Lauren Beukes follows her excellent The Shining Girls with another cross-genre blend of the real and the other-worldly in Broken Monsters. When boiled down to its most basic elements Broken Monsters lays somewhere near the intersection of mystery and thriller with the majority of the focus on the murder investigation involving a young boy whose remains were sowed to those of a fawn. It’s a horrific premise but one that despite forming the bedrock of the narrative isn’t really what the novel is about. The novel features a variety of perspectives including that of the divorced Detective Gabriella Versado and her daughter Layla, the journalist Jonno, Thomas Keen (TK) a homeless Detroit native, and Clayton who the less I say about the better. Each different perspective offers a different thematic thread that weaves into a novel of surprising breadth that still offers a taught, cohesive story.
Another entry into Stephen King’s Hard Case Crime writing (the first was 2005’s Colorado Kid) Joyland was released in June of this year. Unlike other King novels Joyland leans a bit more heavily on the mystery aspects of the story rather than the horror though King does manage to toss in a touch of the supernatural. That being said this isn’t a horror novel, nor is it quite a mystery novel nor is is quite a thriller novel; instead the novel feels a bit more like a bildungsroman than anything else. Joyland is, above all things, a coming of age story. Perhaps, it might be better say that Joyland is a snapshot of a young man’s final days of youth. Joyland is Stephen King at his best. Sure it isn’t a novel full of the fear and dread of ‘Salems Lot or the wonder and the weird of The Gunslinger but it demonstrates King’s ability to capture the mood and energy of a place and a person.
Don’t Ever Get Old
Listen, if you like hardboiled mysteries with quirky characters and an offbeat plot you should really just stop reading and go pick up Daniel Friedman’s debut novel Don’t Ever Get Old. In a bizarre twist Don’t Ever Get Old is one of two novels this summer to feature a geriatric protagonist (the other being Barry Fantoni’s Harry Lipkin, Private Eye) but don’t let Buck Schatz’s eighty-odd years fool you he is as mean and as tough as he was back when he was policing the streets, even if his memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. The novel open’s with the deathbed confession of one of Buck’s former army buddies. The Nazi officer who tortured Buck during their internment at a POW camp survived the war and apparently escaped with car load of gold. This revelation nags at Buck and while he is initially reluctant to search for the offending Nazi a cavalcade to criminals, spies, and troubled individuals seemingly force him, and his grandson “Tequila,” into tracking down the gold.
Simon and Schuster, 2012
I remember joking once with a friend that the next logical step in the world of motion controls and haptic feedback was porn. In a world of Real Dolls and Japanese robots it becomes increasingly obvious, and likely disturbing to many people, the direction in which the sex toy industry will go. Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, along with films like Tron or The Matrix, touch upon the nature of artificial reality and its impact in society in a very straightforward manner. Rare is the mainstream novel that examines the more primal corners of these emergent technologies. Enter Michael Olsen’s debut novel Strange Flesh.
My Soul to Take
Scandinavian mysteries seem to be popping up quite frequently these days. Arnaldur Indridason, Asa Larsson, Helen Tursten, and Yrsa Sigurdardottir represent the vanguard of this Scandinavian invasion. Coming across Sigurdardottir’s My Soul to Take here at the library I decided that I brief respite from my typical genre reading was in order. Subtitled as “a novel of Iceland” My Soul to Take is an engaging mystery with numerous twists and turns that constantly keep readers guessing.
My Soul to Take is the second novel to feature attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir (after Last Rituals). The novel opens with Thora’s client Jonas, a superstitious New Age type, calling her to ask for assistance in determining if he has any legal grounds to contest the purchase of a farm on the grounds that it is haunted. Thora, who reluctantly agrees, arrives at the farm turned hotel just in time for the murder of Jonas’ architect Birna. Birna’s death sends Thora on a whirlwind investigation to discover the killer.
Ashes of the Earth
This review kicks of a trio of post-apocalyptic reviews. Sometimes I just get a craving for post-apocalyptic fiction. Unfortunately, and this no slight to two excellent novels, two of said post-apocalyptic novels are zombie novels. In truth I prefer my apocalypses zombie free but when beggers can’t always be choosers. Anyway the novel I’m about review isn’t at all zombie related. Ashes of the Earth by Eliot Pattison is subtitled a Post-Apocalyptic Mystery and it falls squarely into the mystery genre. Pattison previous authored two historical mysteries set in colonial America, Eye of the Raven and Bone Rattler, and I get the distinct impression that those to earlier novels certainly help inform Ashes of the Earth.
Ashes of the Earth takes place after war has left America (and presumable the rest of the planet) a husk of its former self and focuses on a struggling community called Carthage. The story follows the embittered and dissident founding father of Carthage, Hadrian Boone, as he attempts to solve the murder of his mentor. Nuclear and biological weapons employed in the past have left even later generations suffering and Carthage long ago exiled these unwanted to shantytown long ago and is amongst these exiles, and even further, that Hadrian’s journey takes him.