Game of Mirrors by Andrea Camilleri

Game

A couple of years ago I stumbled onto this wonderful series thanks to my library’s audiobook collection. It was one of those, “Come on Overdrive, just have something good available now. I need a book for the drive tomorrow” moments. Those moments don’t always produce memorable results…Not so that time. I immediately fell in love with the Montalbano series and have kept up ever since.

Inspector Salvo Montalbano is a smart Sicilian cop in the fictional Vigata, with wry sense of humor and a somewhat rag-tag crew of people around him that he often enjoys messing with. Many might want to pigeonhole the mysteries as somewhat cozy, but they often confront many real social and political issues that your average cozy doesn’t touch. Montalbano gets results, but his methods aren’t always conventional or even strictly legal. He’s a smart ass with a heart of gold who gets the job done.  You can’t help love him for it.

Another things that sets the series apart is the language. Camilleri interweaves a whole heap of Italian and the Sicilian dialect into his books without leaving English speakers behind. I credit Camilleri (and Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti Series) with the wee grasp I have of Italian because he makes is natural and easy.

However, this is the first book in the series that I have read as opposed to listening to and there was a huge difference. Grover Gardner narrates the audiobooks and he pronounces all of the Sicilian that doesn’t roll off of your tongue easily. As I was reading this, I heard his voice in my head and would have been lost a few times if I hadn’t already heard him say some words in the prior books. I can’t think of another series or even standalone that I would suggest audio versions more strongly.

If you’re like me and have a yen for Italy, a sarcastic sense of humor, and like your mysteries served with a side of well hidden social commentary….check out Inspector Montalbano. You can start anywhere, but I always try to start series at the beginning for the full experience.

 

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The Paris Homicide Series by Frédérique Molay

 

Paris Homicide

I love the gritty psychologically driven Scandinavian crime novels and they led me to reach out for a broader view of European Crime.  Let me tell you, it isn’t all gritty, but that doesn’t mean you have Ms. Marple in the library sipping tea either.

Paris, oohhh, Paris, with the tragic history and all of those romantic spots…Just like any modern city, there are murders there too, fictional and otherwise. In comes, Frédérique Molay, and her creation, Chief of Police Nico Sirsky.

The three part (so far) Paris Homicide series has opened my eyes not only to real-life Paris, but to the interesting way that La Crim’ investigates murder. I say interesting, because the mechanisms and procedures are different from what we are used to here and that adds to the intrigue of the plots for non-native readers.

The plots kept me reading as well. The 7th Woman features a killer of women, Crossing the Line starts with a freaky message secreted away in an odd body part, and City of Blood plays havoc with modern art at the site of a former massive slaughter-house with is now Parc de La Villtte, a world-class cultural center.

Nico Sirsky is different in that he isn’t really some tragically flawed alcoholic with decades of self-imposed wreckage behind him. He has a past just like we all do, the same with sad events, but it doesn’t define him like many fictional crime fighters. He is a good compassionate guy, who is very good at his job, with a teenage son, and a relationship in bloom. He’s multi-dimensional not for his bad habits, but because one can relate to him.  He’s a shift from the norm and really a breath of fresh air because of that.

So, if you want to see more of Paris and how they fight crime, not be afraid of turning the lights out at night, and yet still want some murder in your reading….check out Frédérique Molay, and her work, The Paris Homicide Series.

Check out the review at The Bowed Bookshelf

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Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

Shovel Ready

Let me give you the blurb first:

An addictive genre-blend of a thriller: the immersive sci-fi of Ernest Cline; the hard-boiled rhythms of Don Winslow; the fearless bravado of Chuck Palahniuk; and the classic noir of James M. Cain
Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a bombed-out shell of its former self. Now he’s a hitman.
In a New York City split between those who are wealthy enough to “tap into” a sophisticated virtual reality for months at a time and those left to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets. His clients like that he doesn’t ask questions, that he works quickly, and that he’s handy with a box cutter. He finds that killing people for money is not that different from collecting trash, and the pay is better. His latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist. Finding her is easy, but the job quickly gets complicated: his mark has a shocking secret and his client has an agenda far beyond a simple kill. Now Spademan must navigate the dual levels of his world-the gritty reality and the slick fantasy-to finish the job, to keep his conscience clean, and to stay alive.
Adam Sternbergh has written a dynamite debut: gritty, violent, funny, riveting, tender, and brilliant.”

Okay, after reading that, the only reason that I can see how this ARC landed on my doorstep is the two words, “classic noir”.  I typically don’t do sci-fi/dystopian and while I am quite handy myself with a box cutter, hit men in books are a dime a dozen. Somehow though, it was that hard charging noir rata-tat-tat style of writing that sucked me in right from the beginning.

The only problem was that then it lost me.  It seemed to go from Double Indemnity of the Future to I don’t give a care about any of these characters within about 100 pages. The noir tempo seemed to fail or be feigned at points and what started out as a book ended up reminding me of scripts that I read in my Scriptwriting 101 class.

What should have stayed along the lines of “You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve? You just put your lips together and …blow” (thank you Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not) turned into …

No, Mark. I said absolutely-

Persephone cuts me off.  Fiercely.

Look, I am very grateful for all that you have done for me, but I am not your f *&% daughter. I’ll do what I want. And I’m doing this. I need to.

There is a long silence. During which we all listen to the stillness of Chinatown.

Broken finally by Mina’s best Axl Rose falsetto.

Mop becomes mike stand.

Knock knock knocking on heaven’s door

I figure it’s time to call the meeting to a close.”

It was almost a farce and it lost me.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, it wasn’t like I threw it against the wall or didn’t finish or anything…it was just blah and there was no there, there, if you know what I mean.

Shovel Ready: A Novel by Adam Sternbergh

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (January 14, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0385348991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385348997

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