The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Sunday, Sep 19 2010 

Stieg Larsson’s trilogy has spawned two sets of movies, one in Swedish with subtitles and a second in English ready to film here. I avoided seeing the first when it came out for now, wanting to read the books first. I read the first, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, last summer. After a false start at the long beginning, I started again and plowed through it, once I learned not to stop and try to pronounce all of those Swedish names. I was caught up in the twists and turns of the horrific story, but most of all, of the unique protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, and the journalist Mikael Blomkvist who befriends her.

Larsson followed this with the wonderful The Girl Who Played with Fire, which I read quickly and with great energy.  His plotting amazed me. His ability to take an unsympathetic character and make me care for her was startling. Then I took a few months off, holding off on the third because I knew Larsson had died and only left 200 pages of a fourth book. I resisted finishing the trilogy, the way a nun I once heard of resisted reading one of Dickens books. He was her favorite author, and she was a teacher and authority on him. She explained she wouldn’t read this last book because then there would be no more left to look forward to.

Then Doc, thinking he was doing me a favor, came home with the third book one day. It sat on my bedside table for exactly a week, and then I caved.

My reading that week was confined to bed-time. I stayed up far too late several nights in a row to reading, and once again, Larsson’s writing had me in its thrall. His books are like watching Batman–CRASH! SMACK! POW!!! The pace builds and builds. As the book opens, Lisbeth lies in critical condition, the result of injuries she’s barely survived at the hands of her father and half-brother. Her father is in the same hospital, just doors away, recovering from Lisbeth’s attack with an axe. That he’s buried her alive after shooting her doesn’t faze the maniacal Zalachenko, who has accused HER of trying to murder him. Under arrest for three murders she didn’t commit, Blomkvist hires his sister to represent Lisbeth and mounts his own investigation to clear her. From her hospital bed, Lisbeth manages to assist him. How they work in concert is a large part of the plot of this third volume.

Despite my reticence to finish, I kept on reading, until on the third evening it was 2 AM and my eyes were closing. I had only 30 pages or so to go, and the book was tying up loose ends, almost in an epilogue of sorts. So I put it aside and slept. The next afternoon I carved out a few minutes to finish what I expected to be more closure. And we’re off! In those last pages Larsson managed to eke out yet ONE more plot twist,  more action-filled scenes, until only the last two pages where a sort of true epilogue.

This is writing at its finest. Lisbeth is an anti-heroine, and yet as more and more of her story is revealed, Larsson was able to provoke empathy for her. The social mores of Sweden and well as the political ones are carefully documented, too. His imagination knew no bounds. The trilogy is highly recommended.

I know exactly how that nun felt.

God, I’ll miss Larsson’s writing.

Bad Boy by Peter Robinson Monday, Sep 13 2010 

Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series is one I’ve followed from with great delight and this 19th novel is no exception. One year at the mystery convention Bouchercon, I saw Robinson in the crowd and thought how much he resembled my mental image of his Detective Chief Inspector.

Recovering from a lousy love affair (those readers who follow the series might have seen that one coming), DCI Banks is away on holiday when a distraught former neighbor arrives at the police station asking to see him. His partner (and early love) Annie Cabbot is covering for him. The woman has found a loaded handgun in her daughter’s room. Under current English law, this is a punishable offense of up to five years for the girl, Erin. The neighbor has left her tearful and uncommunicative daughter at home with her husband.

The situation unfortunately quickly gets out of control at the house. It is immediately complicated when it comes to light that one of Erin’s roommates is Banks’ daughter Tracy, who was last seen going to warn off the gun’s owner, Erin’s boyfriend, Jaff.

Jaff is good-looking, sexy, and involved in dubious business; he has too much money and is too smart for his own good. Banks is summoned home early from his vacation due to Tracy’s disappearace, only to find out that Jaff’s boss is his former nemesis, George Fanthorpe.

Banks must race against Fanthorpe’s formidable backing to track down Tracy before Jaff can do her permanent harm. Did I mention there’s an almost-fatal shooting of one of his team? And that his new superior is still deciding how to handle Banks?

This is a series that never disappoints, as Robinson continues to grow his main characters and let them operate within the bounds of today’s criminal reality.

One aside, that I noted with great dismay. I’ve read Robinson’s prior novels, published variously through by the years by companies such as Macmillan and Hodder & Stoughton. All have been on quality paper, with readable print in size of 6.5 X 9.5. This last book is out of William Morrow, in a 5.75 X 8.5 size. The quality of the paper was thin, with a lesser lb. weight; the print smaller and more difficult to read. But the most distressing part for me was the number of typo’s and errors that were allowed to stand, an almost disdain for this fine author’s work. On the top of page 5, there is an extra space between two lines of a sentence! This lack of care speaks volumes to me about today’s traditional publishers and the reason so many writers are turning to indie and self-publishing. If I were Peter Robinson, I would be calling my agent immediately to find me a new publisher.

Summer’s Last Two-fer from Faye Kellerman Tuesday, Sep 7 2010 

Can you believe Labor Day has come and gone? Summer seemed to zip past as fast as Hurricane Earl. Here are two from Faye Kellerman, who now has 19 novels in her husband-and-wife team of Peter Decker and Rina Lazurus. I read the first offering, Ritual Bath, in the late 1980’s and have followed the series since, when Detective Decker investigates a murder at an Orthodox Jewish mikvah bath-house, and first meets young widow Rina and her two small boys.

Years later, married with their own daughter getting ready for college, Peter is a lieutenant in the LAPD homicide squad in Blindman’s Bluff. Someone has broken into the exclusive Coyote Ranch, the compound of billionaire developer Guy Kaffey, and viciously gunned down him and wife, as well as four employees.  One of his two sons on site has been severely injured but survives the massacre.

blindman__s_bluff.jpg

Decker’s detective team includes Marge Dunn and Scott Oliver, his groundmen as the three figure quickly understand that the breach of security which allowed this travesty points to an inside job. A billionaire like Kaffey has enemies galore. To complicate matters, he also has a habit of of hiring delinquents to givie them second chances, often including them in his personal security team. When Rina’s jury duty puts her in the path of a gang of ruthless killers, the stakes are raised.

The second offering, and perhaps stronger book of the two, is Hangman. In a strange twist, Decker gets involved looking for the missing wife of professional killer Chris Donatti, two people who have crossed his life fifteen years earlier. Terry’s disappearance is followed shortly by that of Chris, leaving their 14 hy-old son Gabe with no one to turn to except Decker and his wife.

Decker’s regular caseload and team are focused on solving the murder of a nurse found swinging from the rafters of a house under construction. There are signs of a serial killer about this murder, complicated by the young victim. Despite being a conscientious rehab nurse, she has her share of detractors, who chronicle her off-work life as a party girl, enjoying booze, kinky sex and revenge-cheating on her boyfriend.

HANGMAN.jpg

Athough all of Kellerman’s books include a dose of his home life with Rina and their daughter Hannah, this one includes more because they shelter Gabe. Decker’s daughter from his first marriage, now a policewoman herself, is involved in a minor way in one of the cases, as Decker’s 60th birthday seems one he might not find himself celebrating.

Two more from Kellerman, the wife of author Jonathan Kellerman, whose Alex Delaware novels are also reviewed as I read them. The Kellerman’s have sprouted writers in the family–son Jessie is a playwright and novelist; daughter Aliza has just teamed up with her mother to write a young adult novel.

Corduroy Mansions Friday, Sep 3 2010 

Alexander McCall Smith is one prolific writer. This gentleman must surely write with a dictaphone strapped to his wrist. He’s enthralled us with the Botswana mysteries,the Portuguese Irregular Verbs, the Isabel Dalhousie series, and the Edinburgh-set 44 Scotland Street series.

Now from somewhere up his left sleeve, the magical Scotsman has managed to produce yet another start of what promises to be a series filled with a collection of the kind of quirky characters that make his writing so endearing.

Set in London, Corduroy Mansions is the affectionate nickname of a crumbling mansion block in Pimlico, a vibrant, just-slightly seedy neighborhood. We meet William, a wine merchant determined to have his 24 yr-old son leave the nest and find his own digs and a decent job; Marcia is the boutique caterer who yearns to be more than William’s friend.

MP Oedipus Snark, aptly named, frustrates most people who come within his circle, including his girlfriend Barbara, a literary agent who really should know better; his mother, analyst Berthea, is writing Snark’s biography, even though she hates her son. Berthea also has her brother to look after. There are art students and, lest I forget, the delightful Freddie de la Hay, a Pimlico terrier of exceptional intellect who insists on wearing a seat belt and is a vegetarian.

This very readable book goes down smoothly like a glass of exceptional cabernet. End your summer with a great read like this little jewel.

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp a perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

make Your House a home

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

BOOK SHELF

"Tell me and I forget-Show me and I remember-Involve me and I learn"

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews

forensics4fiction

Forensics demystified for the fiction writer

milliewonka

Just another WordPress.com site

Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!

Saving the planet one day at a time.

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp a perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

make Your House a home

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

BOOK SHELF

"Tell me and I forget-Show me and I remember-Involve me and I learn"

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews

forensics4fiction

Forensics demystified for the fiction writer

milliewonka

Just another WordPress.com site

Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!

Saving the planet one day at a time.