Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Book Beat

My BOOK BEAT column, from the magazine POMP AND CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE, a publication of the Magna Cum Murder Mystery Conference:

THE AFGHAN by Frederick Forsyth
A top-notch espionage thriller that reads like non-fiction, the latest from the veteran scribe Forsyth pits a deep-cover British soldier against a terrorist cell with its roots in Afghanistan. Forsyth plays the action out across an international stage but keeps the brusque narrative close to the bone. Focused research, with lots of detail, and a crackling writing style makes this one a solid read.

FADE TO BLONDE by Max Phillips
I have been a big fan of the “Hard Case Crime” series of lost noir classics, done up with genre-styled covers and filled back to front with hard-nosed prose. The series has included a smattering of contemporary novels, written in a noir vein, and this one from Max Phillips is one of the strongest. An aspiring screenwriter turned handyman ends up taking on a job with a femme fatale that sets him on a perilous course. Set in the noir period, but with contemporary sex and violence, Phillips has added a solid, highly enjoyable novel to the genre.

THE NIGHT GARDENER by George Pelecanos
Two rookie cops and a seasoned investigator work a serial killer case in Washington, D.C., that goes unsolved. Years later, this unsolved case has changed all three of the policemen’s lives in different ways. Now it seems as if the killer has resurfaced, and all three become a part of the new investigation. Pelecanos’ latest is less a mystery than a rumination on the impact violence has on peoples’ lives. Seeing the novel in this light, rather than as a police procedural, makes the nebulous ending more satisfying. Overall Pelecanos is a strong crime writer, and has expanded his repertoire with a more reflective outing.

BY A SLOW RIVER by Philippe Claudel
In a small town in France, the old men, the women, and the children try to carry on with their normal lives as the Great War rages on in the trenches just over the hill outside of town. Then, a pair of murders break the fragile veneer of the village’s inhabitants, leaving a dogged police inspector to eventually draw out the shocking truth. Claudel’s literate mystery features a unique setting, as the horrors of war ravage the countryside just outside the cozy confines of the town. Really fine writing, and a surprising ending, elevate this offbeat story, translated from the French.

SILENCE OF THE GRAVE by Arnaldur Indridason
Icelandic crime novelist Arnaldur Indridason returns with another police procedural delving into the culture and politics of Reykjavik. In this outing, a police investigator stumbles across a decades-old crime, born of a broken household, that holds parallels to his own fractured family life. Resonant, emotional drama, alongside crisp crime writing, makes Indridason worth seeking out.

1 comment:

Peter O'Keefe said...

John, Glad to see you're back posting on a regular basis again! All of these novels are books I've heard about, forgot the title and/or name of the author, and then couldn't find. You are providing a public service. Later.