Category Archives: Mystery

I’m Thinking of Ending Things: I read a book in a day!

I read a book in a day! I read a book in a day! Granted I’m on holiday, and there are no distractions and all the coffee, and this was a particularly compelling book. But putting those points aside, it’s still worth celebrating: I read a book in a day! It’s been so long.

ANYWAY. You’d likely read this one in a couple of sittings, too. Iain Reid’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things gets described on the book jacket as ‘cerebral thriller’ and ‘dark twisting suspense’ and ‘horror.’ I’m not sure what a ‘cerebral’ thriller is – I guess there’s very little actual blood in this book? or most of the suspense is achieved by confusing narration and an aggressive present tense. I was feeling edgy while I was reading it. Doesn’t help that, S., on learning it was a ‘thriller’ decided to make whooshing whistling noises and occasional leaps from behind doors. #charming

The book has two ‘modes’ I’d say: one, the hyper-present tense description of a road trip with our unnamed female narrator and her boyfriend Jake, to visit Jake’s parents; two, these stilted strange conversations between the two characters (and then the characters and the parents and some other assorted supporting roles) that stray between the philosophical and the menacing. Most of the questioning centres around whether and how we can navigate the world alone – that is, what is lost/gained by eschewing relationships, or not being able to be in relation-to: what do we need from one another? what are the limits of self-sufficiency? Sometimes these questions are explored head-on in a bizzare-wouldn’t-likely-happen car conversations between the two, and then the questions also get explored in these strange little stories the two tell one another from childhood where extended metaphors are meant to do some kind of instruction on the same theme.

At its best there is a propulsive uncertainty about what will happen to our protagonist. At its worst I didn’t care enough about her – or the snow storm (which read as if someone had said ‘don’t forget setting! and pathetic fallacy!’) or her headaches or the Caller – to be invested in whether everything works out or whether things will be… ended.

Anyway. I’m curious if you’ve read it, what you make of the ending. And if you haven’t, I’m not convinced I’d recommend it. Unless you like ‘cerebral thrillers’ which – if the cover is to be believed – this is of that genre. Not like it was bad, just that there were too many things that irritated me. But still. I read a book in a day!

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Filed under Canadian Literature, Fiction, Mystery

The Dying Detective: Swedish Mysteries for the Win

Not to be confused with the Conan Doyle mystery, Leif Persson’s The Dying Detective takes on a 25 year old murder case and the dying detective who will solve it. In the opening chapter our protagonist and detective-hero, Lars Martin Johansson, has a stroke. While in his hospital bed he is asked to solve the cold case of a murdered girl. Disregarding medical advice, he sets about investigating. Lots of phone calls, some strange encounters with socialist-medicine-helpers and an unrelenting (and perplexing) desire to eat herring ensue.

It is in keeping with the genre of Swedish mystery novels (is that a genre? whatever) in equal parts silly and totally absorbing. I had the book with me at the doctor’s office, and my doctor asked whether it would be entertaining enough to keep her captive after a long shift and while her children ran around, and I emphatically argued that it would be. It’s the sort of mindless, page-turning nonsense that you want on a long flight, or in a waiting room. I’ll admit I’m tired of reading about (young) women being murdered, but perhaps that’s a complaint to take up with society rather than the author.

So yeah, enjoy on your next flight or don’t, whatever suits.

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Filed under Fiction, Mystery

The Keep: Spooky

Just in time for Halloween you can grab Jennifer Egan’s excellent modern gothic “The Keep.” Set in a castle complete with ghosts and dungeons, the novel more than nods to its gothic genre. The psychological suspense of wandering the line between the real and imagined is the stuff of spooky nightmares without actually being all that scary.

Egan proves again to be masterful in the writing, hooking the reader from page one and off we go.

I freely admit this is a boring review. Deal with it.

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Filed under American literature, Mystery

The Dinner: Late to the Party

My mum told me about Herman Koch’s The Dinner ages ago, and I started reading it and didn’t like it (after 20 pages or so) and so quit. So when it was picked for book club I was big shrug meh about reading it. And finishing it I’m still big shrug meh. Continue reading

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Filed under Bestseller, Book Club, Book I'll Forget I Read, Fiction, Mystery