Archive for detective stories

a journal of the plague and pestilence year [stop the war!]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2022 by xi'an

Still standing, impotent, facing Ukrainian cities shelled by Russian bombs…

Read the third & last volume of Arnaldur Indriðason‘s Inspector Konrad new trilogy, Tregasteinn, with no further enthusiasm… There are even more repetitions than in the previous volumes, including recaps from these previous volumes. If this is a literary style, it should be discontinued! If the author thinks the reader has trouble remembering what he wrote a few pages earlier, he should think again. If the author himself cannot remember what he wrote, this is worrying..! Also read Spinning silver by Naomi Novak, a mix of Eastern Europe tales, like Rumpelstiltskin, and of centuries of anti-Semitic persecutions, from a feminist viewpoint where all leading characters are women. While the book has been praised and nominated for the Nebula and the Hugo awards, and won the Locus award,I found it hard to keep up with the rather thin story and fell asleep while the characters were taking yet another sleigh among a fantasy version of Russia or Ukraine… Speaking of whi(t)ch(es):

Watched Juvenile Justice, a 2022 very dark and graphic Korean series on judges in charge of juvenile delinquents. The story is a wee bit thin and the many connections between the characters a cheap trick, with long static shots of the main judge lost in her thoughts and endless passages about her annotating mountains of reports on the case, but the resulting zoom on the judicial procedure and on the harsh penal system make it worth watching.

a journal of the plague and pestilence year

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2022 by xi'an

Hard to concentrate on anything while a European capital is besieged and shelled by Russia… The second horseman of the apocalypse (representing War) has joined the first one (called Pestilence).

Read the hiking story, L’île-montagne, written by Gilles Modica on his n-th traverse of Corsica, from South to North, of the mythical GR20 hiking trail. A gift from Florence at my p-th birthday party, after she spotted my blog entry on my few hours on that trail… While the author does not appear there as a particularly sympathique personnage, with a common form of mountaineering elitism, the call of the mountains and the intrinsic and wild beauty of the trail is undeniable. Renewing my desire to hike more of it. And the story is full of fascinating historical tidbits. As with so many mountain books, it reads better with a detailed map at one’s side, unless one is already familiar with every rock and every cow on the GR20. (There is a map at the start, but partial maps on the margin would have been more helpful. Esp. for a top quality editor like Guérin.) I also went quickly through two volumes of Arnaldur Indriðason‘s Inspector Konrad new trilogy, The Darkness knows and The Girl by the Bridge, in their French translation. Ending up rather disappointed with a feeling of déjà vu. For the first one, the themes of Indriðason are there (impact of the second World War, poverty, domestic violence, childhood memories, icefields). With the added annoyance of seeing the same events reported twice within a few pages. For the second, it brought back the memory of walking in the downtown Reykjavik cemetery, a few years ago, in less dramatic circumstances, but otherwise, I found the scenario rather lazy and the resolution predictable. With an added touch of supernatural, which I do not appreciate at all outside fantasy books!

Watched All of Us Are Dead, a (of course!) Korean zombie series.  At first as a way to temporarily escape the anxiogenic influx of horrific news from Ukraine with a brainless diversion… Despite my general reluctance for zombie movies. And then for the powerful satire behind the story! The construction of the network of the few teenagers escaping their former colleagues indeed proves rather efficient, with the characters growing into several dimensions, if the scenario is overly stretched, and too prompt to sacrificing a member of the group when tension goes down. Incl. some most unexpectedly, scenario-wise… But it remains biting, humorous, moving at times, full of references to the Korean zombie culture (incl. many to Last train for Busan) and the shortcomings of a competitive and inegalitarian society…

strange loyalties [book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2020 by xi'an

This book by William McIlvarnney is the third and last one in the Laidlaw investigation series and the most original of the three as far as I am concerned… For it is more an inner quest than a crime investigation, as the detective is seeking an explanation to the accidental death of his brother as well as the progressive deterioration of their relation, while trying to make sense of his own life and his relation to women. It is thus as far a crime novel as it is possible, although there are criminals involved. And Laidlaw cannot separate his “job” from his personal life, meaning he does investigate on his free time the death of his brother.  It is entirely written in a first-person perspective, which makes the reading harder and slower in my case. But an apt conclusion to the trilogy, rather than being pulled into finer and finer threads as other detective stories. Brilliant (like the light on Skye during the rain).

“Life was only in the living of it. How you act and what you are and what you do and how you be were the only substance. They didn’t last either. But while you were here, they made what light there was – the wick that threads the candle-grease of time. His light was out but here I felt I could almost smell the smoke still drifting from its snuffing.”

the ice princess [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on May 11, 2014 by xi'an

This week in Warwick, I read The Ice Princess, the first novel of Camilla Lackberg and a book I purchased in Toronto last Fall. I remember seeing the novel fairly frequently in the Paris métro a few years ago and, judging from the banner on top of my edition (“7 million books sold”), it was not only popular in Paris… I actually fail to understand why. Indeed, the plot sounds like a beginner level exercise in a creative writing class, with all possible memes of a detective story appearing together, from suicide, to adultery, to paedophilia, to rich inheritors, to domestic violence, to incompetent bosses, to small town gossip, etc., etc.  The hidden story that is central to explain the murder(s) is just unbelievable, as are some of the related subplots.  And the style is appalling: the two main protagonists are withholding clues and information from the reader, their love affair takes hundred of pages to unravel, the sentences are often unnatural,  or repetitive, some characters are so clichés as to be ultimately unbelievable. Negatives just pile up so high it is laughable. And unbelievable the book got so popular. Or received prizes. Like the 2008 Grand Prix de Littérature Policière for Best International Crime Novel…  (Prize which picked in other times major writers like Patricia Highsmith, Chester Himes, John Dickson Carr, Eric Ambler, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Tony Hillerman, P. D. James, Ian Rankin, and Arnaldur Indriðason.) Anyway, this was a very poor beginning to a highly succesfull series and I am glad I read The Hidden Child before The Ice Princess, as the former had more depth and a much better plot than this first novel.

The Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew

Posted in Books with tags on December 14, 2008 by xi'an

I just finished reading To Kill or Cure, the 13th volume in the series of the Chronicles of Matthew Batholomew. This is an unusual series in that it takes place in 14th century Cambridge, with the two investigators being a monk and a physician from an earlier college called Michaelhouse. Part of the appeal of those books is that the colleges mentioned in the books are real and that the major events are also inspired from real facts… Most characters are also well-rendered, even though they may think and behave in too modern a fashion for that time: it is somehow too easy to make a physician offering “modern” medical theories about plague, diseases and anatomy when writing centuries later! But I did like the description of the Plague in the first book and the impact on the English society as described in the later volumes. Another part of the appeal is obviously the description of the working patterns of Cambridge colleges at that time, circa 1350, with the fights between scholars, colleges, as well as the rivalry with Oxford and the animosity between “town and gown”, the scholars being protected from trivial law by being granted a religious status. The descriptions of teaching, of student mentoring and of scholarly excellence are also central to most books and make for an interesting reading, even though I cannot judge how accurate they would be. In the 13th volume, one major thread is the recruiting of two new Fellows of the College, which is fairly entertaining for being in some aspects quite close to the current practice!

The criminal plots are not always excellent, though, and the current volume is certainly lacking in this respect. As in several previous volumes, the conclusion is very abrupt, rather unexpected, and the recovery of both main characters rather unrealistic. (The convenient demise of a central character in the Fens, as well as the sudden threat of the poisoned wine in the final pages is very reminiscent of earlier books, if a minor nuisance.) If you have already gone through the twelve previous volumes, you should find this one entertaining nonetheless!

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