Thursday, April 28, 2016

Blood Med- Jason Webster

Blood Med-Jason Webster

the facts
satisfaction: side
pages: 368
gender: M
nationality: USA
year: 2014
novel

An American girl is found dead and Cámara finds himself embroiled in corruption during his investigations.


Set in Valencia in post-financial meltdown Spain, this is not an optimistic book. Sure, there's some procedural stuff in here, a crime is being investigated and someone died but really this is more of a book detailing the decline of a society. Spain in this book is disintegrating and the characters talk politics almost more than they speak of the murder. Fascism is on the rise and really I almost felt like I was not so much reading a mystery book but rather a book written by the doomsayers. I live in Greece, during financial meltdown (which is nowhere as quick as the meltdown in this book), and there were so many parallels that I must admit I became a bit depressed. I felt the same sense of helplessness as when I talk about Greek politics with the people I know and I finished the book much the same way I finish most of these real-life discussions, helpless and doomed.

Maybe I don't drink enough.

I think Webster's flaws for me are that his book was too timely and too intense.
Strengths for most readers but not for me at this time.

Furthermore, I don't know but something about Cámara was too well-done. None of the dangers he found himself in made him change as a person and none of them really seemed to be truly dangerous-of course he'd survive! No, most of the (life-changing) violence in the novel occurs to the women.
Le Sigh.

I still rank it was three stars on sites like goodreads though since it is intensely written, gritty in the expected ways, and there's a definite affinity for Valencia woven throughout all this doom and gloom.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Visionist-Rachel Urquhart

The Visionist-Rachel Urquhart

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 352
gender: F
nationality: USA
year: 2014
novel

Set during the era of Mother Ann's work, a young woman finds a place among the Shakers but when the other young girls begin to see visions, things unravel.


I don't actually know that much about the Shakers. Like many others I suspect, I primarily knew of them through their furniture and as an attempt at a model Utopia. Urquhart, however, does know a lot about them and her research is visible through the novel but in a non-showy way. Instead, her research simply sets the stage for the plot. The plot itself seems to explore primarily the concept of 'The Way'. By integrating her outsider, Polly, into this strict society, Urquhart shows how multiple aspects of the community serve both material motives (the cynics amongst us are not surprised) and spiritual motives. But interestingly, through Charity, Urquhart also offers a variety of views within the Shaker community thus adding nuance and depth to the more typical depictions of closed communities. I really enjoyed Urquhart's view of the Shakers-not idealistic but also not entirely cynical. I, however, probably enjoyed even more the outside world of New England with the fire inspector Pryor who is neither villain or hero but something of both. Pryor in his plotline really drives the book forward showing the passing of time that a novel focused on the Shakers probably would have lacked (as it was, sometimes the monotony of the community dragged the book down). I spent my time rooting for Polly but as a character she actually grew the least-I'd say Charity developed more with time. Nevertheless, all of the characters in the novel grew and changed believably which is a major strength.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Stasi Child-David Young

Stasi Child-David Young

the facts
satisfaction: up/side
pages: 416
gender: M
nationality: UK
year: 2015
novel

Thriller set in the GDR involving Karin Müller, a police detective, members of the Stasi, and children.

I wonder sometimes if I'm simply very cynical for thrillers. Oh no! The higher echelon is corrupt the book cries and I am simply unsurprised. I almost feel like if politicians, police (secret or overt), etc so often corrupt in thrillers ended up being innocent, I'd then be totally surprised. But no, likely I'd just decry it as unrealistic and idealistic.
Anyhow, Young has written a fairly straight forward thriller but one set in the GDR which has its own interesting tensions and power dynamics. The lignite smog of the GDR hangs over the novel though the atmosphere is mostly built through the plot and character of Karin herself. I really liked Karin. I liked her unflinching feminism, her missteps are in the right vein, and her position as smack dab in the middle makes her so realistic. She is in the middle and so she is both with power and powerless-like most of us in our jobs. She acts rationally while being driven. Unfortunately, this is so rare for female characters. I was a bit annoyed by the 'lust' angle but I guess it illustrated the air of mutual mistrust so I'll excuse it. I was a bit thrown by the end. It's very open? The motive is less believable than anything that came before it? Then I figured out that this is part of a series. I will be reading the next installment since Young managed to pull off one of my often-disliked plot devices, the split screen, i.e. two plotlines that appear to be unrelated (but an astute reader knows they are) that join. Except Young maintains the split screen without changing narrative voices even as plotlines join and diverge. Challenging and successful.