Thursday, 13 April 2017

Holy City: book review

What have I been reading recently?  An Argentinian novel actually.  I picked up Holy Land by Guillermo Orsi because, set in Buenos Aires, it seemed as if it was going to be a noirish, hard-bitten detective novel.  The start of an Argentine equivalent of Scandi-noir perhaps.  Argie-noir?  It turned out to be more than a detective novel though.  It is a political and social critique of Argentine society, wallowing in corruption at every level from criminal drug cartels through police who are not averse to kidnapping wealthy tourists, and ordinary citizens fighting for survival every way they know how.  Even the one honest cop – Walter Carroza – is not averse to handing out summary justice.
At first I revelled in this brilliant account of a once rich country reduced to penury and chaos by corrupt politicians.  But gradually I began to sink in the mire of greed, and lost track of who might be honest and who not.  You might say that this was the purpose of Orsi’s writing, and I agree to a point.  But the chaotic jumps from backstories to the present left me uncertain as to what point in time I was at.  And soon everything simply became confusing and somewhat irritating.  I ploughed through to the end and yet I remain uncertain whether this novel is brilliant or merely pretentious.  I leave it to you to decide where you stand.
Just one more point.  Perhaps the parallel universe concept carried through to the real world, because the book is promoted as being the winner of the Dashiell Hammett Prize in 2010.  I have looked at all the Hammett Award listings online and cannot find Orsi or Holy City mentioned.  Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Holy City by Guillermo Orsi, Quercus, 2012

Friday, 17 March 2017

New Year Reviews

The reprints of my last three Falconers with Ostara Publishing has been delayed slightly but should happen soon!  In the mean time, I thought I would write some reviews of books I have been reading.  They are not neccessarily new, but just books I have picked from the shelves at my local library.  Here are the first two.

The Templar Succession by Mario Reading (Corvus, 2016)
When I picked this up at the library, I thought it was probably one of those thrillers mixing all-action stuff with Dan Brown-style resurrection of a shadowy knightly order set on saving the world from destruction.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The Templar connection is a minimal one – the main protagonist, John Hart, has a Templar ancestor, but appears to have been given the nickname of Templar with a sense of irony.  But this is the third book in a series and I can’t vouch for the strength of the Templar connection in the others.
John Hart is a photojournalist, who in 1998 stumbles on a house in the Balkan Conflict which is used by violent Serbians to rape young Muslim women.  The group of soldiers is led by The Captain, who keeps one of the young women, Lumnije, for himself.  When Hart finds the house, the soldiers are not there and he persuades Lumnije and a few other women to escape with him.  The Captain returns and hunts the escapees down.  Only Hart and Lumnije finally escape.
In 2015, Hart’s world is turned upside-down when he finds himself caring for Lumnije’s daughter.  He is forced to embark on a journey to find the girl’s father – the rapist and war criminal, The Captain.  The reader is not spared any of the brutality of the Kosovan conflict, nor the effect is has upon those involved with it.  It is a compelling read that draws you onwards through brutality and almost inconceivable evil.  It has left me wanting to seek out the earlier two stories in the series, and read them too.
Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz (Orion, 2014)
Horowitz is of course an acclaimed author and writer of television series, including Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War.  Here he takes up the baton of Arthur Conan Doyle and gives us a view of a Victorian world after the presumed death of Sherlock Holmes and his arch-rival Professor Moriarty.  In true Conan Doyle style, Horowitz writes in the persona of a Dr Watson-type protagonist called Frederick Chase.  We, the readers, are led to believe that all that is conveyed to us is true – in the same way that Conan Doyle’s stories grew in the public’s eyes to blur the edges of fiction and reality.
Chase, a Pinkerton agent, has come all the way from the USA in pursuit of Clarence Devereux – a fiend in the mould of Moriarty, and who appears to be filling the void in England left by Moriarty’s death.  He meets up with Inspector Athelney Jones from Scotland Yard and helps identify the body of Moriarty.  Sherlock Holmes’ body, of course, has disappeared.  On the body they find a cryptic message from Devereux to Moriarty, and so begins a journey through the darkest corners of London in a hunt to find the evil American.  Inspector Jones, once a stumbling policeman humiliated by the brilliance of Sherlock (in a Conan Doyle story), has now modelled himself on Holmes.  So we have Jones and Chase instead of Holmes and Watson.

There is, of course, a magnificent and unexpected twist.  But I will not tell you what that is.  You will have to read Moriarty for yourself.