Wednesday, September 8, 2010

August Books (Part 1)

THE WATER'S EDGE/Karin Fossum/C+
I think I am not the audience for Scandinavian crime fiction. Every time I try, I come away feeling emotionally dissatisfied. The story opens with a married couple discovering the body of a 7-year-old boy. We weave in and out of the murder investigation, the nature of pedophilia, the crumbling of a marriage, and the mind of a first-time killer. There's nothing specific to point out as not working for me except the entire tone of the book. There's a bleakness to the Scandinavian fiction I've read that just isn't for me.

A free verse novel-length version of the Lady of Shalott's story. Elaine of Ascalot has spent most of her life in the war camp of Arthur and his men. The story centers on her hero-worship of Lancelot and her jealousy of Gwynhefar as Arthur faces the battle of his life. The story was fine--I couldn't get past the form, which felt pretentious to me. Your mileage may vary.

I can't do justice to this book in a few sentences but here's at least a grasp of the subject matter: In a series of searing letters to her former husband, Eva Katchadourian tells the story of their son Kevin--a story that peaks in the mass murder of seven students and two adults at Kevin's high school. Unsparing and often extraordinarily emotionally difficult to read, I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a teenager and/or parents who wonder how many of their children's sins belong on their own heads. Not to be read lightly.

FINAL ACCOUNT/Peter Robinson/B-
A quick and easy mystery about a dead accountant whose family discovers he had a secret life. Inspector Banks is troubled by the loose ends of the case and continues digging, a move that results in a savage attack on a witness. Throw in a Caribbean dictator and drug money and you have the ingredients for a few hours of undemanding entertainment.

BEL CANTO/Ann Patchett/A
I have a lot to say about Ann Patchett after meeting her and hearing her speak last month. Of Bel Canto, which I read in preparation for that event, I can only echo what other's have said about this prize-winning novel set in a hostage situation in South America: Luminous. Unexpected. Thoughtful. Beautiful in the most ordinary ways. Heartbreaking. Absolutely worth reading.

The third in French's Dublin-set mysteries and another winner. Frank Mackey (an Undercover cop who appeared in French's second book, THE LIKENESS) has his past blown open when a suitcase is found in an abandoned house. The suitcase belonged to his girlfriend, Rosie, who never showed up twenty-two years ago to run away as planned with Frank. Does this mean Rosie didn't leave him? If not, where is she? And how is Frank going to cope heading back into the twisted family dynamics he walked away from the same night Rosie vanished? I'd still say THE LIKENESS is my favorite, but each of French's books are gems.

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