Friday, October 21, 2016

#47: Wind/Pinball by Haruki Murakami

Two disaffected young friends knock around Japan in the early 70s in two novellas from Haruki Murakami.

Wind/Pinball is a combined re-release of Murakami's first two works, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973

In the first story, the narrator and his friend The Rat are both in college and hanging around a local bar, falling in and out of love with various young women. 

In the second, they are both emerging young professionals, and the protagonist finds himself living with a pair of odd twins and spending a lot of time obsessing over a rare pinball machine.

These first Murakami novels feature a lot of the hallmarks of his later best-known work; they are awash in pop culture and malaise, bordering on the surreal at times.  Definitely of interest to Murakami fans, and of interest to other readers who enjoy offbeat narratives.

I checked this out on audiobook from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

#46: The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada

 An artist is murdered in his studio, and later his family is dismembered and scattered across Japan; years later, two quirky friends take on this long-unsolved mystery in Soji Shimada's The Tokyo Zodiac Murders.

Despite its sometimes shocking trappings, including gruesome murders and grisly astrology rituals, at its heart Shimada has written a classic locked-room mystery.  Shimada even interjects himself twice into the story, telling the reader that all the clues to solve the mystery have been given out and invites the reader to try and solve it before the end.

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders is an offbeat blend of cozy murder mystery and gory violence, an unusual read.

This release is from the Pushkin Vertigo imprint, which has been dedicated to bringing back classic genre novels from around the world.  I found this at the famous Seattle Mystery Bookshop and read it on a flight back from Seattle.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

#45: The Madmen of Benghazi by Gérard de Villiers

Freelance superspy Malko Linge drops into Libya to try and help stabilize the government, only to find himself in deep with various government agencies, political groups, and hot-tempered women in Gerard de Villiers' The Madmen of Benghazi.

de Villiers wrote hundreds of spy novels in his native France that were known for their political astuteness as well as their raunchy sex and explosive violence.  de Villiers is often compared to Ian Fleming, but his novels remind me more of those spinner-rack Men's Adventures paperbacks of the 60s and 70s.

These novels are finally getting translated into English, and this is the second one I've read recently.  They are quick reads, and enjoyable, if often impolite.

I found this used and read it fast on a plane ride to Seattle.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

#44: Vertigo by Boileau-Narcejac

A suspicious husband asks his friend to trail his melancholy wife; when the friend becomes obsessed, and that obsession seems to lead to madness, the plot twists and turns and twists again in Vertigo.

Boileau-Narcejac was Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, whose writing collaboration produced a string of classics, including this one that Alfred Hitchcock turned into one of his iconic films.

Even if you know the movie's beats, this is a rock-solid psychological noir, brought back into print by the Pushkin Vertigo imprint that features genre novels from around the world.

Recommended for fans of the film, or noir fans in general.

I bought this at Sandmeyer's Bookstore in downtown Chicago and read it on a long flight to Seattle.

Monday, October 10, 2016

#43: The Kingdom by Fuminori Nakamura

In Tokyo, a young woman works for a shadowy crime gang, luring businessmen and then getting compromising photos of them; when a rival gang makes an appearance, she plays a dangerous game pitting one against the other in Fuminori Nakamura's The Kingdom.

On the surface, this is a hard-boiled noir in the vein of Red Harvest (which begat Yojimbo, which begat A Fistful of Dollars, and on and on).  But this is Nakamura, whose novels ooze and seep, creep and crawl, creating high levels of dread.  Grinding, inescapable fate of the type Cornell Woolrich ate for breakfast is the standard fare.

Nakamura's novels are unsettling, to say the least, often with uncomfortable subject matter, but if you are interested in going down an inky-black road The Kingdom may be his most accessible novel that I've read to date.

I checked this out from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library in New Castle, Indiana and read it quickly.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

#42: The Boy in the Shadows by Carl-Johan Vallgren

A child disappears, and years later, his now-adult brother does as well; when the brother's wife turns to a recovering addict turned part-time investigator to help, the city of Stockholm threatens to explode in Carl-Johan Vallgren's The Boy in the Shadows.

Vallgren's thriller has all the hallmarks of Scandinavian noir--gloomy characters, grisly murders, and long-buried secrets--but broadens the horizon with secret military experiments and intimations of curses and black magic.  A lot of things thrown in the pot, but the story never stops moving.

Vallgren's novel also benefits from an unusual protagonist and a complex collection of supporting characters and backstories, which in the end tie into the present storyline nicely.

All in all, a satisfying read, and one I consumed quickly.

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

Monday, October 3, 2016

#41: The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo

During a sub-zero Oslo Christmas, a young man from the Salvation Army is shot on the street; but the crime reverberates through time, and reveals hidden family secrets, in Jo Nesbo's The Redeemer.

I think Nesbo is not just one of the great Scandinavian thriller writers, but one of the great contemporary thriller writers anywhere.  His flawed series detective, Harry Hole, is an obsessed, complex figure with a handful of demons.  And Nesbo's plots are always taut and razor-sharp.

More American-flavored than a lot of his Scandinavian contemporaries, and benefits from having read the prior novels, but another worthy addition to Nesbo's work.

I listened to a good audiobook reading of this novel on loan from the Morrisson-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

#40: Sergio Y by Alexandre Vidal Porto

A São Paulo therapist sees a young man, and feels the sessions come to a solid conclusion before his patient moves to New York; but when the young man is murdered, and another life is revealed, it sends the therapist on a voyage of self-discovery in Sergio Y by Alexandre Vidal Porto.

Sergio Y is a slender, philosophical slice of life which paints gentle portraits of several people in transition.  Despite the framing device of a murder, the novel largely functions as a character study, and of family and relationship dynamics.

Although the novel seems a slight read at the outset, some of the ideas and images resonate.

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