The Dogs of Riga – Henning Mankell

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 »


Farewell, My Lovely – Raymond Chandler

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 »

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 »

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 »