Monthly Archives: June 2014

Ian Rankin’s “Tooth and Nail”

     Inspector John Rebus is a bad boy. Rough-edged and scruffy, he breaks the rules and rides roughshod over the London proprieties as he takes on a helping role in solving their particularly ugly murder case. Out of his Scottish element, he scrapes his way through the strange terrain of London cops and barristers, stepping on toes, and earning himself more than a few bruises and kicks to the head.

     He rates himself as someone with “more ambition than ability”, but his grit and courage leads the story to a very surprising and satisfying conclusion, and Rebus’ ability is clearly a match for his ambition.

     This is part of a sturdy series of detective stories that invite me back. I may try the first one Rankin gave us, Knots and Crosses, and take a trip to his “skull-grey coasts”.

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The Fifth Woman by Henning Mankell

     I am drawn to Kurt Wallender and feel a sympathy for the cop and his “need to understand” the underpinnings of whatever unnatural death comes under his investigation.
     Wallender is exhausted by the heavy weight of fear and dread that comes along with the piece- by- piece assembly of clues and theories, the dead ends. the battering against what seems impenetrable.
     We have heard the story of the lonely, gritty detective–divorced, alienated, grimly determined–for many years, but Wallender seems to me to be one of the loneliest, most dedicated of the lot.
     Years ago, we somehow thought of Sweden as happy, sunny and blonde. Nowadays the Scandinavian criminals and detectives we are meeting in novels are grim, gray and gritty. There is the rich storytelling of Steig Larsson and his genius with the dragon tattoo. But we have also discovered some other magicians of the dark lands of murder from Norway and Sweden. Mankell and Wallender are two of my favorites.

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Rounding the Mark by Andrea Camilleri

Resuming my investigation of great detectives of the world, I’m back in Italy.  

Inspector Montalbano is ponderous–sluggish, even–and, as is demonstrated in the work of other stars of the Italian murder mystery, he must labor not only through the duplicity and villainy of the assorted characters involved in perpetrating the mayhem, but through the treacherous law-enforcement apparatus of the Italian police.  Once he works his way through the murk, and sees the glimmer of light, however, he pushes the case along with alacrity to its conclusion.  This is a neat story, with two apparently unconnected murders coming to a solution simultaneously.

One of the delights of this story is the repartee.  Since I come from a background of Italian folks, I especially enjoyed this here.  There is an operatic nature in lots of Italian conversation, (whether spoken in English or Italian), with lots of performance, cajoling, kidding and a generous dose of hyperbole.  While this translation seems a little clumsy in patches in this regard, there is still visible the generous, expressive shrug, the dead-pan punch line and the put-on.

It is a wonderful, straightforward read, with more than a little genuinely rendered pathos and humor, so I’m looking forward to another visit to Sicily.

 

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