Detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy has a spotless record of solves, but when he’s partnered with a street smart rookie on the murder of a family in a boom economy development turned recession slum outside of Dublin, the ghosts from his past threaten his ability to play by the straight and narrow.
I am a huge fan of Tana French and Broken Harbor definitely lived up to my expectations. First of all, her sense of mood and place is just brilliant. She sets the story squarely within the recession (similar to the recent Gone Girl), and uses the murder investigation to thoroughly examine how the economic roller coaster of the last five years affected some very ordinary people. In many ways it was hard to read about regular people trapped by their dreams.
But it’s Detective Kennedy who killed me in this one. As much as I love Cassie Maddox, I fell head over heels for Scorcher to the point where it physically hurt to watch him suffer. French gives him such exquisite depth and complexity that I didn’t want his story to end–especially the way that it does.
As a mystery, Broken Harbor doesn’t aim for the complexity of French’s other books, but that’s not a problem for me. Its relative simplicity ends up showing Scorcher’s talent as an investigator more than if he had followed a twisty rabbit hole of crazy. Instead, Scorcher has to dive deep into an emotional quagmire that matches his own.
And I have to mention Richie–oh, Richie! A rookie sent out on his first case with Scorcher, the two quickly discover their compatibility as partners. On the surface, this would seem like a good thing, but Scorcher has his reservations, and they don’t really make sense. The journey of their relationship is as satisfying as anything else in the story.
On a last note, I really wish I could get away with using some of the Irish phrasing that French gives her characters. But I’m afraid my Irish friends would be after taking the piss if I used the word “banjaxed” to describe my laptop after having a can of seltzer poured on it by my two-year-old. She’s only small, what does she know?
When the body of his first love is discovered 22 years after she failed to show up and elope to England, undercover detective Frank Mackey is sucked back into his dysfunctional and dangerous family.
Review: Faithful Place is yet another perfect read from Tana French. As Frank navigates the crime scene, even after being ordered to stay away from the case, his grief, nostalgia, and brokenness threaten to consume him. Nobody does bittersweet regret like Tana French. My heart ached for all these poor lost characters, whose dreams were all thwarted by the accident of birth and the ties of family.
I did guess the murderer’s identity pretty early on, but I think that was the point, to place us completely in Frank’s point of view. He missed it, even if I didn’t, and that says volumes about who he is. A romantic to the end, when he says that he and Rosie Daly lost the chance to be the happiest two people on earth, you believe him utterly.
I also have to give props to Tana French for her exquisitely musical dialogue. Her use of slang, profanity, and imagery perfectly limns the subtle class distinctions between her characters, which is another huge part of the story.
When a detective goes undercover to impersonate a murder victim sharing her face, she finds the family she’s always dreamed of and risks blowing everything.
I was a big fan of Tana French’s In the Woods, so I leapt at the chance to read The Likeness, her followup featuring several of the same characters.
Former detective Cassie Maddox is stuck in Domestic Violence after being forced off the Murder squad due to her role in the catastrophe outlined within In the Woods. A routine murder investigation turns very, very weird when it turns out that the victim, Lexie Madison, looks exactly like Cassie, and is using an identity created by Cassie back when she was working as an undercover agent. Her former boss in the undercover unit decides to send Cassie back to the home she shared with four housemates and see if she can ferret out the murderer by pretending to be Lexie.
The roommates, who think that Lexie was in a coma, are Bright Young Things, living a hermetically sealed, intellectually and aesthetically stimulating life inside Daniel’s family’s estate home. They’re the kind of glittering coterie that has appeared in books like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Danny Boyle’s excellent film Shallow Grave. Cassie is instantly seduced–both by the closeness she finds among the housemates, and by Lexie herself, whose bright exterior masked a rabbit’s warren of dark secrets.
The Likeness was a riveting read. I found myself stealing every available minute for it–dishes piling up, bathroom growing fuzzier by the minute, with Superfast Toddler mercifully cooperating by giving me some very long naps. I was as much in suspense over Cassie’s impending breakdown as I was with the identity of the murderer. French previously limned Cassie’s friendship with former partner Rob in such heartrending detail that I felt like their chaos was happening to me. Here, she builds a web of friendship that conjures up what my friend Megan calls pre-nostalgia–where you anticipate feeling nostalgic while something is unfolding, where the ache is part of the pleasure. More than just bittersweet, pre-nostalgia is self-inflicted yet inevitable. Just like Lexie’s death.
Oh, and The Likeness features an outstandingly poignant last paragraph that will mean nothing unless you read the whole book first. Don’t spoil it for yourself!
When a missing persons investigator goes missing herself, she discovers a world where the lost can be found–but can she find her way back home?
Review: There’s No Place Like Here is the second book by Cecelia Ahern, author of the immensely popular PS, I Love You, which I have not read. I picked up an ARC of this book at Book Expo, but put off reading it because I was anticipating something light and fluffy and not worth my time.
I was certainly mistaken. There’s No Place Like Here captivated my attention from page one, with the distinctive voice of protagonist Sandy Shortt (who is tall with black hair), and Ahern’s imaginative premise. I loved the use of magical realism in dealing with very deep issues of memory, loss, and longing.
We’ve all wondered where our lost socks go. And some of us have ached more poignantly for someone who has simply disappeared. Ahern imagines an answer to these questions, but what could have been a precious conceit comes to life with vivid emotional honesty.
Tangentially, There’s No Place Like Here was a refreshing change of pace from the grim ‘n’ glum fantasy I’ve been consuming lately. And it’s a reminder to me that my taste in reading is much broader than I sometimes think.
Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a movie buff as well as a Superfast Reader. So, in honor of today’s work read, I’m posting an entry in the Close-Up Blogathon, hosted by my friends over at The House Next Door. Matt Seitz has already posted a fabulous article on one of the final images in Raising Arizona. I’m also dedicating this post to the closing images in Into the Wild–a man’s face intercut with a man’s memories, confession, repentance, and salvation all on a face beyond words. (I was bawling like a baby. See this movie.)
The title of this post, “Too Many Notes,” comes from a standout scene in Milos Forman’s Amadeus. The emperor tells Mozart that his opera has too many notes. Mozart asks the emperor which His Majesty would have removed. Ha! This small scene reminds me of Kristin Thompson‘s seminal essay “The Concept of Cinematic Excess” found in the anthology Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology. Simply put, excess refers to images that bleed out from the screen, refusing to be contained by the superficial meanings found in the text of the film. Sometimes excess yields subtext; other times, excess offers a critique. The musical, being the most performance-dependent of all film genres, gives us excess at every turn. And it’s this excess that reminds us what movies do that books cannot.
So, in celebration of the power of the image, I’m offering up four of my favorite examples of cinematic excess in the musical. I didn’t adhere to the rules of the blog-a-thon exactly, because these aren’t close-ups of faces, but each is a moment that highlights performance, and the actor’s body, above all else.
Entranced by the folk tales of an old mountain man, and repulsed by the same man’s grisly crimes, Redmond Hatch struggles to narrate the events which led him to bring his beloved wife and daughter to winterwood.
I was upset by the way Winterwood seduced me. I did not want to be reeled in by Redmond and his elliptical storytelling because I knew that, between the lines, he was telling me stories I didn’t want him to be able to tell. I wanted to believe the surface of Redmond’s life, that he and his Catherine (and, later, his Casey) were blissfully happy, with no hand ever raised from husband to wife. I wanted to believe that winterwood was an impenetrable castle where loving parents and daughter Imogene barricaded themselves against the attackers without. Perhaps Redmond would have lost his life in the battle, but such a death would be preferable to the slow drip of madness that leaked out from every sentence Redmond spoke to me. Continue reading →