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2017 50 Book Challenge - Page 190

post #2836 of 3320
Black ink have an electronic book sale on
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post #2837 of 3320
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
1. A Tale for the Time Being
2. The Sun is God
3. The Keeper of Lost Causes
4. Lost and Found
5. Murder on the Eiffel Tower
6. How to be Both
7. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
8. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
9. Levels of Life
10. The Seventh Day
11. Fortunately the Milk
11b. The Sleeper and the Spindle
12. The Agile Project Management Handbook
13. Reykjavik Nights
14. The Siege
15. The Torch
16. Being Mortal
17. Hicksville
18. Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen
19. The Buried Giant
20. Another Time, Another Life
21. The Corpse Reader
22. Portrait of a Man
23. All the Birds, Singing
24. Out Stealing Horses
25. Last Winter We Parted
26. The Rabbit Back Literature Society
27. Rituals
28. Bitter Remedy
29. The Ring and The Opposite of Death
30. Old Gold
31. Hausfrau
32. Irene
33. I Refuse
34. Nothing is True and Everything is Possible
35. The Dalai Lama’s Cat
36. Blood Year: Terror and the Islamic State
37. The Eye of the Sheep
38. The Miniaturist
39. Crime
40. Golden Boys
41. The Holiday Murders
42. My Brilliant Friend
43.The Girl Who Wasn't There
44. The Thief
45. Someone Else's Conflict
46. Dark Road
47. The Paying Guests
48. Titus Awakes
49. The Writing on the Wall
50. The Straight Dope
51. Us
52. Gomorrah
53. Lila
54. The Wake
55. Last Rituals
56. The Fishermen
57. Malice
58. Wind/Pinball
59. The Ladies of Grace Adieu
60. The Blazing World
61. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
62. The Other Shore
63. The Chimes
64. The Wave
65. Snowblind
66. Unfaithfully Yours
67. Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer
68. The Steel Spring
69. Death's Dark Abyss
70. The Fugitive
71. A Spy Among Friends
72. Pictures or it Didn't Happen
73. Riddledom

74. The Human Flies
The Human Flies (Kolbjorn Kristiansen, #1)The Human Flies by Hans Olav Lahlum

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Historian Hans Olav Lahlum branches into crime fiction with The Human Flies. Set in Norway in 1968, and harking back to WW2, this is essentially a locked-door murder mystery. A hero of the Norwegian resistance is found shot dead in his apartment, but there seems to have been no way for a murderer to have got in or out, and other tenants were on the stairs at the time of the shooting.

Inspector Kolbjorn Kristiansen, known as K2, is called in to investigate. He is baffled but receives some unexpected help when an old family friend introduces him to his wheelchair-bound daughter Patricia, who has some clever ideas about the crime. K2 and Patricia investigate together and soon turn up a sordid tale of murder, adultery, disputed inheritances and other skullduggery. Few if any of the tenants in the building are able to be ruled out of consideration, even as the investigation progresses.

Lahlum dispenses with the locked-door aspect of his novel pretty quickly, which was a bit disappointing, as I think he could have made more of that. K2 seems pretty useless as an investigator, relying far too much on Patricia's insight. I think this novel would be better if K2 had more to offer. The resolution is OK, but the aftermath is played out a bit too much as Lahlum rather too obviously sets up his characters for a series outing.


View all my reviews
post #2838 of 3320
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
1. A Tale for the Time Being
2. The Sun is God
3. The Keeper of Lost Causes
4. Lost and Found
5. Murder on the Eiffel Tower
6. How to be Both
7. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
8. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
9. Levels of Life
10. The Seventh Day
11. Fortunately the Milk
11b. The Sleeper and the Spindle
12. The Agile Project Management Handbook
13. Reykjavik Nights
14. The Siege
15. The Torch
16. Being Mortal
17. Hicksville
18. Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen
19. The Buried Giant
20. Another Time, Another Life
21. The Corpse Reader
22. Portrait of a Man
23. All the Birds, Singing
24. Out Stealing Horses
25. Last Winter We Parted
26. The Rabbit Back Literature Society
27. Rituals
28. Bitter Remedy
29. The Ring and The Opposite of Death
30. Old Gold
31. Hausfrau
32. Irene
33. I Refuse
34. Nothing is True and Everything is Possible
35. The Dalai Lama’s Cat
36. Blood Year: Terror and the Islamic State
37. The Eye of the Sheep
38. The Miniaturist
39. Crime
40. Golden Boys
41. The Holiday Murders
42. My Brilliant Friend
43.The Girl Who Wasn't There
44. The Thief
45. Someone Else's Conflict
46. Dark Road
47. The Paying Guests
48. Titus Awakes
49. The Writing on the Wall
50. The Straight Dope
51. Us
52. Gomorrah
53. Lila
54. The Wake
55. Last Rituals
56. The Fishermen
57. Malice
58. Wind/Pinball
59. The Ladies of Grace Adieu
60. The Blazing World
61. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
62. The Other Shore
63. The Chimes
64. The Wave
65. Snowblind
66. Unfaithfully Yours
67. Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer
68. The Steel Spring
69. Death's Dark Abyss
70. The Fugitive
71. A Spy Among Friends
72. Pictures or it Didn't Happen
73. Riddledom
74. The Human Flies

75. The Unforgiven
The UnforgivenThe Unforgiven by Alan LeMay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I don't often read westerns; I think the last one might have been Lonesome Dove. To me they seem formulaic stuff, churned out in vast numbers, like romance novels but with horses.

The Unforgiven has proven this view to be very wrong.

The Zachary family live on Dancing Bird Creek in the Texas panhandle, far from their nearest neighbours. They live in a sod house dug into the ground and fortified against the marauding Kiowa, who routinely mount brutal attacks against settlers under the full moon.

Since the death of their father, the young Zacharys have learnt to be independent. Ben, Cash and Andy, the men in the family, run the cattle and defend the range from outsiders while Rachel and her mother mostly stay in their house and the surrounds. This family nurses some dark secrets; when these are finally exposed, they are isolated and must face a terrible threat alone.

This book is beautifully written. The landscape, the family, the community, the cattle business and the ever-present threat of strangers and Indians are perfectly captured. The last act of the novel, where the family must fight for their very survival is gripping and exciting stuff. Maybe I should change my mind about Westerns.


View all my reviews
post #2839 of 3320
My apologies for not being a very active participant this year. I will do better in 2016. I have however surpassed the required 50 books for 2015 with a wide margin and I will post simple capsule reviews of those as fast as I can manage. biggrin.gif

Clockwise counting 30/50: Alan Furst - Dark Star (1991)

Furst writes espionage novels that are heavy on dark moods and historical details. They are neither your standard variety of thrilling page turners, nor the slow moving chess games you get from Le Carre. Dark Star tells the fascinating story of Jewish Soviet Union spy Andre Szara roaming around pre-war Europe in search of intelligence while trying to stay alive. Very very good.

Clockwise counting 31/50: C.J. Sansom - Heartstone (2010)

Sansom's historical novels about the hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake are a lot of fun and not very demanding. In this novel, Shardlake accepts an assignment from Henry VIII's 6th wife, Catherine Parr, to investigate a suspected case of fraud. As is usual in these novels, he gets involved with powerful and dangerous people who don't want him to expose the truth. Good fun.

Clockwise counting 32/50: Margaret Mazzantini - Don't Move (2001)

This is a very powerful and disturbing novel about a middle aged successful Italian surgeon who inexplicably falls in love with a poor, ugly and very vulnerable woman. He risks his career, marriage and family to pursue something similar to a religious or at least deeply spiritual experience.

Clockwise counting 33/50: Margaret Drabble - The Red Queen (2004)

First time I read Drabble and it is a mixed experience. I love the story about 18th century Korean Crown Princess Hyegyong and her mentally ill and extremely cruel husband Prince Sado. This is a story every Korean knows and it's good to access it in a popularised version for a simple Westerner. I am not as impressed with the parallel story of the modern day narrator.

Clockwise counting 34/50: Alan Furst - The Polish Officer (1995)

A Polish officer takes on dangerous assignments as a spy / saboteur to slow down the Nazi war effort in the early days of WW2. With little hope to survive, he engages in romantic encounters and suicidal missions. Another excellent and moody historical spy novel by Furst.
post #2840 of 3320
Clockwise counting 35/50: Charles Cumming - The Trinity Six (2011)

This is one of those "thriller type" espionage novels, quite different from Alan Furst and much more straightforward. Nevertheless a good read. Russia expert Sam Gaddis gets on the track of a possible sixth member of the infamous Cambridge spy ring. With some romantic flavour added as well, this would make a good movie.

Clockwise counting 36/50: C.J. Sansom - Lamentation (2014)

The most recent Matthew Shardlake novel and I have now read and enjoyed all of them. While the king, Henry VIII, is seriously ill, his wife, Catherine Parr, is in another type of danger. She has secretly written a radically protestant book named "Lamentation of a sinner" and the manuscript, in the queen's own handwriting, goes missing. If the book was to be found by the wrong people, the king would have to consider the queen guilty of treason. Shardlake's task is to protect the queen. Nice historical entertainment.

Clockwise counting 37/50: Thomas Mann - Buddenbrooks (1901)

Probably the best book I have read in 2015. A fabulous family epic about the decline a wealthy family / trading house in the city of Lubeck. The novel commences in 1835 when the Buddenbrooks are at their height of financial and social standing and it ends in 1877 after four decades of steady decline. We basically follow one generation of the family from childhood to late middle age through marriages, births, divorces and deaths. The main protagonists are remarkably alive with distinct voices and characteristics and we get a fascinating insight into the upper middle class society of 19th century Germans. A masterpiece of psychological realism. A long read but well worth the time and effort.

Clockwise counting 38/50: Stieg Larsson - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2005)

I seem to be one of the last persons in the Western world to read this bestselling crime novel. Full of passion and sinister family secrets and with an enigmatic and unorthodox genius female protagonist, it's definitely intelligent entertainment for the modern age. Very good but maybe somewhat overrated? I will of course in due time also read the other novels in this series.

Clockwise counting 39/50: Charles Cumming - A Colder War (2014)

Another exciting and entertaining spy novel from Cumming, the latest in his series. This story, as so often is the case with this genre, is about flushing out a mole, double crossing and beautiful women who may be enemies. I liked it.
post #2841 of 3320
Clockwise counting 40/50: Anthony Quinn - The Rescue Man (2009)

I really enjoyed Quinn's most recent novel Curtain Call so I decided to acquire his debut novel. Maybe not as good as his latest but still a very nicely written book about a young architectural historian in WW2 Liverpool, turning into a "rescue man" in the devastation of the German air bombings. A bit of nostalgia, heroics and romance.

Clockwise counting 41/50: Joseph Conrad - Lord Jim (1900)

I have read a few Conrad in the past but this masterpiece has been waiting in my bookshelf for a long time. It's unbelievable that I didn't read it before. As a young officer on a commercial ship, Jim is one of a group of seamen abandoning their ship based on erroneous information (or cowardice) and he is penalized as a result. Not being able to get a new job on a ship, Jim accepts an offer of work at a small trading station somewhere in the Malaysian or Indonesian archipelago. He gradually achieves a leadership status among the local population but always carries with him the guilt from his youth. This book definitely rivals Budenbrooks as the best read of 2015.

Clockwise counting 42/50: Heinrich Böll - Billiards at Half-past Nine (1959)

After reading so much entertainment, I am in need of some serious stuff. This is an excellent novel, which takes place during the course of one single day in a post-war German town but tells us a complex story of the past through flashbacks. It's about the "host of the beast", the country's recent Nazi / totalitarian past, and "the host of the lamb", free-thinking good-hearted people. It's also about one family and its tragedies. An easy and engaging read with a significant depth. Just brilliant!
post #2842 of 3320
Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwise View Post


Clockwise counting 38/50: Stieg Larsson - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2005)Very good but maybe somewhat overrated?

Almost unavoidable given the hysteria that surrounded it. Any crime novel written by anybody whose name ends in "son" is touted as another Dragon Tattoo, no matter how dissimilar the contents. For example, publishers were breathlessly saying the Beck series was the new Larsson, even though Sjowal and Wahloo preceded him by decades and were actually the source of his inspiration.

We now have a new writer taking over the characters. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the whole thing to be killed off on the altar of rampant commercialism.
post #2843 of 3320
1. Where The Fair Winds Blow Louis L'Amour

The first book in the Chantry series. Set in the late 1500s, there are a lot more sword fights than gun duels. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book very much, and felt it was one of the better L'Amour novels I've read.

2. Piranha Clive Cussler

A rogue government and mastermind steal U.S. drone technology and attempt to wreak havoc upon the earth. The crew of the ship Oregon (our heroes) save the day. A bit predictable for my tastes.

3. The Fixer Joseph Finder

A recently fired, down and out writer is forced to live in and renovate his old family home. He finds over 3m in cash stashed there and after extensive research he discovers his lawyer father was involved in money laundering, bribery, etc. He proceeds to tie up some loose ends that run into his current generation and take down some crooks who have been at it for years. A good, light, airplane read.
post #2844 of 3320
I need to finish off the 2015 harvest before I can start on the New Year. So for a while, I will continue posting my reading from last year.

Clockwise counting 43/50: Arnaldur Indridason - Jar City (2000)

Icelandic Scandinavian noir. First in the series of detective Erlendur, another troubled policeman, who here solves a murder case with the help of a genetic database. I thought it was above average for the genre and will probably try some more Erlendur books.

Clockwise counting 44/50: Fred Vargas - Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand (2007)

French female author Vargas is consistently amusing and very different from your standard formula crime novels. In this one, the chief investigator Adamsberg, a man who relies at least as much on intuition and mystic perceptions as he does on methodical police work, is hunting for a killer who murders his victims with a trident and appears to have been committing these gruesome murders with some regularity for the past 50 years.

Clockwise counting 45/50: Lars Gustafsson - Dr Wasser's Prescription (2015)

Gustafsson, one of my favourite Swedish authors, was for many years head of the department of Philosophy at a university in Austin, Texas. His books are all philosophical and also written in beautiful language with a plethora of extraordinary characters. This, his latest novel, is short and reminiscent of several of his more famous works from the 1970s and 1980s. Gustafsson is now an old man but still a very good writer. I bought this book at the annual Swedish book fair, where I also met with the author and managed to get him to write a dedication in my copy. On the same occasion, I also met with Ian McEwan who wrote a dedication in my copy of Atonement.
post #2845 of 3320
Clockwise counting 46/50: Tana French - Broken Harbor (2012)

A family of four is found murdered inside their home in a run-down modern Dublin housing estate. There are no obvious suspects and the first theories are around an "extended suicide" committed by either the husband or the wife. We follow detective Scorcher Kennedy's meticulous work to get to the truth by looking into the past of the murdered people and finding obsessions that have lead to insanity. French is a very good writer and this, the 4th novel in her Dublin Murder Squad series, is of equal high quality to the predecessors.

Clockwise counting 47/50: Ian McEwan - Atonement (2001)

I had read most of McEwan's books but the one which is usually considered his masterpiece had been sitting unread on a bookshelf for years. Attending the Swedish book fair and McEwan's excellent seminar, wetted my appetite for his writing once again. The main character is Briony, a 13-year old girl from an English upper class family who during a pre-war summer holiday makes an ominous decision which will affect the lives of herself and some of her closest family members for the rest of their lives. The book is about how a spur-of-the-moment indiscretion leads to a life in search of atonement. Absolutely brilliant and possibly McEwan's best.

Clockwise counting 48/50: Jonathan Franzen - The Corrections (2001)

This novel won so many awards and received so much praise when it was published that it is almost bound to disappoint. Very well written in a realistic style with plenty of humorous American witticisms, it is a story about a dysfunctional Midwestern American family, an elderly couple and their three adult children. It is good and well worth a read but doesn't qualify as great art in my opinion.
post #2846 of 3320
Clockwise counting 49/50: Hammond Innes - The Strode Venturer (1965)

Innes basically writes adventure stories for teenagers or gullible adults but they are exciting in the vein of classic adventure movies, well written if a bit formulaic and fully acceptable entertainment instead of watching TV or solving crossword puzzles. This one is about family honour, exotic locations (London, Maldives and unknown islands in the Indian Ocean), volcanic activity, earthquakes and murder. A fun and quick read.

Clockwise counting 50/50: Joseph Conrad - Victory (1915)

It's really hard to determine which novel should be considered Conrad's best. I guess the most common answer is the short but complex Heart of Darkness. After reading Victory, this is the one I would chose as his best if I were to decide right now. Maybe I will change my mind with some hindsight after a few years and I have still not read one of his highest rated, Nostromo. This is the story of an unusual man, Axel Heyst, who for unclear reasons ends up living on some small island in the Indonesian archipelago. He falls in love with a wayward English girl and tries to establish a secluded private paradise. Some of the most vicious characters in literature, the satanic Mr Jones and his two companions, arrive at the island to threaten Heyst's illusory paradise in search of an illusory treasure. The title "Victory" is very hard to understand since it's not easy to see any type of victory in this enigmatic tale. This must be the best I have read in 2015, narrowly ahead of Lord Jim and Buddenbrooks.

Clockwise counting 51/50: F Scott Fitzgerald - Tender is the Night (1934)

When I first read this at the age of 20 or so, I thought it was superior to The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald himself thought so too. The critics are of course right and the 20-year old me was as wrong as the alcoholic and neurotic Fitzgerald. The novel is about this golden couple, the phenomenally successful, rich and good-looking Dick and Nicole Diver, young Americans living a life of leisure on the French Riviera. As the novel progresses we find out the reality of their relationship and understand why Dick Diver is tempted to fall in love with a young, beautiful and talented movie actress and jeopardise his marriage. There is a strong overtone of the tragic in this novel, very similar to Gatsby, and there is the same belief in the almost God-like quality of the rich and beautiful. While Gatsby is a masterpiece with several layers of complexity, Tender is much more superficial and the many passages of brilliant writing don't make a fully coherent or complete impression. It's one of those flawed jewels, similar to how Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls compare to And the Sun Also Rises or A Farewell to Arms.
post #2847 of 3320
1 LUNA:NEW MOON by Ian McDonald Time I find tends to come to a halt in the first week of the year, spent half the day in bed reading this yesterday. The Moon has become the fiefdom of the Five Dragons five dynastic families of diverse ethic and cultural origins. Each obsessed with power position prestige and privilege. The machinations are unfolding at pace and the character and narrative flows not in predictable manner but at an entertaining pace. Its richly populated with post cyberpunk concepts and technology and I just found out its part one of a two book series. A pleasant interesting distraction that is proving to be a good read to enter the new year.
post #2848 of 3320
I am not yet done with the recap of my 2015 reading but don't want to lag behind on 2016, which has come off to a quick start with 3 books in 4 days. Here is how I started the new year.

Clockwise counting 01/50: Timothy Hallinan - Breathing Water (2009)

Hallinan writes about Poke Rafferty, an American travel writer who is a long term resident of Bangkok where he is married to a beautiful former gogo dancer and has an adopted daughter, a rescued street kid. Poke's character is more of a heroic private investigator / adventurer, a man of good moral fibre and a lot of luck, always ending up in conflict with the shady power elite of Thailand. This is the 3rd book in the series and with even faster pace than the first two. It's obvious that Hallinan has good knowledge about the political and social mechanisms of Thailand but his novels are often a bit juvenile and judging from the first three novels, he is inferior to John Burdett in the Thai noir genre. Nevertheless entertaining, especially if you know Bangkok well.

Clockwise counting 02/50: Edward Wilson - A Very British Ending (2015)

A fascinating concoction of espionage and modern history with more similarities to Len Deighton than John Le Carre. We follow Wilson's favourite spy / main character, the world-weary Catesby, as he navigates through lies and double crosses and the enemy can be anyone of the Russians, the CIA or his own colleagues. The real bad guys are however CIA as the US attempts to control the domestic politics and foreign policies of other countries, including the United Kingdom. I have read all of Wilson's books and they are very good.

Clockwise counting 03/50: Ian Rankin - Knots and Crosses (1987)

I have in the past read and enjoyed a couple of Rankin's novels from his Rebus series but it was probably 10-15 years ago and I only have vague memories of the stories. Since he is often rated the number one modern crime writer from Great Britain, I decided to start from the beginning of the series with this first novel about Detective Sergeant John Rebus, the very troubled, hard-drinking former SAS soldier. This is an exciting and rather straightforward police procedural about tracking down and stopping an Edinburgh serial killer with a grudge towards Rebus. I liked it.
post #2849 of 3320

1. Hicksville

 

Dylan Horrock's slightly cloying take on the comic book industry - one he wishes were more communal, loving and artistic, rather than egotistic, profiteering and dishonest. I felt this was a bit too 'insider' for me to really love (I would guess many of the fictional comics are tributes/riffs on famous comics), but the simple tale of the humble and beautiful comic book being usurped by blind amibition is certainly not too sweet or too cliche. I felt that Horrocks really was writing informed by the ways that industry warped and changed over time - and the metaphor he is writing delves deeply into the insecurities and desires behind the greed that he sees as hi-jacking comics as a uniting and wondrous art form.

post #2850 of 3320

^That sounds interesting, Matt - I'll have to look out for it.

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