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New Icelandic detective

Quentin Bates, an Englishman who lived in Iceland for 10 years, has written a pair of novels starring a young Icelandic policewoman, Gunna  Gisladottir.  In his first book, Frozen Assets (Soho, 2011), Officers Gisladottir and Hvalvik investigate when a dead body is found floating in the harbor of their ordinarily peaceful Icelandic fishing village.  Eventually, a web of corruption connected to Iceland’s business and banking communities is uncovered.  In the new book, Cold Comfort (Soho, 2012), Gunna has accepted promotion to Sergeant in the Reykjavik police department, where she is still getting accustomed to her role as a manager.  Nevertheless, she successfully handles the murder of a glamorous TV fitness star while also searching for a dangerous prison escapee.  In addition to watching the prickly and sardonic Gunna grow into an astute and effective police detective, the reader also learns about Iceland’s financial collapse.

–posted 2/26/2012

Posted February/26/2012

Foul-mouthed sleuth

Available Dark (Minotaur, 2/12/2012) is Elizabeth Hand’s second thriller featuring Cass Neary.   As an eccentric  and foul-mouthed sleuth, Cass rivals Lisbeth Salander (see Stieg Larsson q.v).   Hand described Cass in an interview as “your prototypical amoral speedfreak crankhead kleptomaniac murderous rage-filled alcoholic bisexual heavily-tattooed American female photographer.”  Not for the faint of heart.  In the 1970’s young Cass won high praise for her book of gritty and disturbing photographs entitled Dead Girls, but her moment of fame has long-since faded. Now 30 and no longer taking photos, she is having a hard time making a living, working at the Strand bookstore when she isn’t on a binge.  Her first harrowing adventure, Generation Loss (Small Beer, 2007), began when she left New York City for a remote Maine island,  hoping to interview a famous woman photographer.  In this new one, Cass is paid 6,000 Euros to travel to Helsinki to assess some very esoteric photos.  Maine resident Elizabeth Hand got her start as a science-fiction writer. Winterlong, (Spectra, 1990), set on a dying future earth, was her first published novel.

–posted  2/20/2012

Posted February/20/2012

Anna Pigeon prequel

This must be the year for prequels:  Steven Havill’s Posadas County prequel was just published a few weeks ago.  Now Nevada Barr has published her 17th novel, The Rope (Minotaur, 2012) about National Parks ranger Anna Pigeon, but rather than telling of her latest adventure, Barr has written a prequel to the series filling us in on how Anna gave up a career in the New York theater world and took her first tentative step toward becoming a park ranger.   Barr takes us back to 1995, just after the death of Anna’s husband Zach.   She is still  is grieving and wants a change of pace, so she takes  a summer job in the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area.  Her unglamorous assignment is waste patrol along the shores of Lake Powell .  Then she goes missing and finds herself alone and injured in the wilderness.  A harrowing tale.

–posted 2/13/2012

Posted February/13/2012

Dirty politics: new Ed Gorman

Blindside (Severn, 2012) by Ed Gorman is the third book in the Dev Conrad series.  Conrad is a Chicago political consultant who is often called upon to work undercover to detect fraud or crime. The series has interesting things to say about campaign strategy, dirty tricks, spin control, etc.  In Blindside, Dev agrees to spend a couple of days with liberal congressman Jeff Ward’s campaign trying to identify who is leaking information to his right-wing opponent.   Things turn deadly when Ward’s speechwriter is shot to death.  Since the publication of his first novel, Rough Cut (St Martins, 1985), the versatile and prolific Gorman has written dozens of compulsively readable novels, including seven different series.   He has won the Shamus Award, the Spur Award, and the International Fiction Writers Award.  Good reading for election year.

–posted 2/7/2012

Posted February/7/2012

Not Downton Abbey

“Are those people your mother’s friends?  Too extraordinary.  What colour would you call that suit?  Aubergine?  Aubergine a la creme d’oursin? I must go to Huntsman and get one knocked up.  What do you mean you have no aubergine?  Everyone was wearing it at Eleanor Melrose’s.  Order a mile of it straight away.”  (from  At Last, Farrar, 1/31/12, p.1)

All the characters in Edward St. Aubyn’s novels talk like that and it gets very annoying after a few pages.  All upper class Brits may be twits, but surely they are not all equally snide and witty.  But what do I know?  English readers seem to like St. Aubyn and the critics there rave that he is “our purest living prose stylist” and “the most brilliant English novelist of his generation.”  I suspect American readers will find the characters repellant and the writing way overdone.

At Last is the fifth novel in the series that takes Patrick Melrose from the age of 5 to his mother’s death.  Born into an aristocratic but dysfunctional English family, Patrick endures a traumatic childhood–he is raped by his father and neglected by his alcoholic mother. Poor Patrick, at the age of 30 he has gone through his trust fund, having spent it all on heroin.  Things look up a bit after his marriage, but as a father he is appalling.  This is a comedy of manners about effete, abusive and cruel characters:  Jane Austen with characters from Stephen King.  Not my cup of tea.

–posted 2/3/2012

Posted February/3/2012

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