January 4, 2015
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is a funny book, both in the ha ha and peculiar sense. It introduces a lot of loosely connected plots about a computer programmer, an Electric Monk (which, for those that don’t know, is a kind of labour saving android that believes things on behalf of its owner), a dotty old Oxford Professor of Chronology, a millionaire philanthropist, his cellist sister, and a spoiled wannabe intellectual with a grudge. The titular character and antagonist doesn’t even enter the story proper until over a hundred pages in.
The first time I read this book about six years ago, I put it down half finished. Each plot seemed to amble along while the characters encountering complications ranging from mild to ridiculous, with only a vague promise that it would all tie together somehow to engage the reader. During my recent reading, I found the same problem with the first half of the book, but I persisted. Read the rest of this entry »
April 6, 2013
I enjoyed Henning Mankell’s first Kurt Wallander novel, Faceless Killers, for its realism and gimmick-free protagonist. So, when I was having a tough week at work that put me in the mood for some absorbing crime fiction, I happily picked up The Dogs of Riga. Unfortunately, everything that the first book got right, its follow-up gets wrong. Read the rest of this entry »
May 11, 2012
Arsene Lupin! Gentleman Thief! Hyperbole! Ridiculous plot contrivances! Exclamation points! But fun! Fun! FUN!
A good holiday read, especially if your holiday is in France.
September 2, 2011
Near the end of Farewell, My Lovely, a beautiful woman gazes up at Chandler’s legendary shamus, Phillip Marlowe, and says:
“’You’re so marvellous… So brave, so determined, and you work for so little money. Everybody bats you over the head and chokes you and smacks your jaw and fills you with morphine, but you just keep right on hitting between tackle and end until they’re all worn out. What makes you so wonderful?’”
It’s a question that you could ask not only about the prototypical hard-boiled detective, but about the author himself. What is it that elevates both the character and the writer into a league of their own? Read the rest of this entry »
April 30, 2011
A sheep with a star shaped mark on its back and possibly nefarious designs for the human race. A girl with supernaturally dazzling ears and a sixth sense. A dying right-wing power broker. A narrator haunted by a whale’s penis. A slurring dwarf in a sheep outfit. What could they all have to do with each other? Why, they’re all part of the plot of one of Haruki Murakami’s earliest novels, A Wild Sheep Chase. Naturally. Read the rest of this entry »
February 2, 2011
Faceless Killers stands out from other crime thrillers by avoiding gimmickry. Its detective character doesn’t have the quirky genius of Sherlock Holmes, the try-hard edginess of Lisbeth Salander, or the hard-boiled wit of Philip Marlowe. Instead, Mankell’s protagonist, Kurt Wallander, who goes on to star in eleven more stories, is an everyman, an experienced but unexceptional cop.
At the opening of the novel, his wife has left him, he is estranged from his daughter, and his father is going senile. His borderline alcoholism and diet of hamburgers and pizza have left him with seven unwanted kilos that he repeatedly resolves to shed, only to fail due to the stress of his job. Apart form his abilities to go without sleep for long stretches and take a few more knocks than the average person, there’s nothing extraordinary about him. Read the rest of this entry »
August 10, 2010
Review by Gabriel
There’s a famous story that, during filming for the 1946 film adaptation of The Big Sleep, the director and screen writers couldn’t figure out if one of the characters in the novel had committed suicide or been murdered, so they contacted the novel’s author, Raymond Chandler, to seek clarification. It was only at this point – seven years after the novel had been published – that Chandler realised that he didn’t know the answer. The plot was so convoluted that even its author had trouble keeping up with it.
But The Big Sleep railroads over any faults with sheer style, thanks to its ultra-cool protagonist, colourful characters, sense of place and humour. A warning though – because everyone has things that they can’t forgive – it’s also one of the more misogynistic books you’ll read. Read the rest of this entry »