Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Fourth Man by K.O. Dahl

The Fourth Man

What long haul this was to read. For months I would pick it up and have to put it down simply because I could not get up a head of steam. The book jacket producers get full points for making me feel like I was really missing the hottest thing in Scandanavian mystery if I did not read this immediately. I suppose it was the conceit--that a woman comes out of nowhere and seduces a seasoned police detective by breaking into his house and sitting around in her underwear in the dark--that never really rang true to me. By page 200, when the author finally reveals just what the police detective likes so much about the object of his affection, I could not restrain a snort of disbelief and a sneer of derision. This is male fantasy run amok. Nothing wrong with a little fantasy, but please give us a something to hang our disbelief on.

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Go With Me by Castle Freeman

This slim volume is a timeless classic. It is almost entirely conversation, though occasionally the author slips in a descriptive phrase to focus our eye. We listen while several old men pass an afternoon with a case of beer in a ruined chair factory in rural Vermont. A couple of other people search for, and find, the town's local bad boy, providing the novel's only action scenes. There is nothing quite like this around, and if there were, this would still be one of the very best. Good any time of the year, this one bears rereading. While the setting is Vermont, it could just as easily have been Arkansas. The sentiments and the characters are as universal as the day is long.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

What a great read. For really the first time I understood the fascination with the phrase 'armchair traveller.' In other circumstances, I always thought it was somewhat absurd to think that reading about a thing was as fun as doing it. In this case, it was a lot more fun to read about it than to do it. Pit vipers, swarms of biting insects, interminable wet, death by maggots...and in all of it, a frustrating mystery. At its heart, this is a story of the search for a magnificent civilization in the heart of the Amazon, with vast earthworks paralleled only by great cities on the European continent. This is a book to make you think about what man is: his determination, his understanding, his folly, his ego, and how some of us have these things in greater measure than others.