30 September 2012

New from Quebec

Dale Stahl wrote that the new Louise Penny novel, The Beautiful Mystery, is a good one. (He also takes credit for getting Fred Vargas' name on my to-read list.)

"[Penny's new novel is] not, like the earlier ones set the little village of Three Pines. Instead the story takes Chief Inspector Gamache to a remote monastery in the wilds of Quebec. Gamache and his assistant Beauvoir move in to the monastery to figure out which of the monks killed one of their brethren. The investigation is complicated by the fact that the monks have all taken a vow of silence -- except for their chanting during midnight masses.

"There is a side mystery about the origins of Gilbertine chants, and, as in earlier books, a strong undercurrent of the simmering feud between Gamache and the corrupt hierarchy of the Sûreté du Québec (Quebec Provincial Police). There's definitely a sequel to follow, hopefully in which Gamache finally makes his play to rid the Sûreté of corruption!"

That recommendation might send me back to read another Louise Penny novel.

Has anyone else read The Beautiful Mystery? How did you react? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you thought.

One other part of Dale's note was that he's begun a book by Jussi Adler-Olsen, The Keeper of Lost Causes.  He also likes this one. Set in Copenhagen, it features Detective Carl Mork and Dept Q. It's Adler-Olsen's 2007 novel that was titled Kvinden i buret in Danish. We'll hear more later. Won't we Dale?

Jussi Adler-Olsen at Good Reads

26 September 2012

Video based on literature

I don't usually write about visual media. But I've had some health problems for the last month and have not had enough energy to read much more than newspaper headlines.

This afternoon I logged on to Netflix looking for a couple old favorites (think The Prisoner and SCTV; they're only available on DVDs).

What I did find was Wallander, the Swedish TV series. I enjoyed the BBC series starring Kenneth Branagh as Henning Mankell's dyspeptic detective, so I decided to take a look at the original.

The Swedish series is made up of 29 episodes. The one I watched was Hämnden (The Revenge). It was the first episode of the second season and released to theaters before it was broadcast. For that reason, it might not be fair to compare this with the episodes of Wallander produced by the BBC.

Henriksson as Wallander
In any case, it was so much more satisfying than the BBC episodes. There were several themes: immigrants to Sweden; women's rights; the role of the military in a system that runs on rule-of-law, and how to preserve civil liberties in the face of terrorism. Oh, and there's some personal stuff about Kurt Wallander.

Krister Henriksson, who plays Wallander in the Swedish version, portrays a more human, less depressive detective than Branagh. The detective still has no life beyond his job and his dog -- even though he had just bought a house on the coast outside of Ystad, the small town he works in.

I look forward to watching other episodes of the home-grown Swedish version of Wallander, even if I have to read sub-titles keep track of what's going on.

Have you seen any of the episodes of the Swedish series, Wallander? What did you think? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you thought.

Or go to Netflix.

15 September 2012

Comic book wannabe

The other book I read in the past week was a novel. It was labeled "A Thriller." What it really wanted to be was a comic book. Either that or a Jason Bourne movie with a female superhero. (I wasn't surprised to read that she thought Robert Ludlum was a writing role model.)

Taylor Stevens
The Informationist is a first novel by Taylor Stevens.

The hero of the tale is a young woman with as many lives and deadly skills as Jason Bourne. And she survives as many plots against her as he did.

The words regularly get in the way. It begs to be a comic book or a graphic novel. It probably really begs to be an action movie with a superhero star.

Hired to find a young woman missing for four years in Africa, Vanessa "Michael" Munroe assembles her resources and support team and heads off for some of the deadliest countries on earth to find the missing girl.

Double crosses, ambushes, unbelievable resources, suspect supporters, and really, really evil guys chase her, tie her up, dump her in the ocean, shoot at her, kill her helpers, but Munroe survives and carries out her mission -- even though her employer doesn't want her to.


It's all too much a fantasy world. I skimmed as much as I could. I would have paid more attention to a graphic novel of this story.

Now I'm off to the library to look for new things to read.

Have you read The Informtionist? How did you react? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you think.

Reading while ill

Somehow I had this notion that if I were ill enough to limit my physical activity but not my mental acuity, I'd probably read a lot.

Well, not this time.

For a couple weeks now I've been physically limited. I don't think I recognized how much the stress and anxiety was limiting me in other ways until yesterday. Now, I'm trying to relax until the doc "does a procedure" next week that promises to make things a lot better. We'll see.

I did struggle through two books, but it shouldn't have taken 3+ weeks to get through them.  

Fred Vargas
Fred Vargas' name got on my to-read list somehow -- probably because of a New York Times review.

When I saw her name on a book at the library, I pulled it off the shelf. When I got the book home, I wondered about it. Although it was labeled a "Chief Inspector Adamsberg" novel, the title was Seeking Whom He May Devour. And the cover art included two wolves.

I was worried I might have latched on to a werewolf novel. Not quite.  

Seeking Whom He May Devour is set in the eastern French mountains. It's a confusing story of shepherds, their composer friend, a Canadian bear researcher, and (in the second half of the book) Inspector Adamsberg. Did I mention that the advertised main character didn't show up until I was half done with the book. And then, he went off to read police reports for a lot of the rest of the book.

It's not about werewolves, but the shepherds are convinced that the bad guy they're chasing is one. It is a chase story as well as a mystery with lots of "off-screen" death (mostly sheep) and unexplained actions. It's confusing. If it wasn't for the cell phones that some of the characters pull out once in awhile, it seemed as if it was set in the 1930s.

I never got terribly interested in or attached to any of the characters. I never got involved in the story. There's lots of description, but most of it seemed unnecessary. The ending was more bait and switch than being distracted by red herrings. (Of course, my distraction might have been caused by my not feeling well.)

Then I discovered that Fred Vargas is actually Frederique Audoin-Fouzeau, a French archaeologist. (Following the footsteps of Kathy Reichs of Bones fame?) Her novels have won awards from the Crime Writers Association.

I don't think I'll pick up another Vargas novel if I come across one unless someone convinces me that Seeking Whom He May Devour is atypical of her work.

Have you read Seeking Whom He May Devour or another of Vargas' novels? What did you think of it? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you think.