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Category Archive for 'Mystery, Thriller, Noir'

In the fifth installment of the Wyndham and Banerjee mysteries, set in 1923, author Abir Mukherjee once again recreates the complex issues of colonialism in India after World War I, laying the groundwork for the tensions, the hostility among those of competing religious views, and the overriding fear that an all-out religious war might break out at any moment. The Hindus, Muslims, devotees of Mahatma Gandhi, and the British are all committed to keeping India free from tyranny, but each wants his own version of “freedom,” and no one agrees with anyone else. Author Abir Mukherjee is able to convey this confusion and frustration among all those of influence by using two very different characters. Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee, often known as “Surrender Not” Banerjee for his attitudes and the pun on his name – is a Hindu from Calcutta who is working with Sam Wyndham of the British Imperial Police Force, to try to bring peace and avoid anarchy as a result of all the competing social and religious interests. Then the bombings and fires begin. Full of action, a wide variety of characters, complex relationships, and a history of India and the forces that made it what it is today, this book presents all the details.

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John Banville, writing here under his own name, has returned to writing mystery stories featuring the often unlovable Dublin police pathologist, Quirke, and he clearly enjoys the freedom of his mystery writing. This novel opens in London, where an Irishman who “liked killing people” is hired to kill a mother who plans to leave her son out of her will. Grabbing her bag “to make it look like garden snatch job done by some panicky kid,” he does the job and escapes. The second setting is in Donostia, Spain, where Quirke, a recently married pathologist for the Dublin police, and his wife Evelyn, a psychiatrist, are on holiday. In Spain, Quirke twice sees an Irish woman from a distance and believes he has seen her before, dismissing, temporarily, the idea that a physician friend of his daughter Phoebe in Dublin, missing and presumed dead, might actually be the person he has seen. Creating many darkly ironic scenes and descriptions, Banville creates his characters, using them to present plot elements which many other “literary” authors would be unable to include in a mystery without being accused of “sensationalism.” APRIL IIN SPAIN is a coherent, tense, and wide-ranging mystery, written with drama and flair, with no subject considered off-limits.

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Fans of Scottish author William McIlvanney will rejoice in the publication of The Dark Remains, released six years after McIlvanney’s death in 2015. The father of “Tartan noir,” McIlvanney was highly successful in achieving enthusiastic audiences for three thrillers set in seamy Glasgow, all featuring Detective Sergeant Jack Laidaw. When an uncompleted novel – a prequel to the series of three Laidlaw novels McIlvanney published, was later found in his papers, his publisher offered another Scottish author, Ian Rankin, the chance to complete it. He accepted the job, and this is the result. The novel opens in 1972, with the death of a major player in some of the gang warfare in Glasgow. As Laidlaw becomes involved as a young detective, the author(s) show the dark reality of Glasgow during this period and the iconoclastic Laidlaw trying to solve the case without involving most of the police department directly. A large cast will keep readers on their toes, but fans of Scottish author William McIlvanney will rejoice in the publication of this prequel, released six years after McIlvanney’s death in 2015. The novel is fun to read, and the chance to live through a new Laidlaw experience is something I think most fans of the series will thoroughly enjoy.

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Set in Glasgow in the days between April 12, 1974 and April 22, 1974, this dark, mystery thriller by Alan Parks focuses on the dysfunctional aspects of life in one of Scotland’s major cities, one well known for its gangs and knife crime. The novel opens with an explosion at a “shitey rented flat in Glasgow,” which the polis see as a bizarre attempt to strike at the British establishment. Other bombings occur throughout the novel. In the meantime Det. Harry McCoy has reconnected with an old friend who has just been released from prison for serious crimes and who may be involved in more. A third plot line features a former US Navy captain whose son, stationed at the nuclear base in Greenoch, has disappeared. The father hopes McCoy will help him. The three plot lines feature approximately forty characters, many deaths, tortures, the possible involvement of the IRA and the British Intelligence Service, and individuals acting out on their own. Tartan noir fans will enjoy the nonstop action filled with horror, while some other readers will hope to find fuller characterizations, a few good female characters, and a ray of hope or two.

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Great fun to read, the primary purpose of the novel is to entertain while considering the role of plot in the success of any fiction. Because the plot within this novel, which is responsible for Jake’s astounding success, is the same story which makes this book by Jean Hanff Korelitz so successful, any attempt to summarize that plot would spoil the whole reason for reading it. It is a meticulously constructed novel which has a love story, several murders, intense relationships, shifts of focus among various characters and generations, and changes of location, and it is hard to imagine any reader becoming bored or tired of the action. The author is careful to keep the two plot lines from becoming confused. The story of Jake Bonner, nervous author of the bestseller “CRIB,” and the story within the story which originated with Evan Parker, will, of course, eventually merge, but that merger happens gradually and with plenty of foreshadowing. Fun to read and filled with real surprises, this is a pop novel which well deserves its popularity.

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