piglet: me smiling at camera, in pearls, in front of books, shoulder-length hair (april06)
posted by [personal profile] piglet at 01:08am on 17/04/2008 under
Reilly, in the author interview at the end of this book, says, "...what I really wanted was ... a faster book, a book that was more densely packed with plot. ... I like to think that Scarecrow has lived up to the promise of being faster and completely out of control!"

I'll say! He's pulled that off. Here are a series of chapter endings, from near the start of the book:
Schofield, however, didn't have time to ponder that issue, because it was then that he saw the bodies.

And with that the twenty assassins arrayed around the hall opened fire on Schofield and his men and the dry-dock facility became a battlefield.


Then he hit, "FIRE."

And so here he was, stranded at a deserted Siberian base with close to forty mercenaries on his tail, one man by his side, no reinforcements on the way and no means of escape at all.

He and Book were stuck in this building -- a building which in 52 seconds was going to explode.

You get the picture.

There were several scenes where I had very little idea of exactly what was going on -- but I just let the action word salad flow over me like a creamy slaw of destruction on my OMGWTFBBQ!!!!?!? of the few too-clear scenes (there's a guillotine. and sharks. and boiling oil. and many beheadings.).

In addition to head-spinning action, there's a thin veneer of plot, a sinister Majestic-12 Star Chamber, of whom we learn,
A Council penalty was something to be avoided.

Joseph Kennedy had lost two of his famous sons for disobeying a Council directive to cease doing business with Japan in the '50s.

Charles Lindbergh's infant son was kidnapped and killed, while Lindbergh himself had been forced to endure a smear campaign suggesting he admired Adolf Hitler -- all because he had defied a Council edict to keep doing business with the Nazis in the 1930s.

More recently, there was the impertinent Enron board. And everyone knew what had happened to Enron.

On the whole, Scarecrow makes for a better movie than it does a novel.
piglet: me smiling at camera, in pearls, in front of books, shoulder-length hair (april06)
posted by [personal profile] piglet at 10:37am on 15/04/2008 under
36-year-old financial whiz, buttoned-up, with father issues, lets her hair down at a fancy golf resort while on the prowl for a marriageable man. Jennifer Crusie's first book, Manhunting stays light and keeps the focus on the romance(s) -- we don't ever meet our heroine's father, or explore her father issues in any depth. On her way to accepting her attraction to our slacker hero (who is redeemed by our heroine into returning to a world of independent stock trading), our heroine pushes an overeager suitor in the pool, stabs an exceptionally irritating one in the back of the hand with a sharp fork, breaks a bottle over the head of an importunate third, and sends a perfectly charming fourth tripping over his feet off a wooded trail through poison ivy. Oh! He was fifth -- I'd forgotten the heart attack she gave the fourth on the golf course when she caught him cheating.

With equal verve our heroine draws up business plans, starts a torrid affair with our hero, and bartends, skinnydips and eats her way across the landscape of the small Kentucky town of Toby's Corners. A frothy, delicate meringue of sweet hot love.
piglet: crayon purple on white paper, me as drawn by my son (Default)
posted by [personal profile] piglet at 05:50pm on 11/04/2008 under
I'm pretty sure it was [livejournal.com profile] susandennis who turned me on to Lee Child. For which I am oh! so grateful.

Jack Reacher is James Bond (the books, not the movies) and Simon Templar and Jack Ryan without the misogyny. Let me say that again. _Without the misogyny_. An action hero with no sexism! Astounding.

He gets laid plenty, as befits an action hero, but there's no madonna/whore dichotomy. And women don't exist in Reacher's world just to be rescued. They're real people with their own agendas, much like the men in his world.

Much the same appears to be true for people of color in his world. Although there don't seem to be many black people there. I went through this whole book thinking that one of the major characters (Frances Neagley) was black, like Lieutenant Summer (one of my favorite Child characters, in The Enemy). Rereading bits for this review, I think I must be wrong, although perhaps she is meant to be Hispanic (long, glossy black hair, dark eyes, brown skin with "a bit of a tan"). He does seem to have some number of Hispanics in his world. And one Arab bad guy in the book reviewed here.

In Bad Luck and Trouble, Reacher is re-united with members of his old Army special investigation team, who are now working in security or private investigation across the country. Normally, in a Reacher novel, I have no idea what's happening, or what's coming next. This one was not as compelling as usual (I found myself paging forward repeatedly), and I think that might be because I had figured out a major plot point a hundred pages or so before Reacher himself did. So I kept getting an odd feeling of deja vu -- like I must have read this before, since I knew what was coming.

For all I know, I did read it and I've just forgotten, which would tie in with it being less compelling overall than his other works (which I remembered from the first paragraph, when I checked for new novels at the bookstore last weekend).

Reacher's nomadic existence has had to adapt to today's eternal Global War on Brown People, and so apparently have Child's plots. I care for neither development, and look forward to the next book, which seems to be a return to "normal". Discomfort with the injection of current political realities aside, this was a rollicking tale of defense contracts, quality control, and terrorism, set in the southern California deserts from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
piglet: crayon purple on white paper, me as drawn by my son (Default)
posted by [personal profile] piglet at 05:40pm on 11/04/2008 under
Ack! So I've finished the last 3 books in the Martin Beck series, by Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall. I finished them while my Internet was out. Gobbled them up like potato chips. And have had them sitting here ever since waiting for me to review them.

Not gonna happen.

Short version: they were utterly fabulous, each different and a gem in the series. I think I'll have to read the whole series again at some point -- maybe then I can review these last 3 books and give them the attention they deserve.

The Locked Room
Cop Killer
The Terrorists
piglet: crayon purple on white paper, me as drawn by my son (Default)
Disappointing. I enjoy the Martin Beck series for their characterizations and extended sociological navel-gazings. The Abominable Man continues from the prior book, Murder at the Savoy, the theme of police oppression and increasing police power in a civilized country, but fumbles the characterization of the central orbital triad, and tops it off with heaps of Hollywood-style gun-blazing action, stopping practically in medias res, with no proper meditative ending.

A normally quite pleasurable aspect of their work -- the expansion of minor characters in earlier works into more major characters in later works -- is also fumbled here, driven to a soap opera pitch of character development as we learn first of the past tragedies that formed his character and amusing (to our eyes in earlier appearances) habits, and then of the desperate acts to which he is driven in this book. With no resolution for his fate (cf., "no proper meditative ending", above).

On the good side, we get to enjoy Lennart Kollberg and Gunvald Larsson's increasingly amicable relationship, from their first signs of grudging respect, mid-book, to this ultimate exchange:

"We have to put an end to this whole spectacle," said Gunvald Larson gloomily.

"For that matter," he went on, a few seconds later, "it was a mistake to go up there alone. One hell of a mistake."

"Keep your peace in front of men and slander them behind their backs," Kollberg said. "Do you know what that is, Larsson?""

Gunvald Larsson looked at him for a long time.

"This isn't Moscow or Peking," he said then, with unusual severity. "The cabbies don't read Gorky here, and the cops don't quote Lenin. This is an insane city in a country that's mentally deranged. And up there on the roof there's some poor damned lunatic and now it's time to bring him down."

"Quite right," said Kollberg. "For that matter, it wasn't Lenin."

"I know."
piglet: me smiling at camera, in pearls, in front of books, shoulder-length hair (april06)
The only problem with the sixth installment in the Martin Beck series is that it follows the altogether superior 4th and 5th books. It is otherwise a pleasant mystery set in a mindscape of the politics of class, the economics of crime, and the role of policemen in a free society. We learn some surprising backstory for Gunvald Larsson, of whom Martin Beck still holds his same low opinion.

But the guy had to do what he had to do to for the fat fee he would get when he eventually managed to have Broberg acquitted -- or almost -- and Gunvald Larsson and Zachrisson penalized for breach of authority.

And he wouldn't mind if that did happen. Martin Beck had long been depressed about Gunvald Larsson's methods, but had refrained from intervening, in the sacred name of loyalty.

On a personal front, Martin Beck enjoys an diverting and hopeful-for-the-future interlude with a colleague from Vice.
piglet: me in bangs, mona lisa smile, bug-eyed tortoise-shell sunglasses, in front of books & photos (march08)
Sjöwall and Wahlöö are amazing at characterization. The Fire Engine That Disappeared features Gunvald Larsson, whom we've met previously. On prior occasions, we've seen him through the eyes of our little Stockholm police clique: Martin Beck, Lennart Kollberg, Menander and so on. Now we see him through his own eyes, and his friend's (Einar Rönn), and come to find he's a pretty decent guy after all. Likeable, and a good policeman. We also meet the utterly wet behind the ears Skacke, and know that we can look forward to him growing up in future works. Kollberg is left in some jeopardy at the end of this novel (fitting, since he had the least interest in pursuing the matter), but I expect to be reading about his full recovery in five, four, three, two, one....Murder at the Savoy.... phew. He's fine.
piglet: me smiling at camera, in pearls, in front of books, shoulder-length hair (april06)
Okay, wow, these just keep getting better. The Laughing Policeman scores v. high on my re-readability scale. The ensemble cast is so strong here.

It was already Friday, and the eighth of December. Twenty-five days had passed and the investigation was getting nowhere. In fact, it showed signs of falling to pieces. Everyone was clinging to his own particular straw.

Melander was puzzling over where and when he had seen or heard the name of Nils Erik Göransson.

Gunvald Larsson was wondering how the Assarsson brothers had made their money.

Kollberg was trying to make out how a mentally unbalanced wife-killer by the name of Birgersson could conceivably have cheered up Stenström.

Nordin was trying to establish a connection between Göransson, the mass murder and the garage in Hägersten.

Ek had made such a technical study of the red double-decker bus that nowadays it was practically impossible to talk to him about anything except electric circuits and windshield-wiper controls.

Mansson had taken over Gunvald Larsson's diffuse ideas that Mohammed Boussie must have played some sort of leading role because he was Algerian; he had systematically interrogated the entire Arab colony in Stockholm.

Martin Beck himself could think only of Stenström, what had he been working on, whether he had been shadowing someone and whether this someone had shot him. The argument seemed far from convincing. Would a comparatively experienced policeman really let himself get shot by the man he was shadowing? On a bus?

Rönn could not tear his thoughts away from what Schwerin had said at the hospital during the few seconds before he died.

The Sexual Revolution (which I hadn't entirely believed in up 'til now, thinking that was just Boomers being all proud of themselves for inventing sex *eyeroll*) permeates this series (so far, and I have no reason to expect it to stop). If I read about one more "oversexed woman" or "nymphomaniac" I will not be able to stop laughing. Or something. Apart from very odd ideas about sex, the authors have a keen eye for human psychology, and obviously (cf., those odd ideas about sex) their fingers on the pulse of the culture of their times. (Continuing this metaphor leads to bleeding all over the page, so I'll refrain.)

Question for Swedish speakers: is -gatan road? Or street? And is -vagen more like avenue?
piglet: me smiling at camera, in pearls, in front of books, shoulder-length hair (april06)
Easily my favorite of the series to date (with 7 more to go, I expect ranking them may not possible). Once again, Martin Beck is faced with a seemingly impenetrable conundrum. Yanked unceremoniously away from his vacation, with no leads and no plan, he finds himself in Hungary under request from the Foreign Office to find a missing Swedish journalist. In a week. From political maneuverings to drug trafficking to drunken brawling and desperate coverups, this tale has more twists than a crazy straw.

I am a little annoyed by the series numbering. This book is marked #3, but its original copyright date is earlier than book #2 (The Man on the Balcony), and the action takes place a year earlier. Given that this is a character-driven series, throwing the timeline out of order is very confusing for readers who are paying attention (like, Kollberg here has been married for 6 months and talks about future kids in the abstract; in book #2, his wife is quite pregnant)
piglet: me smiling at camera, in pearls, in front of books, shoulder-length hair (april06)
In this Martin Beck mystery, we learn more about Lennart Kollberg, one of Beck's team, and meet more recurring characters. Characterization is the strongest suit of this book, with atmosphere running a close second. I'm fed up past my eyeteeth with child sex murders (no doubt from too much Law & Order: SVU -- I'd be ever so happy not to read or watch another fictional sex crime in my lifetime). At least this one doesn't sensationalize anything about it. We spend no time at all in the criminal's head, and very little on his motivations or on the commission of the crime itself. The focus is on how the murders affect the community, "decent citizens" and police alike.

Here is Martin Beck addressing a pair of vigilantes who whacked a policeman over the head, mistaking him for the at-large pervert.

"What you have done is indefensible. The very idea of militia comprises a far greater danger to society than any single criminal or gang. It paves the way for lynch mentality and arbitrary administration of justice. It throws the protective mechanism of society out of gear. Do you understand what I mean?"

"You're talking like a book," said the man in the track suit acidly.

"Exactly," Martin Beck replied. "These are elementary facts. Mere catechism. Do you understand what I mean?"

It took about an hour before they understood what he meant.


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