What I’m Reading

I just finished reading The Whistling Season, by Ivan Doig, and I have to say I loved it.  In this book Mr. Doig manages to squeeze a maximum amount of reading pleasure out of a pretty simple story.  I must admit to a bit of a conflict of interest since the story centers on the trials of a family trying to scrape a living out of the Montana homesteading promise in the early 2oth century.  My fathers family made that same attempt and I was of course enthralled by the details that the book revealed in this regard.  Although it was a fictional setting, there was just enough history to keep me satisfied.  The goings-on in the one room school house that formed the backdrop for much of the story is a peek into a wonderful bit of lost Americana. But those details weren’t the only reason I liked it.  Mr. Doig honestly has a way with words.   The story was from the point of view of a 13 year old boy, as remembered by his adult self many years later and his voice was spot on.  I was never bored and  I think that I will be reading his more recent book soon, Work Song.

What I’m Reading

The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, by Stieg Larrson, is a mystery novel set in Sweden.  Mystery novels are not my usual reading fare but occasionally I pick one up when I hear enough praise.  In this case I am glad I did.  I enjoyed the book very much and in spite of its gloomy settings and, lets face it, gruesome themes, I didn’t have any trouble staying with it.  The characters were interesting and the Swedish place names and cultural references gave it, for me anyway, a curious authenticity that it wouldn’t have had if it had been set in the States.  At times the plot shifts seemed a bit clumsy but, in most cases, the overall story managed to stay on track.The story manages to cram in high-tech cyberpunk hijinks, high-rolling big business maneuverings and the seamy side of 20th Century Swedish history into a modern story involving some of the odder, and in some cases down right creepy, characters of Swedish society.  Many of the best character relationships and plot twists take awhile to develop but it is definitely worth the wait.I liked the young, female, computer hacking character Salander. Apparently she will continue to play a big part in two follow-up novels (all three published posthumously by the way, which is an dramatic tale of it’s own) and I am looking forward to watching her character develop.  A movie of the book, in Swedish with subtitles, is now running in the art houses around town.  I think I am going to try to see it.

UPDATE (4/17):  I saw the movie today and it was a winner.  It stayed close to the storyline and the result was a knockout thriller with just enough gritty detail to lend a sense of authenticity to it all.  I loved the scenery and the mood perfectly matched my feeling from the book.  "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" was in Swedish w/subtitles but it didn’t detract much, if at all, from the storytelling.  Go see it and read the book first if you can. 

UPDATE 2 (4/20): In a fit of Stieg Larrson fever, I have now read the second book in the series, “The Girl Who Played with Fire.”  If anything it was better than the first book although it was a bit more chaotic and sometimes a little difficult to follow early on.  The character of Lizbeth Salander was more completely fleshed out and her heroic nature was solidified.  I can’t wait for the final book or, for that matter, the second movie. 

 

What I’m reading.

Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry is a spy novel that manages to also be a historical thriller.   The hero of this story is an experienced U. S. undercover agent named Paul Christopher who finds himself caught up in the circumstances surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.   The story follows his attempts to convince his superiors of his take on the situation leading up to the assassination and obtain the evidence to support his ideas.  It is an exciting, quick paced and believable read.  The book is well written, well researched, and in the end may have you second guessing your personal beliefs regarding the Kennedy assassination.

This is one of several Paul Christopher books by the author but the first that I have read.  The book was good enough that, even though I am not normally a spy novel devote, I would be tempted to read another in the series.

What I am reading?

Just read Beat the Reaper, by Josh Bazel, and liked it?  That question mark is not an error because I don’t really understand why I liked it.  It was a rough book.  Rough language, gratuitous violence and sexual references were liberally applied throughout the book.  Indeed the whole premise was kind of rough.  The hero was a twenty something Mafia hitman who becomes a doctor through the witness protection system, and is working in a chaotic urban hospital.  When the two parts of his life come in contact the story goes into “rough” overdrive.  The structure of the book is strange and shifts between being a crime/mystery thriller and a medical journal but it manages to work somehow.  Like I said, hard to tell why, but I liked it.