Friday, June 16, 2006

Couple more by Simon Kernick

I promised a couple more UK novels before going back to the Continent, and here are a couple by Kernick--but there's one more UK work (from Scotland) still in my pipeline before we move on to Finland: Stuar Macbride was recommended to me by one of this blog's readers, and I've gotten hold of a copy that looks very tantalizing. But first, as they say: Simon Kernick has 5 novels out now, I think, but I've only read through #3. I reported on #1 earlier, but here I'll just say a few words about The Murder Exchange and The Crime Trade, two almost unbelievably complicated cops-and-mobsters stories. Kernick uses a first person narrator, one of his detectives, for some of the narrative and third-person for others, and in the case of The Crime Trade this device leads to what I would consider a flaw--the annoying withholding of information. Of course, all "mystery" writers withhold information. But when Kernick follows an undercover cop, in great detail throughout the novel and withholds a large piece of his life and character from the reader, I feel a bit betrayed. The Murder Exchange is, I think, a better novel with a (for sure) bigger payoff in the fast and violent conclusion, but it is even more complicated than its sequel--Kernick relies on an Afterword to tie up all the things he hasn't been able to deal with in his narrative. Kernick's novels have a lot to like, and there are frequently very funny and very violent passages (often at the same time), but so far all of his novels have alternated these parts with long longeurs, to my mind, and the novels could have used some judicial editing--they're a bit too long as well as too complicated, and I tend to lose interest in the repetitious dialogue that he has to indulge in to keep the details of the plot in the forefront of the reader's mind.

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