Sunday, 23 June 2013

Paretsky S 1998 Bloodshot

Tough detective VI is tough. She adored her mum: Italian, loving, but tough.  She remembers her neighbour: flighty, but tough. She leans on her Dr friend Lotty: caring, but tough. She meets an elderly lady: unfulfilled, but tough. Tough women are tough. In a tough town. That's the theme of the book. It's one note, over 399 pages. Possibly, if there'd been less authorial focus on being tough, the book could be a little shorter. That wouldn't be a bad thing. 

Do you think I may be mistaken? I'm not:
"She hung up on my incoherent protest. I smiled a little - gruff to the end. I hoped I was that tough forty years ahead."

The plot? Who's the daddy? Why is that woman murdered? It takes a while to find out, and you have to be TOUGH to take the pace. 

I thought I remembered liking the VI Warshawski series. I misremembered.

First line: 
I had forgotten the smell. Even with the South Works on strike and Wisconsin Steel padlocked and rusting away, a pungent mix of chemicals streamed in through the engine vents.
last line:
 I knelt next to her chair and put my arms around her. 'Till death do us part, kid'.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Mailman, E 2007 The Witch's Trinity

This is a book of desperation. Desperate cold, desperate hunger, the fears and superstitions of early 16th  century Germany. You'd have to be so brave to bear the trials of the elderly narrator, Güde. As a reader you fully understand why the village has become so cruel, and you fear that, in their world, you would be so cruel too. Cold, hungry and frightened: you'd want to punish someone.

So, a book to be read with seriousness. Chapters are headed with the Malleus Maleficarum, to remind readers that the cruelties are not fiction. We should remember, and I believe fictional representations of a dark time are as good a way to do that as any other. Or, maybe I just like good stories, well told.

First line:
It was a winter to make bitter all souls. So cold the birds froze mid call and our little fire couldn't keep ice from burrowing into bed with us. The fleas froze in the straw beds, bodies swollen with chilled blood. We were hungry.

Last line (at least: this is where the book would have ended if I'd been the editor)
I kissed my son goodly on each cheek and put him from me. I was too distressed to bear his distress as well. I walked away from the square but I did not send my steps home. I knew home had gone up in smoke like Künne, like Fronika.

A cut at that point makes sense to me. It maintains the mood of the novel and you're left to imagine for yourself how - if - Güde can get by. But author and editor didn't ask my advice, and so they carry on for a couple more chapters, a couple of years into the future. For me, this brought forced optimism to a dark tale. Read on still further (at least in the paperback edition I read) and there's a very clunky family history from the author determined to share in her ancestor's tribulations. Trust me. Get to the line where I make the cut, and then ... stop reading.