that focuses on organized crime and sex trafficking during a typically brutal Swedish winter.  There is an eclectic group of detectives much like Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels; in fact, the lead detective, Huss, is reading an 87th Precinct book at one point.

All in all quite satisfying, with the title not explained until the very last page.

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana, and will look for more of her writing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

#14: MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

A man-made plague has torn through the world, leaving an eclectic group--including former eco-cultists, scientists and their lab creations, and psychic pig/human hybrids--to forge a new path in MaddAddam, the end of Margaret Atwood's post-apocalyptic trilogy (begun with Oryx and Crake).

Not really a stand-alone novel, but certainly satisfying for those who enjoyed the first two (as this one reveals the colorful history of Adam One and Zeb, as well as other choice nuggets). 

For general readers, how the characters try to explain what happened to a young boy called Blackbeard, inadvertently starting a new world history/religion, is particularly interesting.

I am a Margaret Atwood fan, and though this trilogy does not stand up to The Handmaid's Tale or some of her other works, it is still worthwhile as a whole for apocalypse fiction fans.

I checked this out on audiobook from Morrisson-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Friday, April 3, 2015

#13: The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

A Copenhagen cop moves to a Missing Persons unit, and almost immediately is assigned the confounding case of a recently-deceased mentally disabled woman who was actually reported dead thirty years prior.  Meanwhile, a serial rapist stalks the cop's hometown of Hvalso, and she slowly begins to realize the cases are tied together in Sara Blaedel's The Forgotten Girls.

Blaedel is apparently well established in Denmark, but this is her first novel translated into English.  A good thing, as this is a solid, albeit grim, police procedural livened somewhat by the interpersonal relationships between the cop, her new partner, and her longtime best friend, an investigative journalist on the brink of her wedding.

The tough subject matter--which discusses the often poor history of mental health care, and a series of rapes--isn't helped by a downbeat, enigmatic ending.  But it is a good read for the discerning, and it's nice to have a fresh voice (to English readers) from the Scandinavian crime scene.

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