Sunday, March 31, 2019

#17: An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten

An elderly lady uses murder to solve life's basic annoyances, flying under the radar as they appear to be accidents and mishaps, in Helene Tursten's darkly comic short story collection aptly titled An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good.

Tursten is the author of a solid police procedural series featuring Swedish detective Irene Huss (who makes a brief appearance here).  By contrast, this slender collection is relatively breezy, especially by the inky-black standards of Scandinavian noir.

But I enjoyed it as a quick read, and would recommend it to anyone wanting to dip a toe into the shallower end of Scandinavian mysteries.

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

#16: Orson Welles's Last Movie by Josh Karp

Orson Welles directed what is considered one of the greatest films of all time, Citizen Kane, but at the end of his life struggled for years to finish a film with threadbare finances and a crew of young hippies, a fascinating story told in Josh Karp's Orson Welles's Last Movie.

I watched the posthumously released film The Other Side of the Wind, and was so fascinated I immediately watched the documentary They'll Love Me When I'm Dead and then immediately started listening to Josh Karp's book on audio.

If you are interested in Welles at all, or the collapse of the studio system and the rise of independents in the 1970s--a favorite subject of mine--this is a highly compelling read, and deeply researched.

If nothing else, it is an interesting Hollywood story, full of unbelievable successes and ruinous failures, featuring a larger-than-life Hollywood auteur.

Very relevant for film fans, and recommended for those with similar interests.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

#15: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

An emotionally and socially stunted woman finds solace and order working in a convenience store; but when she tries to fit into society by starting a relationship with a young man, it almost comes crashing down in Sayaka Murata's Convenience Store Woman.

Murata's novel seems a fairly lightly sketched slice of life, but contains deeper meaning for the lives of women and also the structure of Japanese society.  Readers interested in Japanese culture should find this especially rewarding.

I liked Murata's style and found it alternating between melancholy and humorous.

This is Murata's first novel to be translated into English, and it is genuinely offbeat.  I checked this out from Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana and read it quickly.

Friday, March 15, 2019

#14: Transcription by Kate Atkinson

In 1940, a young woman works for MI-5 as a transcriptionist, helping snare a group of pro-Nazi Brits; in 1950, she now works for the BBC, and sees her past catching up to her in Kate Atkinson's Transcription.

Atkinson writes across all genres, from literary fiction to mysteries; I believe this is her first quasi-spy novel, but it is filled with her quirky style.  She writes complex characters, from the protagonist's closeted boss and later sort-of fiance to a prim old lady who might also be a murderous Jew-hater.  Alliances are murky and violence can be sudden and sometimes absurd.  Features a genuine surprise ending.

I have enjoyed Atkinson's novels, especially her Jackson Brodie detective series, but this is a great standalone for readers who enjoy spy fiction as well as literary fiction.  Recommended.

I checked this out on audiobook from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library in New Castle, Indiana, given a good reading by  Fenella Woolgar. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

#13: Destroy All Monsters by Jeff Jackson

A string of seemingly random murders at music venues across the country sets forth a chilling effect on live music; but a band's tribute concert may change all that, if they can hold it together long enough to go through with it, in Jeff Jackson's Destroy All Monsters.

Jackson's book is genuinely offbeat; as much about unstoppable fate and inexplicable violence as small-town life and fragile relationships, a heartfelt slice of life and a heady fantasy.

As soon as I finished it, I texted the biggest live music lover I know and asked him to read it; anyone else who loves the live music scene or who has ever been in a band should pick this one up soon.

The music theme carries through even to the novel having an "A side" and a "B side."  You flip the novel over, and there is a novella-length story where a different character is killed, and a different person is leading the band; curiously, many of the supporting characters are gender-flipped, as well.

As unusual, but approachable, a novel as I have read in a long while.  Recommended.

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