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Showing posts from January, 2011

Great Escape from the Castle in the Sky

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For most things, there is a “right” way and a “wrong” way to do them.  Whether it’s sorting lights from darks in the laundry hamper (oddly, not as self-explanatory to some people as one might think or hope), loading the dishwasher (and yes, there is a “correct” way if you want to get more than one meal’s worth of dishes in there), writing an effective business letter (please, for the love of Thoth*, pay attention in your high school English classes), or dealing with an unsolicited caller/salesman/annoying neighbor (a firm “No”, followed by a click/slam/walk away rarely fails), most of us have a pattern we follow to complete each task... the “right” way of accomplishing whatever. The same holds true for books. We start at the beginning and read until we get to the end (unless you’re one of those people who--for some unfathomable-to-me reason--peeks at the ending first). We expect a book labeled as a “mystery” to contain a puzzling whodunit and a “romance” to be full of lusty bodice-rippi…

Real-life Noir: A Master Exposes the Seamy Underbelly

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An impressionable young boy, later haunted in adulthood by one simple, rather ordinary act committed as a ten-year-old child... that of wishing his own mother dead. It was a wish--a curse, really--which all-too-soon would come tragically true, when the mother was found strangled to death. Years of unhappiness and uncertainty followed, as the boy struggled to make sense out of the horrific event he was secretly sure he’d somehow caused...
An endless search for something, anything, to give some meaning to the inexplicable event or to mask the pain...  The inexorable, downward spiral into the welcoming arms of drugs and alcohol, and finally to crime-- breaking & entering, peeping at windows; sinking ever deeper into a pit of despair and depravity... It could be fodder for a story about a serial killer in the making (or about someone who “went postal”, turned to religion, or earned a stay in a fine correctional facility, with complimentary orange jumpsuit included). Instead, it’s all part…

On Wings of Metal, the Heart takes Flight

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Someone tries to sabotage (cause the complete downfall of, overthrow, etc.) a company (government, country, or the like) by jacking into its computer systems and committing all manner of dastardly deeds once inside. That used to be a recurring theme found only in science fiction books. These days it’s just as likely to be the plot of the latest high-tech thriller, though, because it’s the kind of thing we worry about now.  What changed? Technology, of course. Suddenly, what once seemed futuristic and impossible is commonplace. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that our cell phones actually make calls, because they do so many other things. Cars operate via a complicated system of computer chips that monitor and adjust for pretty much everything (let alone the ones that back into parking spots on their own). We can carry hundreds of songs wherever we go in a gadget smaller than a deck of cards. We're able to turn on the computer, click a few keys, and be talking to someone on the other…

Shedding Tears over an Icy Grave

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“Life was a random mass of unforeseeable coincidences that governed men’s fates like a storm that strikes without warning, causing injury and death.” That one rather stark statement sums up the message at the very heart of Arnaldur Indriđason’s Arctic Chill, but it applies to each of the other books in his continuing “Reykjavik Thriller” series, as well, for there is always the underlying awareness in his writing that truly awful things happen around us and to us... but we’re powerless to do more than attempt to pick up the pieces and forge ahead. (Fortunately, that’s precisely what most of us typically do.)  The primary case in question in Arctic Chill is particularly tragic; the body of a young boy has been found outside on a bitterly-cold January evening, frozen to the ground. A closer inspection reveals that he was stabbed and subsequently bled out on the spot, dying in a little garden area behind a block of flats before anyone who might have been able to help could stumble upon him…