Sunday, June 23, 2019

Two unusual noirs from France and Italy


I recently read Pierre Garnier's C'Est la vie and Tioachino Criaco's Black Souls, both of which are unusual takes on noir tropes. Black Souls is less like a novel than an epic, delineating the history of a crime family in central Italy in the voice of their leader, as he rises from shepherd to crime boss and then crashes in an epic sacrifice that fades out in a cloud of mythic proportions. It's a compelling read, but without a central thread of plot, other than a string of incidents along the thread of the hero's life.

C'Est la Vie on the other hand begins as a traditional novel, in the voice of a writer who is dissatisfied with his life despite having finally had success with his new novel. The intricate plot revolves around his son, one of his former wives, his current (much younger) wife, leading toward (like Black Souls) a final conflagration that achieves a surrealist, dreamlike version of noir in which the hero retreatsf rom life (almost) into a trapped-in mental state he maintains seemingly by force of his will.

Both these books are fascinating, and both defy the expectations of readers: adventurous crime fiction readers should take a break from conventional fiction and have a look.


Monday, May 13, 2019

Sean Carswell, Dead Extra

See my review at: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/other-scripts-within-the-story-on-sean-carswells-dead-extra
@lreviewofbooks

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Catch-up list

I've been lazy about doing reviews here, and will need to run a bunch of short ones to catch up. Not ready to do that today, but here's a list of books recently read, reviews to come:

Antonio Manzini: Spring Cleaning (Italy)
Peter Church: Crackerjack (South Africa)
Donna Leon: Unto us a Son is Given (Italy)
Ilaaria Tuti: Flowers over the Inferno (Italy)
Jussi Adler-Olsson (Denmark)
Deon Meyer: The Woman in the Blue Cloak (South Africa)
Gioachino Criaco: Black Souls (Italy)

I'm not promisingn to review them in that order, and not promising how soon...

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Laura Lippman, Sunburn

I recently read, or rather heard, two audiobooks by Laura Lippman: her current standalone novel Sunburn and a previous book in her Baltimore private detective series (Hush Hush). The detective novel worked OK as an audiobook, and having read several earlier books in the series, the story offers a new investigation as well as updates on familiar characters and settings. But Sunburn particularly shined in the audio version (though I can imagine it is also satisfying as words on paper). Lippman has turned noir inside-out in her reimagining of the genre as practiced by James M. Cain and other pioneers of small-town, truckstop noir. Lippman begins with a stock scenario, two strangers in a bar, who've stopped as they passed through this small town in lower Delaware, a town not close enough to the beach to be prosperous. Their interaction is relayed in both their points of view, in alternation (as is much of the book), and their voices tell the story as much in what they leave out as what they tell: the key events in the story, murder, arson, fraud, conspiracies of several sorts, occur in the in-between spaces, referred to obliquely rather than portrayed directly. The effect is a tightening web woven by the characters out of their own personal lives and struggles. Sunburn is a departure for Lippman, both from her detective series and from her previous standalones, which are psychological thrillers. Sunburn, on the other hand, is a satisfying plunge into purest noir, told through the spiralling voices pulling the characters through twists and revelations toward the sort of final crash that not everyone can survive.