Monday, November 28, 2011

Time Break

There will be no reviews in the next two weeks. After vacation I plan to review lots of books. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Jesse Kellerman

Putnam, 2007

Kellerman tries himself in psycho-neonoir. Jonah Stem is a medical student in the surgical department of a hospital in New York. After a hard day at the clinic, John returnes home to get some sleep and then go to the hospital again. Suddenly he hears a scream and sees a black man stabbing a young woman, asking for help. Instead of calling the police Jonah intervenes in the conflict, fights with a man, and then loses consciousness. When he awakes in the hospital, he learns that the man is dead and the girl recovers from injury. Jonah finds out from the newspapers of the other participants of the incident. Assailant was a man named Raymond Iniguez, a 36-year-old former teacher and a mental hospital patient. The victim was Eve Gones, 31, a teacher of dance therapy in the same hospital.

One day Jonah comes home, where Eve waits for him. They go out to dine in one of the restaurants nearby. Jonah is surprised when he finds out that Eve went to Yale and graduated at the same year with Jonah’s sister Katie. The unexpected news comes from Jonah’s lawyer Belzer: Raymond Iniguez’s brother Simon hired a nosy lawyer and is going to sue Jonah in court. Soon Jonah's life will become a one big trouble.

After the first fifty pages I want to say "wow." Kellerman takes the best from neonoir and uses it to the maximum. Honest and unsullied hero is accidentally drawn into trouble wanting to do something good. After that, troubles continue to stratify. Of course, it's all flowers compared to what lies ahead of Jonah. Later, he will regret not only that he intervened in the fight scene, but also about the fact that he was born.

The hero is about the same as in other Kellerman’s books: a young intellectual, from a decent and moderately wealthy family. Open, honest, friendly, but too soft, with no negative experiences. It is because of his character he finds himself in trouble.

And if the first half of the book is closer to neonoir, the second is safe to add the prefix psycho-. Psychopaths are in all Kellerman’s books, they just have different forms of mania and behavior. Here again, as in his other books, there are people who give themselves for others. In the beginning, when Kellerman puts beacons that should alert the reader that something is wrong with Eve, but where the author will lead, you can only guess.

On the emotional tension «Trouble» overtakes «Sunstroke», but inferior to "The Executioner." There will be death, and until the very end you’ll be sitting on pins and needles, wondering who is going to die.

So, muttering "wow" throughout the book, we come to the finale - which is disappointing. It is disappointing that the protagonist was not disclosed. I was waiting that Jonah finally will show himself, will make a move that will allow us to judge about the hero, who is he: a coward, a murderer, superdoc, a victim of circumstances.

Good novel about how easily accents are displaced (self-defense is murder; man is always rapist; and laws are delicate things), about that no one is immune. But the finale is a trouble.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cemetery Road

Gar Anthony Haywood
Cemetery Road

Severn House, 2010

The narrator of this story Errol Handy White arrives in Los Angeles for the funeral of his childhood friend R.J. Burrow. Burrow has been found dead in a stolen car full of drugs, with two bullets in his head and two in the back. Burrow, White, and O`Neal Holden, now mayor of nearby Bellwood, in their youth committed a crime, which led to a series of tragic consequences, and the guilt is still gnawing at each of them after 26 years. After the crime the three friends from the hood swear that will never communicate with each other. Now Burrow dies of a mysterious death, so that even the family of the deceased, his wife and daughter, does not believe in the police version that the death of Burrow is the result of drug deal gone wrong. Holden, who became mayor, seems to have engaged in illicit affairs. Handy White believes that that what he can do for the childhood friend now is find out who killed Burrow and how his death connects with a secret from the past.

The classic beginning in no way leads to predictable results. Handy White, now a mechanic in one of the towns of Minnesota, over these 26 years that have passed since the time when the three friends made a major mistake of their lives, became a wise man, although time has not healed his wounds. «Cemetery Road» is a book written by a wise man. Almost every chapter begins with a lyrical introduction. I want to cite and cite:

«It's not a problem young people have to worry about, but right around the time he hits his middle forties, a man starts giving serious thought to dying well. In his sleep in his own bed, or in the course of a street fight meant to settle something meaningful. His end doesn't have to be poignant, just devoid of indignity.»

«No matter how it comes upon you, no man is ever adequately prepared for fatherhood. It is too inexact a science. »

«... There were many paths a man could take during his time on earth, but sooner or later, they all brought him down the same one: cemetery road.»

The lyrical component, however, does not mean that «Cemetery Road» is devoid of cruel and brutal truth. Handy White gradually recalls the bloody story from the past, which drugdealers and psychopaths were involved in, parallel closing to solving the death of Burrow. White knows that the truth will hit him in the stomach, and the past woudn’t be fixed, but White goes to the end. There are mistakes that can be corrected; there are mistakes that can not be corrected, and there are mistakes, the correction of which leads to new mistakes. Haywood's book is just about the last type of mistakes.

Haywood writes like so few people today do, he also wrote a book with impeccable storyline. All there is interconnected, and yet in a novel there are three plot lines and two finals, one more powerful than the other.

«Cemetery Road» is almost a perfect book about no matter how much a man strive for perfection, he still can not get rid of his weaknesses and can’t wash away all his sins.

new chapbooks from Nightjar Press

GA Pickin

Christopher Kenworthy
Sullom Hill

Nightjar Press, 2011

The next couple of chapbooks from Nicholas Royle’s Nightjar Press. These two stories are quite different: one tells of what happens inside of a person, other of that from the outside.

In «Remains» unnamed narrator with a torch in his hand goes through the woods, hurrying to the house to meet friends with whom he meets every year. Close to the final point, torch goes off. The hero can not move in complete darkness. He expects that friends will help him to find the right way, knowing that he is late. The hero here is faceless and nameless. The author is interested not in this particular traveler, but in the relationship between man and nature in general. People change what surrounds them, but the environment changes people, too. There is no question in what direction who changes who. The question is, what forms of communication can be between man and nature?

How does a person change inside? - Christopher Kenworthy asks in his «Sullom Hill». The narrator recalls the story of childhood, and the main character in this story is a neighbor boy Neil Kingsley:

«Usually they called him a bit slow, rather than stupid. Other kids called him backwards or mental or a spastic, even though there wasn't much physically wrong with him. To look at, you might think he was normal, apart from his lips. They were enormous, as though the rest of his face had shrunk and filled them out. There was always wet spit and dried spit and bits of wafery skin on his lips. He looked like his mouth was frosting over.»

Strange relationship between the three youths and a shocking secret make this story unforgettable.

These two stories only have in common that they both end with a kind of fliping on the nose. What's behind the door, asks a reader. It is better not to know, answer both writers.

Monday, November 14, 2011

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Luther: The Calling

OK, everyone loves free books. I have one copy of Luther: The Calling, first in the series of novels featuring DCI Luther, written by Neil Cross. Who's Luther? You don't know? You didn't see brilliant UK TV series Luther? Well, in that case, you can read the book first and then watch the series. (Season 1 is better than Season 2, actually.) Luther: The Calling will tell you the story how Luther became Luther.

Description from the publisher:

DCI John Luther has an extraordinary clearance rate. He commands outstanding loyalty from friends and colleagues. Nobody who ever stood at his side has a bad word to say about him. And yet there are rumours that DCI Luther is bad – not corrupt, not on the take, but tormented. Luther seethes with a hidden fury that at times he can barely control. Sometimes it sends him to the brink of madness, making him do things he shouldn’t; things way beyond the limits of the law.

Luther: The Calling, the first in a new series of novels featuring DCI John Luther, takes us into Luther’s past and into his mind. It is the story of the case that tore his personal and professional relationships apart and propelled him over the precipice. Beyond fury, beyond vengeance. All the way to murder…

“Neil Cross has created such a compelling character”
Idris Elba, star of Luther and The Wire

So what should you do to enter to win a copy:

Follow my blog (on the right panel Join this site)

Once the number of the followers would become 50, every follower will be entered in the competition.

I'll pick randomly one winner from 50 followers.

Competition is open world-wide.

Spreading the word about this giveaway is welcome.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Jesse Kellerman

Jove, 2006

The heroine of this debut novel, Gloria Mendez, is a 36-year-old secretary at the firm for the sale of souvenirs. She is Mexican in origin and is in love with her boss Carl Perreira, who is 20 years senior and, although he treats Gloria with great sympathy, does not share her romantic feelings. When Perreira goes to Mexico on vacation, he gives time off for Gloria as well. The book opens with a scene of the earthquake in Los Angeles. While the whole city is in panic, Gloria behaves calmly, can not sleep and goes to work. In the office, she finds a note from the boss and unintelligible message on the answering machine from which Gloria understands that Charles have been in an accident. American and Mexican police react sluggishly to Gloria’s request for help. After a dozen calls Gloria gets through to the police in the town of Agua Vivas, where, presumably, something happened to Perreira. Local police chief named Fajardo says that far from the city really there has been a car accident with the injured American on "Honda" with California plates. News for Gloria's disappointing: Charles is dead. Sudden death and call home rise Gloria’s suspicions. She wants to know whether her boss died, and if so, under what circumstances. Gloria goes to Mexico.

Kellerman confirmed that he is an excellent storyteller, and «Sunstroke» is really well told story. The novel, of course, is too slow and "literary" to be called a thriller, and stylistically too easy to qualify for membership in the "great literature" but this does not in any way interfere with enjoying the book. The book, in spite of the plot, in the first place is character-driven. For every hero the author creates a whole story. Kellerman gradually reveals to us how Gloria has become what she’ve become, and how her old boss became for her the most important person in the world and how she actually knew nothing about him. The hardest truth about herself Gloria realizes at the very ending of the book: she has done this double journey to Mexico, the digging into the past of Charles not because she loved Charles and cared for him, but simply out of boredom. She was lonely; she was nobody, and all her care of the deceased was only an attempt to stir herself.

Kellerman, however, sometimes talks too much by introducing third-rate characters with whole stories that do not affect the development of the plot. He inserts the anecdote for anecdote, in order to simply tell an interesting story. It was not that great sin, but sometimes you need to learn to shut up.

That's really great debut. Son surpassed the mother and the father.

Irma Voth

Miriam Toews
Irma Voth

Faber & Faber, 2011

Irma Voth is 19-year-old girl living in a Mennonite commune in a Mexican desert. Mennonites is a religious group that rejects all worldly: things of earth are the enemy of heaven. They often migrate, work hard, and avoid contact with non-Mennonites. Irma's father is an imperious man, he keeps cows. Irma's family: her sister Aggie, two little brothers, mother and father - suddenly moved to Mexico from Canada. In Mexico, Irma meets Jorge, a young man who, among other things, stores drugs at the home. After her marriage to Jorge, Irma’s father banishes her from the house, separating her to the house with her husband in exchange for that Irma and Jorge would help the father with the cows. Already in the opening scene of the novel we see as Jorge moves away from Irma, accusing her of being a bad wife. Irma on the verge of despair: she does not know how to rectify the situation with my husband. Suddenly, the film crew comes to the desert headed by director Diego, planning to shoot in the desert a film about Mennonites. Diego hires Irma in the group as a translator: she knows three languages, English, Spanish and German dialect spoken by the Mennonites. Irma is the responsibility of explaining to the actress Marijke, a German with Russian roots, in German that is required of her by the director or operator. For the fact that Irma works on strangers from the cast, father and other Mennonites despise and hate her.

At first glance it may seem a simple-minded story, but it is actually a multi-layered and fascinating story about eternal values. Toews does this in the first place because she was able to give the main character a unique voice. Irma, both naive and already very experienced, is all the while as if in motion, as well as her thoughts. She's all like the light, but her life has a mystery, and we learn about the death of Irma's sister Katie only in the final. Mennonites are far from the art, and even the arrival of the crew almost does not change anything, because Irma is not involved in the shootings themselves. But the girl herself is artistically by nature. She makes notes in a notebook, in the head plays scenes from the life that can not happen, repeat to herrself fragments of not even books but scraps of letters. And if Irma’s sister Aggie quickly and painlessly flowed into the city life, Irma constantly tortures herself by questions and doubts, which made it quite difficult for her to get away from the old life. Irma in the soul is a Mennonite, unearthly, not of this world, but she lives on earth and have to arrange her life under the earth's rules. That's why it's so hard for her, and her diubts bring misfortune to the others.

The novel is full of unusual and easy humor, especially in that part of the book where the action takes place with the film crew. The clash of two different cultures always leads to comic results. This does not mean that the book is light-weight. In places it is very dark, because conscience does not let Irma throughout the novel, is she actually guilty of something or just feels guilty.

The novel sags a bit after the departure of Irma and her sisters from the desert to the city. The author seemed a bit removed from his character, and we lose the intimacy with the narrator. By the final Toews is very good again: emotions are running high, and Irma will have to make a difficult choice.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Apostle Rising

Richard Godwin

Apostle Rising

Black Jackal Books, 2011

Detective Chief Inspector Frank Castle once could not find a serial killer, the man responsible for so-called Woodland killings. Everything pointed to Karl Black, but the investigation has failed to prove his involvement in the brutal killings. Black remained at large, and Castle was trampled. He’d been humiliated, lost his wife, was treated for depression. Now, many years later, a copycat kills people in a similar manner. Castle thinks that the killings are committed by a person who well studied original killings. The inspector and his partner Jacki Stone suspect that Black once again implicated in the killings, but detectives still have no leads. Black is now the head of the secret and powerful sect, and murders are clearly ritual. The situation is complicated by the fact that killings are commited by, perhaps, two maniacs. One kills prostitutes, the other - politicians. Castle will do everything to find a cruel copycat. Or two.

The fact that Black comes up in the second series of murders already indicates his involvement in the killings. Black’s sectarianism and violence homicides give s reader first puzzle: whether will there be a rational explanation of the crime or there will be the intervention of supernatural forces? Nevertheless, the chapters, in which we see the actions of Black, are the most tortuous and they’re almost not moving the events. One chapter is similar to another so that as you listen to an interesting story told by a stutter: interesting, but too ductile.

The investigation is moving, albeit slowly. The killer always is one step ahead. Castle, which once again is humiliated by the press for his impotence, uses help of not only Stone, but also psychologists, establishing motives and psychological portrait of of the killer. After a few sagging middle the book pleases unexpected plot twists.

Ironically, the most interesting character in the book is not Castle or Black, both of them are full of cliches, but the partner of Castle, Jacki Stone. Her role in the investigation is not exactly clear, but what makes her interesting is her relationship with her boyfriend, Don. Stone is definitely not as dependent on the investigation as Castle, but spends nearly all her time at work. The storyline with Stone and Don are not carried through, and ending suggests that perhaps we’ll see a sequel.

«Apostle Rising» is an entertaining book, but unnecessarily prolonged. The novel would be definitely better if it’d shorter by a half.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Sound of Gravity

Joe Simpson
The Sound of Gravity

Jonathan Cape, 2011

The second novel from a professional alpinist. The book opens with a shocking scene: a man named Patrick, the main character, wakes up because his wife catches him in an attempt to save herself from falling off a cliff. Patrick and his wife made the ascent in the Alps, stopping for the night. But at night Patrick’s wife gets out of her sleeping bag and her lifeline failes. The woman begins to fall and manages to grab Patrick's hand. He tries to pull her, but he was not secured by lifeline. Because of that the woman decides to fall to save at least the life of her husband. They barely have time only to tell each other "goodbye." Later, from the conversation of two men from the mountain village, it becomes clear that Patrick was found. He was very weak, barely moving. He was taken to the hospital.

The second part of the novel begins 25 years after the accident. Patrick lives and works in a small hut right in the mountains. He helps the other climbers, who can rest or spend the night at the hut. One of them is Karl, a German. In the mountains, he falls and breaks to death. The team of rescuers from the village comes for the body. However, the storm is approaching, and the body is needed to rescue fast. The next day the body is taken away and brought to Patrick’s hut. In here rescuers decide to leave the body near the hut, fasten it to the frame and throwing snow on it. Big storm is coming. This time, Patrick will have to save the life of another woman named Cassie.

The imbalance between the first and second parts of this book is the main flaw of the book. The first part begins suddenly and very promising. But after a thrilling beginning the novel bogges down and starts marking time. The book is very reliable, since the author himself is an experienced climber. But the description of multi-day struggle for life during a storm begins to tire a reader quickly. Too viscous text; you need to climb in it as in a rock to not to lose interest. The struggle for life, of course, is a thing in itself not very interesting: it’s no entertainment, if you know that you can die, - but the book would have won if Simpson had cut the first part in half.

The second part is read perfectly as a standalone work. Very lyrical, piercing style; simple but strong story; again a high level of realism. The author masterfully describes the dynamics of the relationship between Patrick and Cassie. Simpson changes the angle of view, and we see how Patrick begins to thaw a little after difficult for him 25 years, full of silent mourning for his wife. Cassie gives him new hope. The more symbolic that the new love in Patrick’s life also appears in the strongest storm in the same place, but 25 years later. To avoid repetition and thoroughly disclose the nature of Cassie, the author shows the events of Patrick’s past through the lens of the woman. How she saw that situation, how she assessed the actions of Patrick, how this case had changed her life.

«The Sound of Gravity» is generally meditative reading, but the second part is a much more dynamic. The first one could not disclose the nature of man, because Patrick remained alone with the rocks. In the second part the character interacts with others, and we begin to understand the depth of his drama.

It is a book well worth reading, with the first flawed part.