Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: The Stranger by Camilla Läckberg

As it is usual the case with Scandinavian crime fiction what the authors seem more interested about is talking about the local societies and their many ills than crime itself. Camilla Läckberg is one of those writers who have started becoming more and more popular in the west mainly because of her characters. Detective Patrik Hedström and his writer wife Erica, do not only seem to be everyday people, but also people with big hearts, who can feel the pain of the others, whose psyches are deeply scarred by the past, and who care more for justice than anything else.

In “The Stranger” there are too many people circling around them, but also around the rural area where they live, and mostly where Patrik works: the chief of the Tanumshede police station who’s as lazy as they come; a cop who lives and breathes in boredom; another cop who’s finally got a lucky break; and finally a new transfer, an ambitious woman who at some point in the future wants to become chief of police herself.

And these are the people that only reside in the police station. Add to them an ambitious politician, a mysterious psychologist, the cast and the production team of a reality show, an old woman desperately in love, as well as another old woman that lives all alone in the wilderness, and you almost get the full picture. I say almost, because most of these people have a lot of secrets to hide and a lot of pain that weighs on their shoulders.

Läckberg seems to be more interested in dissecting the society than giving the readers a mystery; in making them think about everyday life, instead of trying to solve the puzzles. A road accident turns out to be a murder. Then another murder takes place that puts the city and the cops on the spotlight. And Patrik is caught in the middle of two investigations that seemingly have nothing to do with each other, even though there’s a chance they do. One can feel sympathy for some of the characters and their strife, but this is not an angelic world we live in, so most of them simply make him dislike them.

The author seems to enjoying playing with the reader’s perceptions. What is good and what is evil? Would you act any differently if you were in the perp’s shoes? Can you really judge a person by his or her looks? Can somebody escape the past unscathed?

If you are looking for an overcomplicated mystery, you’ll like parts of this book; but if you’re searching for a novel that speaks about damaged people and the many evils of modern society you’ll simply love it.

By the same author:

The Preacher

Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Review: The Hit by David Baldacci

I don’t know how David Baldacci managed to write two great novels in a row but he did, and that’s what counts. A few months ago he surprised us with the second installment of his John Puller series “The Forgotten”(review here), which was much better than the first novel, and now he pulls the same trick with his Will Robie vehicle “The Hit”.

If there’s one thing someone can always come to expect from a Baldacci novel is high-octane action, unconventional heroes, conspiracy theories and enough twists and turns to make their head spin. If you add to that mix the “sympathy for the devil” element, then you’ll come to understand what this book is all about.

I’m not saying that Will Robie is the devil, but he’s as close to him as they come, since he’s a gun for hire; though the US government’s gun for hire. He’s a cold-blooded assassin, someone who’s supposed to have no feelings, who’s trained to follow orders without any second thought, and who’s not supposed to have a mind of his own. But is that even humanly possible? At first glance it looks as it is, but as the plot unravels and the mysteries, as well as the bodies, start piling up, things seem to change. And soon enough Robie doesn’t only start to question the motives of his superiors, but also those of himself. He’s supposed to be the good guy, no matter what he does; he’s serving his country; but are the rest of the people just as patriotic, or in some cases blindsided as he is?

That’s not the only question that arises in his mind though; there are too many to list. Could he one day have a normal life? Could he connect with people like others do? Was he right to stay afar from the girl whose life he saved? Could he be loved? As one can easily guess, Robie is damaged goods. However, as it seems, he’s not in this hell of a life all alone. There’s a rogue agent who’s in just a bad place, or even worst, as he is. And there are people, who in the names of patriotism or ambition, are willing to do just about everything; even become mass murderers, if that’s what it takes.

Baldacci has given us yet another explosive novel, with lots of action and well-drawn characters that can take one’s breath away, and which I’ve read in one sit. I’d highly recommend it to all his faithful fans, but also to anyone else out there who enjoys a good thriller.

Reviews of other books by the same author:

No Time Left
One Summer
The Sixth Man
Hell's Corner

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Women's prize for fiction shortlist announced

The Women's Prize for fiction (ex-Orange) shortlist has been announced today. Hilary Mantel with "Bring Up the Bodies" could be heading for a hat-trick after winning the Booker and the Costa awards, but according to the experts the prize could very well end up in the hands of A.M. Homes for "May We Be Forgiven". The winner will be announced on the 5th of June. Here's the shortlist:

Kate Atkinson - Life After Life  
A.M Homes - May We Be Forgiven         

Barbara Kingsolver - Flight Behaviour    

Hilary Mantel - Bring Up the Bodies        

Maria Semple - Where’d You Go, Bernadette         

Zadie Smith - NW

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Arthur C Clarke and Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse awards shortlists

Two major UK book awards shortlists have been announced today; the ones for the Arthur C Clarke and Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prizes. The talking point when it comes to the first is that there are no female authors included in the list, even though four out of the five judges are female, while everyone seems to be happy with the second one. Here are the lists in full:

The Arthur C Clarke Award

Nod by Adrian Barnes
Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Intrusion by Ken MacLeod
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

The winner will be announced on the 1st of May.

The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize

Zoo Time by Howard Jacobson
Skios by Michael Frayn
England's Lane by Joseph Connolly
Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach
Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt

The winner will be announced at the end of May, but no date has been set yet.