Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams

January 4, 2015

Dirk Gently UK front cover.jpg

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 »


Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief – Maurice LeBlanc

May 11, 2012

Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar by Maurice…

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.

Faceless Killers – Henning Mankell

February 2, 2011

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

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 »

The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler

August 10, 2010

Review by Gabriel

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

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 »

From Hell – Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell

July 27, 2010

Review by Gabriel

From Hell by Alan Moore

To comic book fans, Alan Moore is a superstar.  People who don’t follow the medium may be familiar with his works that have been made into movies, such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta, The Watchmen, as well as the graphic novel that is the subject of this review, From Hell.  However, even those who saw these movies may be unfamiliar with Moore’s name, as he completely disassociated himself from all of the film adaptions due to their questionable quality or divergence from the source material.

His reputation is well deserved.  He is master of blending sympathetic characters and humour with high concept science fiction and philosophy.  From Hell is one of his greatest achievements, in which he navigates the cliché minefield of the Jack the Ripper mystery to create something original and mesmerising.  He does this by exploring what the Ripper murders, and people’s continued fascination with them, reveal about the society and culture in which they occurred.

Moore’s work can be relied on to challenge readers, and From Hell raises questions about the depiction of violence and its perpetrators.  His partner in crime (all puns intended, especially the bad ones) is Dave Gibbons Eddie Campbell, whose sketchy, murky style perfectly capture the grime of London’s East End at the end of the 19th Century. Read the rest of this entry »

A Study in Scarlet – Arthur Conan Doyle

June 3, 2010

review by Gabriel

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Study in Scarlet is the premier Sherlock Holmes adventure, and therefore a pretty influential text in the detective fiction genre.  It’s a hell of a lot of fun and could be held up as an example on how to write sentences, create a sense of place and establish important characters.  However, I assume that Conan Doyle was still perfecting his craft when he wrote it, because there are some poor structural choices that really dampen the excitement of the book.  There are also some thundering clichés, especially surrounding one character that becomes a sinkhole for bad writing. Read the rest of this entry »

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

March 6, 2010

Review by Gabriel

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I don’t usually read thrillers.  No matter how hard authors try to create some quirky new riff on the genre, they still end up being formulaic and cliché.  I gave The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo a go, because I’d heard so much buzz about it, and was going away for work for a month and didn’t want to use my brain too much.  It turned out to be a page-turner with some interesting inversions on the tropes, but which won’t make a lasting impression because of the conventions of the genre, and its writing style. Read the rest of this entry »