Friday, December 30, 2005

Jeffery Deaver: I samlarens spår/The Bone Collector AND Alexander McCall Smith: The 2½ Pillars of Wisdom

Read this (in Swedish) while at my inlaws over Christmas. Quite good - heaps better than the film, a lot more complicated relationships and all. Translation not bad either. Must pick up some more sometime.

The 2½ Pillars of Wisdom is a collection of the three Professor Igelfeld novels. They are absolutely charming, although Mma Ramotswe is still my fave. My husband got me this for Christmas, because he is lovely and he knows what I like.... This is one to read and reread.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Right, what Amanda Cross wrote, and more

Amanda Cross, The Collected Short Stories: Allow me to quote from her introduction: "I am not a particular devotee of the detective short story [ ... ] I have noticed that I tend to read stories when an author's longer works have captured my attention, when I find I like a certain author's style of writing, and, most compellingly, when my interest in her or his detective urges me to search out more adventures in that fictional life. Thus, for example, I have read Dorothy Sayers's short stories about Peter Wimsey, and even those about her wine salesman, Montague Egg, but her stories without either detective appeal less to me."

I can totally relate to this. Would also like to add that Amanda Cross (real name Carolyn G. Heilburn, former (?) professor of literature at some university or other (we can tell Amanda Cross is a pseudonym because it lacks that for an American crucial middle initial)) is a huge favourite of mine. Pity the library has so few of hers. I just love her writing style and the literary inclination. This collection of short stories is very good, recommended.

I've also read Mary Higgins Clark, The Second Time Around. Apparently she is the author of 22 world-wide bestsellers. How on earth? If this book is typical I don't see how. According to the jacket sleeve she's "telling a story that intertwines fiction with the stuff of real-life headlines in a novel of breathtaking suspense and surprises." Um, no. I had to plod my way through this one. I only finished it because I was at work and had nothing else to read. I'm going to have to read me another one to see if they are all this boring - dammit.

In this one the inventor of a cancer vaccine (see, she's lost me already) dies and appears to have swindled his company of money. A journalist starts researching his background and life for a story and discovers it's not that simple after all. The only thing that rings true about the book is the journalist's grief over her son who died at infancy. That's very moving. Other than that this is a negligable work of fiction.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Summary and opinion on a whole load of books...

... I'm so way behind on my blogging.

Lindsey Davis, Scandal Takes A Holiday: I have a soft spot for Davis' books on the Roman informer (PI) Marcus Didius Falco - even though I'm not all that fond of her writing style, if I'm to be completely honest. It's a bit choppy. But the historical learning to be had, the lovable characters and the humour have me coming back for more. It's like Asterix that way. And in another more worrying way - one tends to believe her version of things a bit too much, and it's never a good idea to derive one's knowledge of history from fiction. Almost all the history I (thought I'd) learnt from Asterix turned out to be false, after all...

In STAH Falco goes to Ostia, the port town that forms a sort of entrance to Rome, to look for a gossip-writer named Diocles. Falco's whole family makes an appearance in Ostia, of course, including a long-lost uncle. In his search for the scribe Falco uncovers a kidnapping scheme involving pirates from areas that are now Albania and part of Turkey.

Here's Davis' website (she seems like right craic, she does):

Maria Lang, Mördaren ljuger inte ensam: Lånade en samlingsvolym med Langs tre första deckare på biblioteket. I MLIE introduceras vi till Puck och Einar Bure, samt vår polishjälte Christer Wijk. På ett sommarställe på en ö i Bergsslagen samlar en grupp människor, och en del oinbjudna gäster orsakar slitningar och spänningar under ytan. Först ett mord, sedan ett till. Det intressantaste med den här boken är "det lesbiska problemet", som Lang försöker vara öppen och fördomsfri inför - åtminstone med tidens mått mätt. Det roligaste, för mig, var en passus där middagsgästerna diskuterar och avfärdar de svenska fyrtiotalisterna (i betydelsen poeter). Detta eftersom en av dessas barnbarn gick på gymnasiet med mig. Annars var det belysande att se hur lite kriget nämns överhuvudtaget, trots att boken skrevs -49. I en samtida engelsk deckare hade det ju fortfarande varit ransonering (väl?)...
Farligt att förtära: Pucks Einar fixar ett vikariat åt henne, som lärare på en gymnasieskola. Under repetition av en skolpjäs kommer spänningar i dagen som kulminerar i ett giftmord på scen under uruppförandet. Ytterligare ett giftmord hinns med senare, samt en dödsskjutning. Folk dör som flugor i en Lang-bok, det är väldigt tröttsamt och orealistiskt. I den här är det mycket prat om "en erotiskt unken atmosfär", vilket känns rätt charmigt - jag menar, det ger en bra bild av tidsandan. Ytterligare plus är skildringen av en gymnasieskola på 50-talet, med examensstress och allt. Onekligen verkar studenterna haft vuxenkrav på sig, på ett helt annat sätt än nu.
Inte flera mord!: Ett yttrande jag helhjärtat instämmer i efter de två första. Men likväl så hittas en död man på gräsmattan när Puck, hennes far samt Einar är på semester i Skoga. Tack och lov mördas inte fler i alla fall. Däremot begår mördaren självmord, men det må vara hänt. Det här var nog den tråkigaste av de tre böckerna, faktiskt.

Som sagt, när Lang är som bäst är hon en bra samtidsskildrare, väl insatt i den akademiska världen. Men på det stora hela saknas djup. Jag kanske läser fler någon gång, men jag vet inte om jag aktivt kommer att söka upp hennes verk.

Deborah Crombie, All Shall Be Well: No. 2 in the Kincaid-James series. I think I've read one of Crombie's before some time, but I'm not sure. Anyway, I like her style. I like her characters. 'Tis all nice, with normal angst-levels. Crombie is American, but seems to have a better grasp on everyday Britons and their society that some other American writers who have taken upon themselves to write detective stories set in The Old World (like, for example, Martha Grimes). There is a bit of place-name-dropping, which is always a give-away that the author is writing for tourists, but not to the point where I'd notice. Not ever having been to London I need those references. I don't think it's overdone. In ASBW Kincaid's terminally ill neighbour Jasmine is found dead. Did she kill herself, as she had previously planned, or was she murdered? Quite good, on the whole.
Leave The Grave Green: No. 3 in the series. Starts off with a young boy drowning, then cuts to the future and another drowning victim, the husband of the boy's sister, now a well-known artist. What I liked best in this one was when one of the suspects talks to Gemma James about the Golden Age detective novel, how it represented order after the chaos of WW1. The detective always got the murderer.
A Finer End: Kincaid's cousin Jack asks for his help after his priest girlfriend is knocked over and almost killed in a hit-and-run. Most of the book takes place without Kincaid and James, and is all about and all over the mysticism supposedly pervasive throughout Glastonbury. IMO this is the worst of the lot I've read so far, too New Age.

Then I accidentally borrowed an Amanda Cross short story collection that I'd already read, but I must still comment on it. But tomorrow, I think.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Marian Keyes: Rachel's Holiday

Aaahhh, chicklit.

This one is very moralistic. It's a 1.01 guide to rehab. Rachel does drugs, and goes home to Ireland to detox after a suicide attempt. This is one in the series about the Walsh sisters. I've already read Watermelon (about sister Claire who has a baby and is dumped by eejit husband at hospital) and Angels (about Margaret who goes to LA when her husband has an affair). I've also read Last Chance Saloon, Sushi for beginners and The Other Side of the Story.

Marian Keyes strong point is her description of the Irish. Growing up I could have used some books like this. They're not literary masterpieces, but fun. Everyone gets a bit of sex and learns about themselves.

Best episode in Rachel's Holiday: when the inmates of rehab centre Cloisters are discussing what chocolate bars to buy.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Faye Kellerman: Moon Music - Maria Lang: Arvet efter Alberta

I have previously read Prayers for the Dead, which is a Rina Lazarus/Peter Decker novel. I loved them as a couple, and am very sad that this is the ONLY Faye Kellerman novel the library has in English. Although, now when I tried to verify that by searching the library catalogue online they appeared to have NONE, but I know I got PFTD there. Weird. It's a crap search function anyway.

Anyway, Moon Music is not a novel in a series, but she has squeezed in a kosher-eating couple anyway, in the form of Romulus Poe's lieutenant and his deli-running wife. They are however side characters. The main character is Romulus Poe, the possibly oddest crime fiction cop I've read about. The whole novel is odd. Not odd in a bad way, but it's fascinating what weird relationships people have with each other in this book. Unfortunately the book veers off in an overly mystical direction, with shape-shifting and stuff. I don't really like this, because it's Been Done. But Ms Kellerman does it well. She is as good as her husband, and it's highly unfair that there are not more F. Kellerman books available at the library. Maybe I'll donate my copy of Moon Music. Or not.

That's it, I'm not able for more blogging on this today.

Arvet efter Alberta är den andra Maria Lang-bok jag läst. Den första var den med mordet på studentbiblioteket. Minns inte titeln. Ska nog läsa mer Lang, för tidsandan är skojig, och det är ju det jag uppskattar nästan mest med deckare. Har lånat en tjock bok med hennes tre första i en på bibblan. Hon verkar väldigt ojämn dock, men det är så snabbläst så det kan jag ta... Arvet efter Alberta är den om faster Alberta som dör och efterlämnar ett rörigt dödsbo. Innehåller mycket name-dropping, vilket är lustigt - Håkan Hagegård är tydligen en hyvens kille.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Dorothy Gilman: The unexpected Mrs Pollifax

After reading Locked Rooms I read this book (TUMP), the first in the Mrs Pollifax series. I had previously read Mrs Pollifax Pursued (MPP), which is the eleventh book in the series, and now I decided to try the first one.

These books are by no means great, but quite enjoyable. TUMP is quite fascinating, steeped as it is in cold war terminology and ideas. Mrs Pollifax is widowed and slightly depressed. She gets the idea that offering her services as a spy would be a good idea, as she's not afraid of dying and might as well serve her country. Surprisingly enough she arrives at the CIA headquartes at an opportune moment and is chosen for a simple courier mission to Mexico. Naturally it goes wrong and Mrs Pollifax is abducted. Etc.

It is quite ludicrous to read all the praise the CIA gets for it's foreign policy in this novel, knowing as we do all about the terrible loss of human life that has followed the CIA's support of one regime over another (Pinochet anyone? Saddam?). As Mrs P tries to flee to Yugoslavia she thinks "Bless Tito and foreign aid". But I can't hate this novel, superficial though it may be. It hints at real pain and suffering in a way that makes me wonder why Gilman decided to keep it so bland and cheery. When Mrs Pollifax is abducted she is at first afraid to be killed, then she realises that she is most afraid to lose her dignity. If that isn't an excellent summing up of what torture does to a person, I don't know what is. She is then placed in a cell with a younger man, with no toilet facilities apart from night chambers under the beds. This is such a loss of privacy and dignity as she fears, but not much more is made of it. It's all very unsatisfactory.

At least there are no made-up countries, unlike in MPP, which features that obligatory small African nation so popular in novels. I don't know why they can't just use a real one.

Laurie R. King: Locked Rooms

Well, it was worth the wait! I remember feeling faintly disappointed after reading The Game, because it left off on a slightly unfinished note. In this novel some of those loose ends (the balcony that almost killed Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes is explained for example) are tied up, which is good. I was beginning to wonder if Laurie had gotten so popular her editor had stopped doing his/her job - always a danger.

The beauty of King's "Russell and Holmes" novels is that you, as reader, can completely buy into the underlying fiction that Sherlock Holmes was not a fictional character. The idea is, for those of my (probably less than five) readers who haven't read the books, that Ms King has had these manuscripts sent to her by an anonymous source, and that she's just putting them together for printing. I find myself sometimes having to shake myself into remembering that there is absolutely zero evidence that Holmes was ever real. I love that. It works especially well in this novel, because of the way she continues the storyline from the previous one, tying up loose ends. She has completely avoided the trap of writing in Arthur Conan Doyles' style. Instead she uses the best parts of the well-known characters and creates her own universe. It's lovely.
A.C. Doyle also finds his way into this story, and is labeled a lunatic by an enraged and exasperated Holmes. I like that. It's only a paragraph, but it's a nice touch.

In this novel Russell and Holmes, after the Indian adventures of The Game (where we, incidentally, discover that Kipling's Kim is also a real person), go to San Francisco. This is Russell's original home town, that she left at the age of 14 after her family was killed in a car accident. Russell is plagued with nightmares during the trip, and Holmes worries about her health. Once there, he forms the opinion that there is something odd in the Russell family history, something connected to the great earthquake in 1906. Russell is to wrapped up in the trauma of her past to want to hear it, and Holmes has to enlist the help of a tubercular detective/writer by the name of Dashiel Hammett (and how great is that? What a stroke of genius!) .

Using Hammett in the story makes for some good quotes.
"Hammett sat for a minute drumming the finger-tips of his right hand on the table while he studied the man across from him, weighing the fancy accent and clothes against the man's undeniable competence and the vein of toughness Hammett could feel in him. Toughness was a quality Hammett respected."
" 'Mr Hammett, you have a way with the American vernacular that bodes well for your future as a writer of popular fiction.' "

San Francisco is Ms King's home town, and this shows. She knows the history, has done her research. We get a good feel for the residual trauma left after the 1906 earthquake, we are introduced to different people of the time - the Chinese minority, the street urchins, the jazz flappers who smuggle Joyce's Ulysses and revel in Fitzgerald. My one problem might be that in general Holmes and Russell are always a bit too unbelievably open to everybody without prejudice. They never seem to feel out of place and uncomfortable talking to someone. This is not, IMO, 100% believable, but I don't really care, actually. I still love these books and harbour secret fantasies about being part of the stories.

Oh, and I have one more "wtf" moment, to be honest: there is a car chase. A car chase in San Francisco. No no no no no! Laurie, say it ain't so!? I can't endorse the filming of these books now (which I heartily did before, picturing perhaps Alan Rickman as Holmes). The car chase scene might work in a book, but in a film... Done To Death. I'm very preoccupied with how that can be done originally now.

However, all in all a great read. I can't believe these books are not shatteringly popular. We should be hearing about them all the time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Sue Grafton: L is for Lawless

Sue Grafton is another favourite of mine. Her heroine, P.I. Kinsey Millhone, is so damn cool. Oneliners abound - Kinsey doesn't take crap from anybody. The kind of person one would like to know, even though she seems abrasive as hell. Grafton's alphabet series has also taught me that California is a lot bigger than we think here in Sweden, and a lot more varied. I like that, when you by-the-by get to know a place through reading a detective story.

Often (almost always) when I read I try to imagine what the book would be like as a film or tv series. I do this especially with crime fiction, for obvious treasons (a lot of it has been filmed). The L book is a novel that sometimes seems like it's been written with film rights in mind. Since Kinsey works alone there is often not a lot of dialogue in the books - or rather, we might have a bit of dialogue, and then Kinsey's thoughts on the conversation and what she's learnt from it. It's stuff that can be quite hard to translate to screenplay, I suspect. A lot of driving and looking tough and eating cheeseburgers while thinking. In this book however Kinsey teams up with an ex-con and his daughter, which gives plenty of opportunity for conversation - always a good way to explain the plot in a film. And we also get these clues: Kinsey hitches a ride with a limo driver who claims to have come up with the original story for Terms of Endearment, only to have it stolen from him. "That's the way Hollywood works. Real incestuous." He later parts with Kinsey saying: "You have any ideas for a female-type Sam Spade film, we could maybe collaborate. Chicks kickin' shit and stff like that."

Hello? Does it sound like Grafton is dropping hints or what? *giggles* And later, there is a fantastic scene which honestly made me laugh out loud (I then had to try to explain it to my youngest daughter, who didn't have a clue what I was on about), featuring a stubborn grandmother wielding a gun. Sounds "done" and trite, but it was actually quite surprising and well executed. Kudos, Ms. Grafton! In the hands of the right director this could, indeed, make a very enjoyable film. It is a very enjoyable book.

My biggest problem with Grafton's Millhone series is usually that they are so difficult to get a good grasp on, time-wise. She started writing them in the 80s, and they are still set in that era, even though time has moved on IRL (L is for Lawless was published in -95). However, not being American I think I don't always pick up on the subtle clues as to the decade we're in, because I often find myself going "whoa, how can he have been in WW2 and still be alive and kicking?" etc. Thanks to some definite information in LIFL it can be dated to 1985. I don't think it's just me being dense though, because I often have the same problem in figuring out what time of day it is and so on during the actual story.

Okay, so I'm being dense. But I could use a few more sentences that help me remember whether it's morning or night, especially since Kinsey keeps napping at all hours.

My second biggest problem is that sometimes the conclusion is a bit of a reach, IMO. People suddenly are exposed as bad guys, and I really wasn't following the argument, and there might be an unexpected shootout. These really aren't violent crime stories you see, so it's always a bit of an "oh?" moment when shots get fired. On the other hand, maybe this is a lot like real life - what do I know? Grafton does her research, and has based her stories on real cases sometimes. I definitely wasn't disappointed this time - I remember feeling a little cheated in the one where she meets a guy who turns out to be psycho, together with his brother. (Can't remember which letter - again, this is why I started this blog. It was long overdue.)

Anyway, I love this series. If people are wondering what to get me for Christmas, the library doesn't have all the books, so I haven't read A, B, C, D and E. In the same vein, you can also check which books my Marcia Muller the library has, and get me the other ones. Sharon McCone's another cool Sam Spade-type detective, that I'm fond of. Except Sharon has friends. Oh, and don't forget Alexander McCall Smith, while you're shopping.

Righty-oh, then. Below is the link to Sue Grafton's website, and also Marcia Muller's, since I mentioned her.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

B.M. Gill: Dying To Meet You

A pianist has been forced to abandon his career after getting arthritis. He inherits a relatively isolated cottage from a distant relation, and despite his wife's hatred of the place he becomes obsessed with it, and with the photograph of a Victorian girl he finds behind the damaged piano. Turns out the girl had a violent history and has a contemporary doppelganger.

Not too enamoured with this one: is it a ghost story, is it not... doesn't seem quite sure of which leg it should stand on. Not badly written really. I think it could make a good film. If you play up the ghost/psychology bit a bit more - like in The Shining.

ETA: just remembered - the library CA/PR has been all over this one too... One has to laugh. Fondly.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ngaoi Marsh: Black As He's Painted

I wanted to write a longer entry about this novel, but I'm finding it hard to concentrate. :-/ So I'll just write something then, because I'm already half-way through the next book and I have to remember to blog, or I can't keep track of what I read...

This is a novel from -74, and full of drug references, hippiesque characters, racial tension and loss of empire. Interesting to note is that the censorship must have lightened up, since Marsh can state openly that someone is a homosexual. I'm confused as to her attitude against homosexuals - the character in BAHP is evil and ridiculous, the steward in SITS was camp and sort of pathetic, in previous books I've noted that they are often theatrical and OTT... being, as she was, involved in the theatrical world (a recurring theme) she must have met many gay men. It seems as though she accepts their existence quite matter-of-factly, but they are still Not Normal. Like I said, it would be interesting to read a study on gay characters in her novels.

Storyline - Alleyn's old school chum is now President of his home country, Ng'ombwana. Yes, yes, Marsh commits the terrible sin of making up a country for the story. *sigh* She pulls it off quite well and has obviously done some research, but nevertheless... Me no likee. Anyway, he's coming to London, and his Ambassador and the Secret Service are all a-fluster over security, as the President has many enemies, tends not to respect security advice and has already survived two murder attempts.

The novel centres around racism, I'd say. Troy and Alleyn are "black-friendly". Remember, Troy made a black friend in Clutch of Constables (q.v., I'd link to it if I understood how to do so...). Nevertheless, they don't seem to be outraged at the blatant racism they encounter from other people. Stiff upper lip and all that, the black people simply have to accept that they are disliked by some. At one point in the novel a man says that he knows his assailant was black, even though it was pitch dark, because of the smell. Alleyn replies, or rebukes him, saying that apparently black people feel the same about us white people. However, Alleyn cheerily refers to black people as "woolly-headed" for example, and wonders how much resentment his old chum still nurses in his "sooty bosom". And Marsh writes that "nobody can look as bored as a Negro" - although the other n-word is banned and only used by blatant racists.

I guess times have changed... This is another area for academic study, probably.

Favourite witticism: Alleyn's and Fox' way of referring to the secret society that use a pottery fish as their symbol - they are the "Ku-Klux-Fish".

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ngaio Marsh: Singing In The Shrouds

Footnote for starters: I got a first edition of this novel, printed in 1958, and unfortunately there are a number of printing errors in it. Big ones, like substituting January with February. However, the book has been read by Uppsala Town Library's own private crime aficionado/proofreader, who's handwriting can be spotted in as good as every crime novel I've borrowed - making corrections, questioning deductions, commenting on storyline etc. Sometimes the PCA/PR makes mistakes in her (most likely it's her. I deduce this from the handwriting, my dear Watson) proofing, and, for example, misunderstands a colloquialism for a spelling error. I wonder if the PCA/PR is still alive. The remarks are, come to think of it, probably only found in the older books. Hm. RIP if you're dead, anonymous crime fiction fan!

This is the one in which a serial killer, moments after his third murder, sails off on a ship bound for South Africa. Roderick Alleyn joins the ship incognito and attempts to prevent a fourth victim. Features the usual Marsh stuff - letters from Alleyn home to Troy, a young couple falling in love, a theatrical character (this time someone who works in television! Must be the first TV celebrity she featured?) and a gay, flamboyant drama queen (a ship steward wannabe dancer). Marsh's homosexual characters are a subject wholly unto themselves, and I'd love to see someone do an academic study of it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in those days there were "decency laws" in Britain that would prevent her from being too open about the matter. All she could therefore do was drop a hint that every reader would understand, such as:

" 'To make a vulgar practical joke out of what may have been the wretched little creature's tragedy - his own private, inexorable weakness - his devil!' " (Spoken by the conservative spinster.)

" Why the hell did the D-B have to dress up a queer steward [ ... ] " (Alleyn.)

Like I said, an academic study would be interesting. How widespread was the use of "queer" for "homosexual" in 1958? It does come across as ambigious.

Right, some typical Marsh quotes to finish off:

"They settled down to talk Anglo-Catholic shop.
Mrs. Cuddy, overhearing them, smelt Popery."

"She looked so dazzling that she sounded brilliant."

The woman's ace I tell you, ace.

Monday, November 14, 2005


I just got a newsletter from Laurie R. King's (what's with Americans and their middle initials anyway?) website, and she's got a new Kate Martinelli novel coming out in June, that is going to tie together the Russell/Holmes series with the Martinelli one. Am very excited about this.

Also noticed (I haven't been on the website much) that Laurie has a blog. I hope it's boring, so I don't get hooked. :-P Hey, it's a blogspot too! Great minds think alike, it would seem.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Laurie R. King

God, she's great. I just put in a reservation for Locked Rooms at the library. I hope whoever has borrowed it reads it quickly.

And discovered that they have two Ngaio Marsh in the cellar, so am going in today to get them. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

just remembered

By the way: that Rankin novel is almost worth reading only for the joke contained therein: "I feel like Gulliver on a Lilliputian toilet. I don't have a lot to go on."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Lagging so so far behind

I made this blog to keep up with my reading. I'm already forgetting. Stupid stupid stupid.

Anyway, in brief then:

Dead Souls, by Ian Rankin. My first Rankin novel, I think. Not completely my cup of tea - I have an aversion to morose over-drinking grumpy male detectives. Might try a few more though (Rankin novels, not detectives, obviously, ha ha). Wasn't too keen on the story either - this is the one where a police friend of the hero (Rebus) commits suicide, the son of Rebus' first girlfriend goes missing, a serial killer come home to Edinburgh from the US. On the whole a bit meh.

Angel of Darkness, by Caleb Carr. This novel is written from the perspective of Stevie, Dr. Kreizler's young ward. I found "his way" of relating the events more interesting to read than the first book, The Alienist, and that in itself is amusing. That I should find the story-telling skills of the fictional Stevie character more entertaining than those of the equally fictional John Moore is a writing accomplishment in itself - I hope Carr keeps this up! The basket-case of this novel is a woman, cue much discussion of the sanctity of motherhood - real or imagined? Etc. Very enjoyable, although the ending is a tad too much. It appears to be written with the screenplay in mind - never a good idea. Shootouts on rooftops? Please, no. Although those were violent times...

The Fifth Rapunzel, by B.M. Gill. A serial killer has murdered four long-haired prostitutes, and Britain's best forensic pathologist has pinned a fifth murder on him, despite his protestations. Now the pathologist and his wife are dead, and their 18-year-old son is left alone in the world. Turns out that his father may have had his own reasons to lie about his findings in the 5th Rapunzel case.

Not a half bad book at all. No whodunnit, the ending is slightly unexpected as it features the sudden transformation of a minor character into a major one. Name of police hero: Maybridge - but he isn't a dominant part of the story, IMO. I'll try to find some more of Gill's work.

Marjaneh Bakthari: Kalla det vad fan du vill. Den här boken ska läsas om så bara för de lysande dialekt- och brytningsbeskrivningarna. Har man bara hört iranier prata kan man läsa mamma och pappa Irandousts repliker högt för sig själv och vips - man låter som en iranier! Råkul. Och malmöitiskan också - hur bra som helst. Som bok är den väl egentligen lite fragmenterad och hoppig att läsa. Däremot skulle det här kunna bli en riktigt bra film tror jag, om manuset lyfte fram historien om pappa Irandousts kompis, vars syster flytt, fastnat i Turkiet och tvingats prostituera sig. Den berättelsen, som jag gärna sett vara mer framträdande, ger hela boken en melankolisk klang.

Am currently reading a Dorothy Gilman book I bought for 5 kr at Myrornas. This is one of those rather no-name detective writers that exist in abundance and are never heard of. Not so bad though, so far. Better than Dan Brown... may his money turn to ashes. Although HUGE minus points for inventing an African nation. HUGE.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Tears of the Giraffe

Ooooooohhhh what a great read. Reading the books about the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is sure to leave you all warm and fuzzy inside. They are filled with the same fundamental belief in human goodness as, for example, Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael novels - and it's just glorious.

However, at times I've wondered if McCall Smith's descriptions of Africa don't border on exotism, exotism of that modern, "nice" kind, where we long for the (perceived) simpler and friendlier life of some Other Culture, and become unreasonably disappointed when we see that the Other Culture also has problems. But I've decided that's it's more a case of homesickness. He loves Botswana deeply, and misses it. That's obvious. When I sometimes think he's portraying his characters as almost naive and simplistic (usually when we're "inside their heads", reading what they're thinking) - he might turn around and show them doing something that turns that notion of naivety on its head. And several times we get snippets of personal history from different people, snippets that don't shy away from pain and sorrow, but neither do they wallow in it. These are books I want to own. These are books to reread over and over, for their sweetness.

The only way to decide if it's exotism or style I suppose is to read all of McCall Smith's other books. Oh, such hardship. Woe me indeed. (My husband just told me to go and buy the books instead of waiting for them to turn up in the library, so hey! Carte blanche to shop!)

In Tears of the Giraffe Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Maketoni make progress in their engagement, including adding to their family. Their relationship is so adorable! Awwww. Mma Ramotswe solves the mystery of the American boy who went missing in the Kalahari ten years before, and her secretary becomes an assistant detective and solves the problem with the butcher's unfaithful wife.

Alexander McCall Smith has a website, I discovered!

Section on The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency:

With the cutest Precious Ramotswe agony aunt column:

Monday, October 24, 2005

Today's library haul

Angel of Darkness, by Caleb Carr (looking forward to it!)

The Fifth Rapunzel, by B.M. Gill (have no idea what this'll be like. Apparently the Sunday Times' reviewer wrote that she was "On a par with ironic Rendell at full tilt." - that's what sold me.... Haven't read anything by Gill before.)

Dead Souls, by Ian Rankin (I'm not sure if I've read any of his books. But I met a former techer the other night who said he liked Rankin better than Val McDermid (like, OMG WTF?!), so I have to read him now.)

Tears of the Giraffe, by Alexander McCall Smith. (At last! Whoo-hoo! These are never in! Great books - I say, even though I've actually only read the first one...)

The library can't cater to my needs any more. I need more Josephine Tey, Ngaio Marsh, Sue Grafton, Faye Kellerman (I like her more than her husband), Dorothy Simpson (very cute books), Val McDermid... as you can see I have a theme of female crime writers going on.

I could, in theory, buy books. Unfortunately we already own about 25 shelving metres of books - not counting the ones in the cellar. They share the 69,8 square metres that make up our flat with me, my husband, and two children (who also have books). So in order to buy more books I have to
1. Make my husband get rid of a bunch of books. It's his turn. He has a lot of meaningless crap. All my books are Good, Useful and um, Pretty. Or something.
2. Get better job so can afford to buy books.
3. With better-paying job, possibly even buy new shelving for books so I can fit more in OR
4. With better-paying job, find bigger apartment to fill with own private crime library.

It's hard to know where to start (although 1 is looking pretty damn good).

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Laser Man

After finishing my Anne Perry (and btw, NO MORE I say, if I turn up blogging about another Anne Perry feel free to spam my comments section) I quickly read a book that unfortunately isn't translated to English - dare I add yet? Lasermannen - en historia om Sverige by Gellert Tamas. "Lasermannen" literally means "The Laser Man", and is the police and media nickname for a serial killer named John Ausonius, who terrorized the darker-skinned community of Sweden during the early 90s. He started off by shooting his victims with a rifle with a laser sight, hence the nickname. In the end Ausonius killed only one person, but he shot eleven, all men, all foreign-looking. Several of them were injured for life. I was in my mid teens during that time, and can remember the sick jokes people used to play at school with little mini laser-light key rings and the like. The sight of a red dot moving about on somebody's body was a mark of real terror back then.

Tamas has interviewed Ausonius in prison, and also (it seems) everyone who ever met him. The book is obviously very well researched. The book is not solely about Ausonius - instead, by describing the political and financial turmoil of the late 80s/early 90s he attempts to show how Ausonius must have been influenced by Swedish society's acceptance of xenophobia/rascism at the time. I think he succeeds rather well, and it's not a bad read. A little scatty at times, jumping back and forth between events and times. Recommended. It's almost a must-read for anyone who wants to understand this period in Swedish history.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Anne Perry and/or Lemony Snicket

I have one more Perry book on loan from the library, one of the Victorian ones, I think. I'll read it, even though her style wears me down.

The one I'm only after finishing is Shoulder The Sky. It's no. 2 in a series, I believe. Since she recapped all the drama parts of the first one i don't have to read it. Which is good for making the book easy to follow on it's own, but bad from a literary point of view - makes for heavy reading. Here's a typical quote from the book:

"Joseph drew in his breath to answer, then did not know what to say. It was his job here to make sense of the chaotic, to justify the descent into hell, even to make intolerable suffering bearable because it had meaning, to insist that there was a God behind it who would make even this all right in the end. [...] If personal murder for vengeance, or to rid oneself of embarrassment or pain, were acceptable, what exactly was it they were fighting for? Bert had spoken of country things like the church and the pub, a village whose people you knew, the certainty of seasons, but what he meant was the goodness of it, the belief in a moral justice that endured.
To allow Prentice to be murdered, and do nothing, would be a betrayal of that, and Joseph would not do it."

There's pages of this stuff. Seriously. If it's not said every second page, it hasn't been said at all, apparently. WE GET IT! God, woman. On it's own that quote is fine, but multiplied it's sleep-inducing.

The moral issue of the book is "is it always right to be a pacifist and avoid war?" Perry, or at least the main characters, say "no". You have to fight for what you believe in, and even when you discover that you're fighting under people who have made massive mistakes that have cost thousands of young men's lives, you still fight, for the soldiers who've gone before you. I'm not sure I agree, even though I understand the emotive sentiment behind it - but more importantly it gets repeated so often I'm thoroughly sick of this thesis before the (unsatisfying) end of the book.

So. One more Anne, then no more. I really want to like her writing, if nothing else for her compassion for all those people in history who have fought and died in muddy trenches and on cold seas, and for her excellent research (as far as I can tell anyway). But I can't. But don't get me wrong, it's not terrible. It's miles and miles and MILES better than Dan Brown, who should not make another dime off his rotten excuses for novels.

I also read The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket. WHat can I say, it's a Lemony Snicket... About four hours' worth of amusement. I would have adored these as a child, now I think they're cute, mostly. But keep writing, mr Snicket! We want to hear the end. Although if you kill them all off I'll be very upset.

Monday, October 17, 2005


So I'm reading another Anne Perry. This one is set during WW1, in the trenches (so far). WW1 makes me cry so much. Such tragedy, such loss, and we barely remember it because of the horrors of the next war.

But Anne Perry is heavy going. She talks and talks and talks. The best bits are the ones where she describes the vile conditions the soldiers endured. She's done her research and writes from the heart. However.... couldn't her editor have taken out The Big Pencil and crossed out a few lines??? Why do we have to read about the characters' inner turmoil after Every. Single. Bit. Of. Dialogue. It's beginning to wear me down. I really must try to learn my lesson and not choose any more of her books when I'm next at the library (but there isn't much else left...)!

And all her characters are so good. Like I said previously, it's all a bit too modern and soul-searching.

Argh. Back to book. I have to know how it ends, after all.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Ngaio Marsh

Ngaoi Marsh is one of my favourite favourites.

The book I've just finished is called Clutch of Constables. It features Marsh's Scotland Yard hero Roderick Alleyn, but mostly his wife, the artist Troy Alleyn. After an exhibition she decides to take a five-day pleasure cruise - a spur-of-the-moment decision after spotting a sign about a cancellation. Naturally, everyone on the boat is not as innocent as you'd think...

The story is opened by Alleyn, who is lecturing would-be detectives on a criminal called The Jampot. He tells us that he became personally involved in "the affair" because of his wife. The story then moves on to being told from Troy's perspective, featuring her letters to her husband as a way of keeping us informed of what Alleyn learned from her before turning up at the later crime scene. Throughout the book the narrative switches from the events at the time of their occurance and Alleyn's lecture. (Marsh often uses the relationship between Alleyn and Troy as a narrative tool. It also helps us, as readers, to feel closer to them as characters. )

What I like best about Marsh's books is how they place me in the time in which they were written. I get a wonderful sense of how people thought and reasoned, what was new and in and what was not. Clutch of Constables brings up the problem of rascism (called racialism, quaintly enough), but in a very 1960s English way - decent people treat the blacks decently and the blacks do their bit to avoid offending racially prejudiced people. Ludicrous as it may sound it does help you understand prevailing ideas of the time. A modern novel can never really portray the past that way. In a modern novel the present constantly intrudes. As an example I could mention The Alienist by Caleb Carr (a book worthy of it's own post, but it's not getting one today - maybe when I read the sequel). Set in New York of the 1890s, all Carr's heros are just that little bit too modern and open-minded to seem genuine. The same goes for Anne Perry's victorian detective stories.

This particular Marsh novel was, unfortunately, not so gripping a story. I found it a little too easy to get distracted. It may be the fact that it centres around one of those typically 60s style supervillains - international, quirky, extremely intelligent and a master of disguise. I never really buy those characters. But never mind. I'd recommend a Marsh anyday!

It's all in the heroes. I love Alleyn and Troy.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

That's right, I finished this a week ago, good thing I remembered to blog.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (henceforth JSaMN) by Susanna Clarke is marketed (at least in Sweden) as "Harry Potter for adults". In my opinion this is probably not the best idea, since the books are not at all alike. JSaMN is a sort of pastiche of 19th century novels. As a Jane Austen fan I recognised the style immediately, and was charmed. The subject is magic, as in Harry Potter, but its old-fashioned style makes it a much heavier read. There are footnotes in abundance, although I would like to give new readers the advice to skip them if you find they break up your reading flow too much. They aren't strictly necessary for the story, they just add layers of depth and add to the fake realism.

Set in an alternate 19th century world, JSaMN describes the collaboration and later enmity of two magicians. There are lots and lots of different people and names to remember, and characters who are introduced in the first few chapters disappear only to be reintroduced in the last few. It is, as I said, very old-fashioned and absolutely charming. Do not read this if you've never managed to plow your way through David Copperfield and/or Tolkien. You won't make it. I know I mentioned Austen above, but that only means that the spelling and society is the same, not the style! Be warned.

I sincerely hope Clarke can follow up with a second novel to match this one. Looking forward to it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Neil Gaiman - Coraline

To start off - I finished Eleven on Top yesterday, and it left me craving more. That's the trouble with chicklit; you end up needing more sexual innuendo. I get totally absorbed in the Ranger/Morelli dilemma poor Stephanie Plum has going on. And I sincerely hope that if the series ever gets filmed they cast somebody relatively normal-looking as Stephanie - because part of the joys of the books is that she seems quite average and nevertheless has these two gorgeous fellas drooling and fawning over her. To join the shallow madness, visit . The storyline is sort of the same in all the Plum books - in this one Stephanie quits her job as a bond agent, which leads to some new situations, but we don't see any new characters to speak of. Apparently Evanovich is contracted for another good few books, so we'll see if she can invent some new criminals in the Burg, or if she's going to have to turn all the seemingly stable citizens into criminal masterminds.

I also wanted to write about Neil Gaiman's children's novel Coraline. I borrowed it from a friend who is a huge fan, and was very pleasantly surprised. I myself have never been so enamoured by Gaiman's writing - sure, I've read Good Omens and enjoyed it (mental note: re-read book in order to blog about it), but that was a collaboration after all and I probably saw more Terry Pratchett in that. As for the comics... I don't get comics really. Unless they're funny. Comics should be funny to me, or else I feel cheated. My husband is a Sandman fan - as for me, I go berserk with all the bolding done in comics, forcing me to stress words in a very exaggerated manner.

But anway, I enjoyed Coraline. It was spooky though. Talk about your dark fantasies! Where does he get it all from? I'm very impressed.

Coraline has just moved with her parents to a new house. Her parents work all the time and don't pay her enough attention, so when Coraline discovers the mirror world where the Other Mother reigns she is, at first, very happy. But when the Other Mother wants her to have button eyes like her own (ew ew ew) Coraline runs away. The Other Mother then wants revenge, and Coraline has to save the day. It's nice to have a female heroine in a children's book - of course, in this particular genre it's not so uncommon, but as a mother of daughters I still appreciate it. The lesson to be learned is that you love your parents and your family, and will do whatever you can to save them. It's traditional, but not rammed down our throats. It certainly isn't the main point of the story. The spookiness is, and the distorted mirror world that holds people captive to the Other Mother's will. An absolute must-read, in my opinion.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

First post

I've started this blog in order to have a place to write about the books I read. This will serve two purposes - firstly, I'll be forced to briefly review and summarize the books I plough through in writing, which will help me remember which ones I've read and which authors I've enjoyed (because I do forget quite often), secondly, I might get some nice feedback from other readers. Which would be nice! Oh, and it's my birthday today. I'm 30 and have no career. It's time for a hobby.

My great weakness is crime fiction, so this blog will mainly be about that genre. With the odd bit of something else thrown in.

Currently I'm reading Janet Evanovich's Eleven On Top. This writer is one of my guilty pleasures. No genius, no earth-shattering revelations, no wise words to remember, nothing to say about current society - just a bit of fun. But hey, sometimes we need fun, right?