Thursday, January 21, 2016

3. Dressed for Murder by Donna Leon

My mom left this when she came to visit last year, said it was quite readable but not top-notch.  I have to agree. The detective is intelligent, rational and moral in a world of corruption and politics. The setting, modern-day Venice, is cool, as the detective's lifestyle around it (buying fresh tomatoes and figs to prepare dinner).  They mystery was compelling and intricate.  A man's body is found in a field behind a slaughterhouse, a place where local prostitutes sometimes ply their trade.  The face is badly smashed and he is in woman's clothes.  The investigation leads to the transvestite prostitution scene in Venice and follows (of course) to well-placed and powerful political figures.  It all felt a bit light and the ending was a bit too easy.  Nevertheless, an enjoyable read and would work fine on a beach or winter cabin vacation.

Reading this, watching Foyle's War (about a similarly rational and moral detective but in England during WWII) and watching Making a Murderer, really makes me think about the idea of the fictional character of the detective.  Why do we love them so much?  Why are they so good?  Especially in the light of reality (at least in America and Canada) that most of them seem to be unethical bureaucrats at best and downright sociopathic murderers at worst.  I want to read more books about detectives where they are bumbling around, forcing cases into pre-conceived ideas, badgering witnesses, planting evidence and even straight-up murdering people.  What is going on in those detectives' heads?

Monday, January 11, 2016

2. The Shadow of the Lynx by Victoria Holt

I picked this up at the new (to me anyways) Pulpfiction Books East on Commercial in Vancouver.  It was in the dollar bin in front of the cash register.  I also found an intriguing Colin Wilson there.  The store was small and nicely curated, with a relaxing vibe to it.  I'll go back next time I'm in Vancouver.

Anyway, my interest in gothic romance had waned a bit since the last Mary Stewart, so I was wary.  Something about the cover and the masculinity of the title made me feel that it might hold my interest.  It did.  It promised some of what I had hoped the form would deliver in fast pace and dynamic storyline, similar in structure though not in content to the genre of men's action.  The Shadow of the Lynx starts with a young orphan on a ship to Australia, chaperoned by the son of her dead father's business partner.  There is drama right away, as the learns of her chaperone's father, a wronged British prisoner who, through the power of will, had become a wealthy entrepeneur and has a almost godlike charisma. The story twists and turns and comes full circle.  The resolution was a bit deflating, but the ride there was so enjoyable. 

It's cool the way a female protagonist (the orphan on the boat) has power and implements her will in the strictures of the patriarchy of that time (of both times actually, the narrative, which takes place in the Edwardian period, and the early 70s when it was written).  She is hemmed in by the constraints of masculine rule.  But within those constrains, it is the forthrightness of her character and the use of her wit to analyze situations that allows her to succeed.  She is also passive to events around her and decisions made by those more powerful than her (mostly men, probably entirely).  Yet somehow those parts of the book didn't feel frustrating to me.  I think because her inner monologue never gives up her spirit, so you respect her.

So yes an enjoyable read. Victoria Holt is a pro and I see was quite prolific. I don't think I am up for a steady diet of her books, but she will be something I will continue to look for and read when the time is right.  Nice to have discovered her. 

Monday, January 04, 2016

1. The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

Yes, I did read the movie cover one
I found this in the apartment we were staying in and felt it would be an easily digestible start to the new year of reading.  It was a quick and enjoyable read, though it felt a bit more simplistic than the Harry Bosch books I had read by Connelly.  I liked the set up of the protagonist, he is kind of like the pre-Better Call Saul, not quite as full on sleazy but playing the same game.  He has no office, but just rides around in his Lincolns, talking on the cell phone and keeping his files in a storage locker.  The actual plot, once it moved out of the mystery mode and into the thriller mode, was less engaging.  You kind of knew where it would go and the bad guy wasn't given enough depth to make him interesting.  Still, I definitely kept turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next.