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Category Archive for '08-2022 Reviews'

In one of the most unusual international novels to be released this year, Korean author Kwon Yeo-sun, reports a murder, its possible motives, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding this death. The facts of the death are far less important to the author and, ultimately, the reader, however, than the inner lives of the main characters themselves, and how and why they view as they do the death of a beautiful girl in her late teens. Three characters narrate the story of Kim Hae-on, the innocent school-age victim of a bloody murder sixteen years ago, a crime that has never brought resolution to the main characters or a conclusion. As a result, this is the story of a murder, but it is not a classic “murder mystery.” Instead, it intensely examines episodes from the lives of the main characters over the sixteen years since Hae-on’s death, leaving the reader to draw conclusions.

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Wildly imaginative, humorous, and structurally complex, Venomous Lumpsucker by Ned Beauman takes place a few decades from now as the worst disasters of climate change have already begun. Thousands of life forms have become extinct, and in order to live and work, society has needed new economies, complete with “extinction credits,” overseen by corporations. Countries have changed or canceled borders. In what used to be Europe, scientists have set up new economies on floating islands, with free market research centers and biobanks to preserve life, both human and animal, even when that life exists only on the cellular level. With an overlay of dark humor and irony throughout, author Ned Beauman presents two young people involved in animal research and the international effects of their discoveries. His overall mood, however, is one of sadness, presented with such realism that the story line requires two epilogues to resolve.

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“In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, two thieves gained entry to the Gardner Museum and stole 13 works of art by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, Degas, and other artists. The works including Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, his only known seascape, and Vermeer’s The Concert, are worth more than $500 million. The Gardner heist remains [to this day] the biggest unsolved art theft in history.” Though more than thirty years have passed since this crime, no one has forgotten it. As recently as the winter of 2022, new clues were being assessed, and hopes of finding the missing artworks have not waned. Written by the staff of the Gardner Museum, and others highly familiar with the robbery, the emphasis is on the artworks themselves, with photographs of the missing artworks as the focus. The museum is offering a reward of $10 million for information leading to the discovery of the stolen works.

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I have enjoyed several of Kevin Barry’s novels, along with Dark Lies the Island,  an earlier collection of his short stories. Nothing I have read in the past, however, compares to the dark thrills and surprises packed into this latest collection of stories. The west of Ireland, described by the locals themselves as a “cause of death” in and of itself, is the setting for the stories here, all concerned with romantic themes including love, identity, insecurity, and sometimes resignation. Both heartfelt and ironic, even comic, at times, Barry’s stories create a lively picture of the characters even when those characters are sometimes broken by their own uncertainties. Though some find a measure of happiness, even temporarily, most never find the “ever after,” at least not without recognizing the need for change. ”

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May God Forgive, Alan Parks’s fifth novel in his Tartan noir series featuring Glasgow detective Harry McCoy, has three grisly deaths for McCoy to look into in the first fifty pages, and twenty characters are also involved. McCoy who has just been released from a month’s stay in hospital for a bleeding ulcer, caused by his drinking, smoking, and hard living. As he investigates these and other crimes going forward, the characters increase, the complex involvements of various gangs create issues, and McCoy spends more time investigating on his own than he does as a representative of the police. Making the novel more personal, father-son relationships become an issue, including for McCoy. The action ultimately features a character list of about 40 characters, competing criminal gangs, and some vivid details of violence, torture, mutilation, and maiming, making this novel a stomach-churning experience in which characters driven by their own senses of “justice” have more sway on all levels than the local police.

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