Tuesday, January 30, 2024

#5: How's the Pain? by Pascal Garnier

A hitman decides to finish one last job, only to find his life complicated after meeting a happy-go-lucky passerby, in Pascal Garnier's How's the Pain?

Garnier wrote a lot of these short, sharp noir novels filled with inky-black humor.  This one starts with a fatalistic opening scene, and then backtracks to fill in how an aquarium, a campground, and a baby (among other obstacles) all come into play.

Garnier's nihilistic humor isn't for everyone, but I enjoy his writing.  

This one, part of Gallic Noir Volume 1, I read quickly on my beloved Kindle.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

#4: The Helsinki Affair by Anna Pitoniak

A U.S. senator is assassinated, and a young agent is on the trail of the killers; but when her own father's name comes up in her search, the professional becomes personal in Anna Pitoniak's The Helsinki Affair.  

Her father is also a spy, and his misadventures early in his career gives the title a double meaning.

Pitoniak's globe-trotting thriller is one of those breezy affairs where everyone moves in rarefied circles of power and nobody has to settle for drive-thru takeout.  When one is in the mood for a book like this, it's a treat, even though I would rate it a little lower than the average le Carre or Deighton spy novel.

Overall I enjoyed Pitoniak's work and would read more from her.

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

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

#3: Our Friends from Frolix-8 by Philip K. Dick

In a dystopian future run by telepaths and evolved humans, a lone dissenter reaches out to an alien force in Philip K. Dick's Our Friends from Frolix-8.

Dick is one of my favorite sci-fi writers, but I know his work is finite so I have been reading his novels slowly.  I would consider this a more minor of his works, although it's full of his usual themes of drug-fueled paranoia surrounding everyday joes and their dead-end jobs and marriages.  

Even a lesser Dick novel brims with ten times the ideas of somebody else's, so I enjoyed this one after finding it on goodbye prices for my Kindle.

Friday, January 12, 2024

#2: Blaze Me a Sun by Christoffer Carlsson

A rural cop struggles to solve a series of rapes and murders, passing the obsession onto his son when he follows in his father's footsteps, in Christoffer Carlsson's Blaze Me a Sun.

Carlsson's book covers several decades and multiple points of view as the unsolved crimes slowly, and in some cases rapidly, ruin lives.  An interesting framing device featuring a failed writer returning home and writing about the cases provides a literate slant.

Absorbing from first page to last, this was to me as good an English-language debut as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, one of my favorite Scandinavian reads.  Recommended for those who like their crime novels chilly and gloomy.

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

Saturday, January 6, 2024

#1: The Last Songbird by Daniel Weizmann

A Lyft driver with songwriting dreams picks up a Stevie Nicks-like singer and strikes up a friendship; but when she is killed, he decides to find out what really happened in Daniel Weizmann's The Last Songbird.

This is a California-styled private eye novel with a rock music backbeat, an agreeable mystery which relies a bit heavily on coincidence (and a suspect I could pick out in the early going).

Still, I enjoyed it as a light read for the first of 2024; for fans of west coast crime novels.

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

Monday, January 1, 2024

Best of 2023

This is the lowest reading total I have recorded since starting my book blog 15 years ago, but I struggled with depression this year as well as having a busy personal and professional life.  But I still read some good books I can recommend as a Top Five.

1.  Same Bed Different Dreams by Ed Park

2.  The Sorcerer of Pyongyang by Marcel Theroux

3.  The Militia House by John Milas

4.  Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling

5.  Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia