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Category Archive for 'Psychological study'

In this psychological study of Pietro Vella, who is a thirty-year-old teacher in Italy at the beginning of the novel, author Domenico Starnone concentrates on themes of love, the self-knowledge it needs to grow, and the kind of honesty which evolves from the trust and respect which two people must have in each other. The novel opens with Pietro’s early love of Teresa, a wild, brilliant, and impulsive woman, whose relationship with Pietro lasts for three years, before her career beckons. Nadia, Pietro’s next love, with whom he eventually has a family, is Teresa’s opposite, and their decades long marriage and family, become a key to the novel and Pietro’s happiness – or not. The three main characters- Pietro, Nadia, and Teresa – each with his/her own section – provide alternative visions of major events as the characters show their interactions, their love, and their self-awareness – or not – as fifty years pass, lives grow and change, and the characters share their lives with the reader.

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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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When a young man known as “Buddha,” who has been living in Bangkok, is sent back to Hong Kong to continue his recovery from drug abuse in the late 1980s, he finds many changes underway. Once “the Hollywood of the Orient,” the familiar Diamond Hill area of Hong Kong looks vastly different now in the lead up to the British turnover of Hong Kong to China, less than ten years away. Poet and novelist Kit Fan, who was born and educated in Hong Kong until he was twenty-one, tells Buddha’s story with the kind of sensitivity which comes from knowing his setting well, its people, and its problems – and caring about all of them Focusing on the people whom Buddha comes to know on Diamond Hill after he returns there from Bangkok, he writes an intimate story involving four major characters: “Buddha” himself. a recovering heroin addict; a young woman named Boss, who runs the heroin business for Diamond Hill; “Audrey Hepburn,” who once acted in a film with Bruce Lee; and Quartz, a complex and disturbed woman who is in charge of the chickens at the nunnery where Buddha lives. As each character becomes more connected with Buddha, he must evaluate himself and his relationships. One of the best debut novels I have read in a long time, I look forward to Kit Fan’s next novel for its insights, its precise descriptions, and its unusual characters.

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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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