Monday, September 23, 2013

The Shining Girls

Lauren Beukes
The Shining Girls

Mulholland Books, 2013

Summer of 1974. A serial killer who travels through time, Harper Curtis, gives an orange toy pony to a girl playing outside her house. Th girl's name is Kirby, and many years later, Harper will trt to kill Kirby, but she will survive.

Curtis has the opportunity to travel back and forth in time by accident. In 1929, he accidentally found the house of a gambler, Pole by birth. The Pole house was House - a place that bloodthirsty and making its inhabitants dependent. The House holds its owner as sort of hostage, making to kill and opening the door to the future and the past. Harper kills the Pole and makes House his refuge. There, in the House, Harper will keep his victims’ things, as well as record their names. The mechanism of movement over time is not explained, but Harper understands that he can not travel before 1929 and past 1993. In his victims the killer chooses the Shining girls from the title of the novel - a talented, capable, bright young women. Maniac acts on the round system: he always meets his future victim, when she is still a child , and then kills her as a grown woman, leaving at the victim’s body some artifact from the future.

The only surviving victim of the attacks is Kirby, who lives with her mother. Kirby attempted murder is committed when the girl walks her dog in the rain. Harper would have killed the girl if it were not the dog, which attacked the killer and received a knife in its neck. Wounded Kirby with the dead dog on her arms barely escapes from the forest to the road, where she was transported to the hospital.

After rehabilitation, Kirby chooses to study the journalism, and makes the purpose of her life the capture of a maniac. Lacking funds, Kirby can not hire a private detective, so she becomes an amateur sleuth herself. She takes an intern place in the Chicago newspaper Chicago Sun-Times, where her mentor is a sports columnist Dan, who worked for many years as a crime reporter and wrote about the attempt on Kirby.

In her third book Lauren Beukes mixes chrono SF with a detective story about a serial killer. The Shining Girls is named a thriller, only you barely find thrills here.

Science fiction amd mystery must work with each other and perform their functions. Time travel here is not explained. The House is a portal leading to a certain time period, one has only to select a particular time. The presence of House as certain accumulation of evil forces is intended to humanize the killer. Harper himself is not a cruel man, it is House that makes him kill. The serial killer’s past, too, is designed to alleviate the guilt from Harper: he is a veteran of the war, betrayed by his country, a gimp soldier. But a few strokes of the past is not enough to elicit sympathy for a ruthless killer. And because a good half of the book tells about the crimes of the murderer, the reader will have to spend half a book in the company of a disgusting character, cartoonish and flat.

Mystery element does not cause delight either. Chapters of the murders resemble each other, only the victim changes, but the essence is the same: the killer is playing with a child, and then in the future calmly killing the victim. Beukes forced to repeat herself after the third victim. Gradually it becomes clear that the chapters with the killings can be skipped, and nothing will be lost for the reader.

Against the background of faceless killer and his victims the heroine of the book, surviving victim Kirby is somewhat more deep character. Beukes made Kirby a punk girl, sarcastic person, with mutilated body and soul. But the scars on the soul and the body have not changed the life of the heroine too much. Kirby's body is fully functional, and if there was an emotional trauma, it is gone. Having survived the murderous attempt, barely survived, Kirby is surprisingly cheerful. The attempt does not seem to affect the life of the heroine, which is very unlikely. If you compare Kirby with the heroine of Gillian Flynn’s novel Dark Places Libby Day, which was the only surviving victim of the killer, who murdered the whole Libby’s family, it will seem like Kirby had not been stabbed by a maniac, but just fell off the bike.

Sometimes human features erupt in Kirby: in the very first scene of the novel she is a whimsical, rowdy child, and later, a sarcastic intern, Kirby takes her intern responsibilities lightly, slacking off work. But most of the time Kirby is just a type of the amateur detective, whom literature already has seen enough.

The whole team of researchers and assistants did not help revive Beukes time and place. Chicago from the novel is a set of stamps and names scattered through the text, so that the reader does not forget where things happen. And the time period 1930-1993 is a meaningless frame. The main part of the book takes place in the early nineties: the newspapers had not yet lost to the Internet, mobile phones have not replaced the landlines, DNA tests have not caught on to the police. But Byukes writes in language of the 90's, not 00s, and then slipping on the details. Kirby and Dan go to the concert of Naked Raygun in the middle of 1992. The band is called punk band, although at that time the band's style has changed from hardcore to power pop (and they did not play punk at all) , and in '92 the band broke up.

In the dialogue between Dan and Kirby, he says that a gangbanger killed one of the victims. But at that time the term "gangbanger" was rarely used, and when used, it’s definition was altogether different of today’s definition.

The Shining Girls is hardly a thriller. The novel is predictable from start to finish. What can the novel offer to chill the blood? Murders are similar to each other, and you know very well that they will happen and happen. Dan and Kirby will go to concerts, sports games, periodically review the dusty boxes of useless material. At the very least you'd expect a smart end. Alas, everything is based on the coincidence, and then completely reduced to the fist fight.

The Shining Girls neither shine nor warm.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Stephen King

Hard Case Crime, 2013

Student Devin Jones spends a summer working at an amusement park Joyland, located in North Carolina. In 1973, Disneyland has not yet gobble up all the other parks in America and become a monopolist, and organizers expect a steady flow of visitors. In addition to the old-timers are hired temporarily students – to do a dirty work. Devin will have to dance in the heat in a fur dog suit, scrape the vomit with seat rides, pick up trash, control a cart train, and he is ready for it all. Working in the park all day long helps the protagonist to forget his first love, who broke his heart. Description of the park everyday life is mixed with supernatural element: in the horror pavilion once a girl had been murdered. The killer was never found, although the police had even photos of the suspect taken by park workers. And some old-timers say that the ghost of the murdered girl sometimes shows up to children and adults in the horror pavilion.

Stephen King has written a short novel for the publishing house specializing in pulp classics. This novel is short only by King’s standards, it’s only 280 pages, but by the standards of paperbacks of 50s and 60s it’s 100 pages too long. Good two-thirds of the novel is devoted to the everyday life of the park, just in the spirit of King:

«I ride-jockeyed. I flashed the shys in the mornings-meaning I restocked them with prizes-and ran some of them in the afternoons. I untangled Devil Wagons by the dozen, learned how to fry dough without burning my fingers off, and worked on my pitch for the Carolina Spin. I danced and sang with the other greenies on the Wiggle-Waggle Village's Story Stage. Several times Fred Dean sent me to scratch the midway, a true sign of trust because it meant picking up the noon or five PM take from the various concessions. I made runs to Heaven's Bay or Wilmington when some piece of machinery broke down and stayed late on Wednesday nights-usually along with Tom, George Preston, and Ronnie Houston-to lube the Whirly Cups and a vicious, neck-snapping ride called the Zipper . Both of those babies drank oil the way camels drink water when they get to the next oasis. And, of course, I wore the fur.

In spite of all this, I wasn't sleeping for shit.»

With nostalgia in his voice, an elderly narrator recalls this summer in "Joyland", and then a fall, for Devin decided to postpone his admission to college. The abundance of details does not seem excessive, you can feel the era with your skin. In «Author's Note» King writes that «much of what I call" the Talk "doesn't exist» - carnival slang used in the novel was half-invented. But all these greenies, gazoonies, rubes, points, etc are not only organically woven into the text (you never uknow what was invented and what was not), but also will make you laugh. And if King removed the mystery element Joyland would become a normal production coming-of-age novel.

But King did not remove the mystery, though took it to the side, making the novel crooked to one side. Pulp writer would never allow himself to write this book: the thrills here are one on hundred pages, not enough. Only in the last 50 pages King seems to recall, and mystery element breaks through the surface. Though whodunnit here is so-so and puzzle is rough. King, alas, failed with a serial killer plot.
I was confused also with the author’s use of the grammar. Italian «Capisce» suddenly becomes «kapish», and the characters with accents on paper suddenly lose all apostrophes:

«When a guy does that, I notify em that they're foulin the line. The points? Never.» If consider the scene where mentioned the driver who ran down the child to death because he was on the phone while driving (in 1970, it is unlikely that the driver worked at law enforcement agencies), the editor deserves a reprimand.

King has not lost the talent, but there is little joy for the reader in this Joyland.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Half of Paradise

James Lee Burke

Half of Paradise

Hyperion, 2011 (ebook)
(originally published in 1965)

A part of Forgotten Books Friday

Three young men in Louisiana of early 60s are experiencing the difficulties of life and trying to find their place in life. Avery Broussard returned to his father's farm after work on oil wells. Father soon for debt was evicted, the farm was sold by auction, the father then dies immediately, and Avery instead of agriculture switches to the moonshine whiskey trade.

J.P. Winfield comes from the countryside to the city and spends the last five dollars to participate in the talent competition. A talented blues singer, Winfield gets a job at the club, and then even goes on a tour. Success comes to Winfield with addiction: first pills "for pleasure", and then cocaine under the tongue.

Black Toussaint Boudreaux worked as a longshoreman, moonlighting as a part-time boxer. His last fight ends with a victory, but the price of victory is a broken arm. Injury leads to loss of work (and part-time work), wandering, and then to a prison.

The debut novel by James Lee Burke's written in the not too widespread genre of "hard life of hard men". Hardships and difficulties stick to the three characters of the novel, which brings together youth, lack of education and poverty. Despite the "paradise" title , the novel tells of the circles of hell, whose name is Louisiana. Even when one of the characters starts to climb, do not assure yourself - he will drop even lower than he had been.

All three heroes, definitely clean and decent people, eventually break down. Reasons for this are drugs and alcohol, but these are external causes, the same major weakness of all three characters is their assertiveness. They rush forward not seeing that the abyss is under their feet.

Plot-wise Burke tightly packed in his novel several sub-genres: prose of the South changes to the prison novel, then to out-of-prison novel, and then to the confession of cocaine user. The central part of the novel takes place in prison: in labor camp Broussard and Boudreaux will meet. I can quote prison dialogues for hours:

"This tastes like Evans washed his socks in it," he said.

"Drink it or go dry," the trusty said.

"Fuck you, ass kisser."

"Maybe you don't get no water the rest of the day," the trusty said.

"And maybe you'll get your fucking throat slit while you're asleep," Billy Jo said.

The trusty put the lid back on the barrel. "That's all your drinking water for today."

"Let me have a drink. I'm like cotton inside, "Daddy Claxton said. ...

"You'll have the runs for a week," Billy Jo said.

"His tongue won't be blistering by one o'clock," the trusty said.

"Screw you, punk."

The dipper was passed around the gang. The trusty replaced it and the lid when they had finished.

"There's a freshwater spring over in them trees," he said. "I'm going over directly and have a drink."

"You mean there's clean water over yonder?" Jeffry said.

"It's coming right out of some rocks."

"Go fill up the water barrel. We'll pay you for it, "he said.

"What with?"

"I got three bucks hid in the barracks."

"That ain't enough."

"The sonofabitch is riding you," Billy Jo said. "Don't pay him no mind."

"It's coming out of some rocks with moss on them. '

"I believe him," Jeffry said. "This is hill country There's always springs where there's hills."

"You're in barracks two, ain't you?" Billy Jo said to the trusty. "Well, I got buddies in there, so you better forget about sleeping for the next few nights unless you want to get operated on. It takes one swipe with a knife and your whoring days are over. Now get the fuck out of here, punk. "

"It's a long day without no water," the trusty said and lifted the barrel and moved down the ditch.

Half of Paradise makes us to remember of what used to be old school prison and novels about them: no gangbangers, no Mexican gangs, no Aryans.

Burke is a confident narrator for a debutant, and it is sad that he sometimes missteps. The novel is written in the third person, but such that almost the first. The reader knows only what the character knows. But Burke sometimes adds a few sentences of what the character can not know: dialogues of the secondary characters, when the main character is already out of the room, or the actions of the characters when the main character is blindfolded.

The title of the novel could be interpreted in the sense that for a novel as this you can give a half of paradise.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Salinger Contract

Adam Langer
The Salinger Contract

Open Road Media, 2013

The Salinger Contract is a novel within the novel, written by Adam Langer the character. Langer the character is the author of a book of memoirs in the form of a novel about the search for his father, whom Adam had never seen. Adam and his wife Sabina lived in New York, where Adam worked in a literary magazine. But with the arrive of hard times for literary magazines, publishing houses and the economy in general, Adam and his wife and their two daughters left New York City and moved to a small town of Bloomington, Indiana, where the wife of Adam gets a teaching position in the University, and Adam is staying home with the kids and thinking on his second book.

While working at the magazine, Adam wrote small essays on writers he met and interviewed. So Adam had once met the author of thrillers Conner Joyce. Joyce then was very popular with his series about a supercop. Joyce said to Langer in an interview that he was always attracted to the writers, hiding themselves from the public - Salinger, Dudek, Pynchon, and others. In his youth, he even wrote letters to all these hermits, but never received a response.

And six years after the interview Adam accidentally stumbles in a bookstore to an invitation to a meeting with the writer Joyce, who has a new book coming out. Adam comes to a meeting, where, in addition to him, only ten people come to see the writer. After reading Adam and Connor go to a bar where they drinks and discuss the old days. Conner complaines that his writing career, apparently, is coming to an end. His novels can no longer find a reader, and he does not know what to do in the future. Adam after meeting with Conner drives to the hotel and thinks that now he will not see Joyce a few more years. But the next evening, Conner calls Adam, which promises to call back, but doesn’t catch Joyce at the hotel. After a while, Conner again calls and asks for a meeting. They meet in a small hotel near Chicago.

Joyce promises Adam to tell every incredible thing that has happened since their last meeting. Joyce convinced that only Adam could believe his story.

If one calls The Salinger Contract a literary mystery, it will reveal the essence of the novel only for 15 percent. Langer’s novel is more complexed and does not fit into the genre framework. It is literaturocentric, yes, but it is a novel about writers, with accessible style, not opressing wih academicism or a meticulous analysis of, for example, a Chinese poem of VII century. It is not necessary to be an expert on Salinger and Mailer or be a collector of first editions to get an indescribable pleasure from reading this book.

About The Salinger Contract would be true to say that this is a novel-fiddle, nimble, equivocate, sham, and a novel-needle, sharp, piercing with its poignant satire on the world of writers, publishers and readers. The real Adam Langer through Adam Langer the narrator tells the amazing story, often giving the word to Conner Joyce. The book turns to the reader that side and this side and presents a fair amount of surprises that you never know what's what. It's no wonder, since the novel is, in fact, about the two liars – and what is a writer, if not a teller of lies? And this is the case when you let to feed yourself a line, because the writer so excitingly tells nonsense, which is incredibly hard to believe.

The book collector Dex says that he likes writers who are attentive to detail, making the book believable. Joyce, in Dex’s opinion, always tried to make his best novels believable. Langer is also from this category of writers. He fascinatingly tells about the publishing kitchen, about the literary life of the city (and small town’s as well), the pain of the writer, and everywhere Langer throws plausible details. The Salinger Contract is also pretty sharp satire on the current state of things in the literary world, so some places may be an exaggeration or distortion, but even in this case you won’t find anywhere fake notes.

The book is generally relevant, however, to a greater extent for the Americans. There is a full-time dad, blogs making fun of professors and HBO pilots, and the popularity of eBook devices, and a university scandal, and all this at the same time is real life and also a parody on a modern American life (largely because of this the book is pretty funny).

Langer in his book laughed at the writer and the reader, but also managed to ask serious questions - about the fate of writers, parental responsibility, the importance of literature.

I will finish this with one word: must-read.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 10

The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 10
Edited by Maxim Jakubowski

Robinson, 2013

Two years ago, I wrote about one of the previous anthologies titled «Best British Crime». Then that anthology had an enormous size and a dozen of excellent short stories (out of forty). In two years, serious conceptual changes have not taken place: the editor Jakubowski again selected the best and not so from the British crime, diluting the big names with lesser known and quite unknown. The quantity of truly best has not increased yet. This anthology has to offer a dozen stories of exceptional quality, five stories that are not bad, but they don’t deserve a higher praise.

Jakubowski, an experienced editor, as no one understands one of the main rules of this kind of collections: you have to start and finish a book with the strongest stories. Miss it with the opening story, and the reader will put the book down for a long time (if not forever). Miss it with closing stories (after a number of very bad ones) , and the book will leave a bad aftertaste. What's good is that the rule here is met. Anthology opens with Lee Child’s «The Bone-Headed League», noirish delightful story, only pretending to be a lightweight joke. Not surprisingly, Child is called the master. It turns out that he is the master of short form as well.

The next portion is worse. After a cheerful start the anthology falls into a swamp of mediocre short stories, some of which deserve to be collected in the collection «Worst British Crime». But closer to the equator the collection becomes more smooth, mediocre stories are replaced by good and sometimes even great, like «Stardust» Phil Lovesey or «The Message» Margaret Murphy, or the bitter story of Peter Turnbull «The Man Who Took Off His Hat to The Driver of the Train».

On the territory of noir in the book several writers walk into, among them Nina Allan, Cath Staincliffe, Christine Poulson and Stella Duffy (please note, it's all ladies). Allan’s story «Wilkolak» is probably the best in this book. It is a grim story of a teenager who wants to be a photographer and begins to follow the man which very much looks like a serial killer murdering children. Allan does not add anything new to the plots about a maniac who kills children, but switches to a psychological game between the boy and the suspect, a photographer himself in the past. For teenager the killer is kind of werewolf, hence the Polish word of the story in the title. With a serial killer plays the heroine of another story, «Laptop» by Cath Staincliffe. The heroine of the story is a professional thief who specializes in laptops, until one day she steals the laptop belonging to a serial killer. If Staincliffe better wrote the diary part of the story, her short story would be even more shocking.

Among men, strong stories here from such masters as Joel Lane, Adrian McKinty, John Harvey and a new name for me Bernie Crosthwaite with yet another story about a serial killer.

Closing the collection are two fantastic stories, but with the criminal element. This is another feature of the anthology. Among my favorite stories - seven one way or another can be attributed to the fantastic genre - stories from Child, Johnston, Lane, Allan, Lovesey, and the final stories by Alison Littlewood and Neil Gaiman. Gaiman here is represented with the story about the death of Mycroft Holmes, and Littlewood with a shocking prison story.

The collection certainly should be cut by half, and then it would show the British crime from the best side. Moreover, that the fair sex seems to write even more darker fiction than men.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Crossroad Blues

Ace Atkins
Crossroad Blues

St Martin’s, 1998

A part of Friday Forgotten Books

Nick Travers once played football until he beat up his coach in front of the entire stadium. Having his sports career end, Travers started to give lectures on the history of the blues at college. When in the Mississippi Delta Travers’ colleague has gone missing, seeking the lost recordings of legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson, Travers is asked to find the missing man, who in addition to being a historian, also a first-class asshole.

Travers travels to a small town Greenwood, but instead of the colleague finds only trouble. The missing records are also hunting for by a shady producer from Los Angeles and Elvis-looking guy who dreams of becoming a professional hitman.

Ace Atkins is hardly a forgotten writer, as he is now at the peak of his career, but his earlier work may well be underestimated. Atkins' debut is of that category of books, where there is the right mix of local and global story. Against the background of the search of the mythical records, the Holy Grail to any blues researcher, unfolds quite a local story about the struggle between good and evil. Here, if someone is killed, death stays for a long time, and every lost human life is like a string - can not be repaired.

Atkins in the course of the plot makes excursion into history, but does not try the patience of a reader who wants to bullets flying and blood gushed out. And if Travers is not the most original creation in the history of literature, then an Elvis impersonator named Jesse might be that case. Rarely you can find a villain who is original, stubborn and stupid with some outrageous stupidity.

«Jesse knew better. E lived for fifteen years in a one-bedroom house with his momma and daddy, and look what happened to him. The German chick knew it. Didn't matter if Puka was just plain stupid. He'd show that fool. "Fuck him," Jesse said.

"Sorry Elvis, Sometimes I know not what I'm sayin '." With two fingers, he crossed his heart and silently mouthed: "Takin 'care of business. TCB.»

Those, who love the Atkins books written a few years ago, should definitely return to his earlier creation.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Just What Kind of Mother Are You?

Paula Daly
Just What Kind of Mother Are You?

Grove Press, 2013

Lisa Kallisto is a mother of three. Besides the fact that she needs look after a daughter and two sons of school age, she also works at an animal shelter, and her husband Joe, a taxi driver, often comes home late and rarely at home. The family lives in a small English town where almost everyone knows each other, which does not have its own schools, but there are many cottages for vacationers.

Two weeks before the described events in the town a schoolgirl disappears who then returnes a few hours later - half-naked, raped and woozy. The second victim of abduction becomes Lucinda, 13-year-old daughter of Kate and Guy Riverty, which was to spend the night at Kallisto's with Lisa’s daughter Sally. Sally got sick that day and did not go to school, and then forgot to remind her mother that Lucinda did not have a sleepover at their house. So it turns out that Lucinda disappears immediately after school, and only in the morning her disappearance is noticed. Immediately the police is called, and Lisa takes the blame. She blames herself for carelessness: if she supervised her daughter, she would have learned that Lucinda did not come to them with an overnight stay. But Lisa was just swamped with chores at home and at work.

In spite of everything, Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly draws you in from the first page and does not let go until the end. The novel has that quality that you become powerless – you gulp this mediocre thriller in one sitting. But such involvement can obscure the many shortcomings of the book.

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? is a domestic thriller, and clearly the British make. This is indicated not so much in the place of action, but in how many chapters here is in italics, from the point of view of the offender. Only British writers continue to use this method from book to book, despite the fact that these chapters play almost no role. In this novel, these short chapters at least have some sense and help to better understand the plot.

But the plot is kept on coincidences. And, as is often the case, there is very little detective work: DC Aspinall immediately would be fired from her job as incompetent, let events of the novel happen in real life. Aspinall ignores the obvious things that would help in the investigation. The differences between the M.O. had to make the detectives to believe that they are dealing with multiple offenders. The search for the missing girl actually never have been held, although it is the first thing that should have been done by the police. When Lisa gave the detectives information and descriptions of the man who took the dog, detectives would not even consider this information. After the arrest of Guy Riverty the detectives first thing would have examined all the family property, knowing that they rent cottages. And the fact that the girls were so drugged and could not remember anything is unlikely, and this is done for the convenience of the author.

For convenience, there's a lot of things had been done, from the final run-in to the main twist, which the whole book had been built on. Daly so confidently assumes that just a tired mother is torn from the guilt about the missing daughter of a family friend. Lisa Kallisto, for all her imperfections, is not a monster. Even hard to say that she is caught in some real problems. Yes, the Kallisto family must work to support themselves, as opposed to the Riverty, living off renting, yes, Lisa and her husband have complications at work, but in fact they don’t have the serious problems. No one cheats on no one, there is no children with disabilities, nor is a serious debts. Daly makes a very large assumption, hoping that a tired mother of three will take the blame for the kidnapping of another man's child. This is hard to believe. It would be easier to believe that after the abduction of two girls Lisa would worry about the safety of her own daughter. But Lisa's children are mentioned only in the first third of the book, and then completely fade into the background. Likely that Lisa herself and her husband every day would drive theit children to and from school.

This nonchalant attitude to psychology only proves that Daly is a bad judge of character. She can build a theoretical psychological structure, but has no idea how people behave in real life. Thriller component is given a far larger place than psychology. Characters begin to run around, the number of crimes increases, respectively, the emotional impact is scattered. Trouble becomes too much to begin to empathize, to understand the emotional intensity. And the finale harms it: the one who deserves compassion, gets it under false pretenses.

The final twists are far from new, but it needs to praise Daley for her quite believable description of working days of the protagonist and personal problems of DC Aspinall. The author writes better about everyday life than thrilling stuff.

This book is a proof that page-turner is not a synonym for a successful book.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Strangers on a Train

Patricia Highsmith
Strangers on a Train

Harper & Brothers, 1950

Two strangers travel on the same train. One, Guy Haines, an architect, is in a hurry to meet his wife to finally divorce her. Another, Charles Bruno, is spoiled mama's boy, whose father does not give him enough money. Bruno intrudes himself in the company of Guy and begins a conversation. Guy suddenly finds that disbosom to a stranger is easier than to someone close, and tells Bruno about his life’s hardships. Bruno sympathizes and offers Guy to do each other a favor: Bruno will kill Guy's wife and Guy will kill the Charles’s father. Getting off the train, Guy thinks he will never see the madman with crazy ideas. Guy is wrong.

Strangers on a Train is called modern (although the novel is already more than 60 years old) remix of Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. Comparison is generally correct: Highsmith in her debut with pleasure climbs into her characters’ heads and there scratch them, forcing the characters to express themselves not at their best. Porfiry Petrovich here is replaced by the private detective, who is sniffing around, and the man's ability to unearth evidence can not be questioned, although Highsmith doesn’t quite convince us the detective could get to the truth.

Already in Strangers on a Train Highsmith proved to be a talented creator of sympathetic sociopaths, pleasant and inconspicuous, pointing to that one of the characters is given the name Guy - a guy.

Guy stands there in another unusual role - a real imaginary friend. Guy real and imagined by Guy Bruno are two different people. And it is Bruno, who cannot determine where the real and the imaginary:

«He felt fine. The man kept insisting he have another drink, and Bruno had three fast. He noticed a streak on his hand as he lifted the glass, got out his handkerchief, and calmly wiped between his thumb and forefinger. It was a smear of Miriam's orangey lipstick. He could hardly see it in the bar's light. He thanked the man with the rye, and strolled out into the darkness, walking along the right side of the road, looking for a taxi. He had no desire to look back at the lighted park. He wasn't even thinking about it, he told himself. A streetcar passed, and he ran for it. He enjoyed its bright interior, and read all the placards. A wriggly little boy sat across the aisle, and Bruno began chatting with him. The thought of calling Guy and seeing him kept crossing his mind, but of course Guy wasn't here. He wanted some kind of celebration. He might call Guy's mother again, for the hell of it, but on second thought, it didn't seem wise. It was the one lousy note in the evening, the fact he couldn't see Guy, or even talk or write to him for a long while. Guy would be in for some questioning, of course. But he was free! It was done, done, done! In a burst of well-being, he ruffled the little boy's hair.»

Those compartments are dangerous thing.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Chaperone

Laura Moriarty
The Chaperone

Riverhead Books, 2013

Wichita, 1922. Cora Carlisle is a woman in her thirties, her husband lawyer’s exemplary wife and mother of two grown-up sons, who went to college. From a neighbor she finds out that Mira Brook, known in town woman, is looking for her daughter, Louise Brooks, a well-known actress in the future, a chaperone. Louise, who is already 15 years, is a good dancer who should go to New York, where she will dance with the famous troupe, and if she shows excellent results, she can expect going on a tour. Cora, in general, is not too close acquaintance with the family of Brooks, have a desire to go to New York, not because she wants to accompany Louise, but because with Cora comes from New York originally. At small age the girl had been tossed in the shelter where Cora was raised by Catholic nuns. In New York, Cora hopes to find that shelter, where she was planted, and then, perhaps, her mother, if she is still alive.

In this novel, there are no beautiful style, no complicated structure, there is no change of the narrator. The Chaperone has only one storyline and attention to details. The book is written in the third person, which is almost the first, but don’t confuse the author and protagonist of the book Cora. Moriarty knows Cora’s vices and does not try to hide them. Between Cora Carlisle, a fictional heroine, and Louise Brooks, a real actress, there are parallels . Both in fact a victim of circumstances and since childhood more and more enveloped himself a web of lies and illusions. Only everything turned out relatively well for Cora, but Louise because of her nature has taken the path of self-destruction. Brooks, a child left without a mother's love, was devoted to herself , hence her narcissism. She drowned her failures in alcohol and complained that everybofy is looking at her on the screen, but can not see her. Meanwile the self-destruction made its way, and the actress herself did not want to notice that, she no longer draws attention, because she makes a mockery of herself. Cora on the contrary did not try to destroy my life, but tried to unite the life of others, but she succeeded only because of the first lie, and then because of the other.

The narrative keeps the tension, gradually revealing Cora’s past. And seemingly ordinary book is already not so ordinary when the secrets of the 20s are starting to unfold. We had a wonderful era, Cora could tell about that time, only there were as much as vices there as in the 70's or 90's. From women's prose you are certainly not expecting first the appearance of the homosexual, then infidelity with a foreigner worker, then child molestation, surprise proposal to shelter a lover and his daughter. Cora when talking with Louise expresses herself very soberly, with courtesy and at the same time with hypocrisy inherent in that time. Louise is a harbinger of a new era, the era of drunken celebrities, endless divorces, escapes to Europe from debts.

The book’s finale is somewhat disappointing – it’s too long. Actually, the book should end as Cora, a German and his daughter go to Wichita. The rest of family life - who he married who, when who died - dragged in here just to describe what happened to Brooks after New York. Since Brooks is fairly one-dimensional and minor character, it is not really interesting to know what she did after New York and what became of her.

This largely a brave and trim book would win, if cut by a quarter by its editor.