Genre: Crime

Harlequin’s Costume by Leonid Yuzefovich

Posted November 23, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

Harlequin’s Costume by Leonid YuzefovichTitle: Harlequin's Costume (Goodreads)
Author: Leonid Yuzefovich
Translator: Marian Schwarz
Series: Ivan Putilin #1
Published: Glagoslav Publications, 2013
Pages: 266
Genres: Crime, Historical Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

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I am very particular when it comes to crime novels; I like it to be dark and gritty. However there are some exceptions to the rule. Harlequin’s Costume is an exception, and I do not believe it is just my love of Russian literature. The premise of the novel is simple; set in St. Petersburg 1871, an Austrian military attaché is found murdered in his bed. Chief Inspector Ivan Dmetrievich Putilin leads the investigation for this high profile case. Although investigating this case is not going smoothly as the Tsar has also called in the secret police to find out if this murder was politically motivated.

What drew me to this novel was the fact that Ivan Putilin was a real person, he was the Tsar’s Chief of Police in St. Petersburg from 1866 to 1892. I am fascinated when authors manage to blend the line between fiction and reality. In particular when they take historical figures and add them into their novels. There is a fine line, and it is hard to get right. I think picking someone like Ivan Putilin is an easier pick as I cannot find much information about this man (I do not understand Russian so that causes limitation). I would imagine picking a well-known historical figure would require more research.

What I really enjoyed about Harlequin’s Costume was discovering Leonid Yuzefovich’s own interest. He was a history teacher and a Ph.D candidate of Sciences, with a focus in Russian diplomatic etiquette (particularly in the 15th-17th centuries). The novel has a focus in the Russian Empire politics, both foreign and domestic. With my love for Russian literature, I found myself focusing on the Soviet era and have not spent much time exploring the history around the Tsardom or the politics surrounding it. In fact my main knowledge in medieval politics comes from a video games like Crusader King II and Europia Universalis IV, so it was a thrill to learn more.

Harlequin’s Costume is a perfect blend of a historical crime novel and an exploration into Russian politics. The novel seamlessly was able to offer a thrilling read while still offering something far more detailed. I am curious to see if this will become Russia’s answer to a classic detective like Sherlock Holmes but I am also now interested in trying out Boris Akunin. While I would not call Harlequin’s Costume a perfect crime novel, it offered more than I expected and hope to read more of Ivan Putilin.

Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin

Posted April 22, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 4 Comments

Hide and Seek by Ian RankinTitle: Hide and Seek (Goodreads)
Author: Ian Rankin
Series: Inspector Rebus #2
Published: Wheeler Publishing, 1991
Pages: 397
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Library Book

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Detective Inspector John Rebus is back following the case in Knots and Crosses; this time he finds himself on a case that that may have supernatural elements to it. The body of a drug addict is found in a squat, in between two burnt down candles and a pentagram painted on the wall next to it. While most people were quick to discard this of a heroin overdose, Rebus is determined to investigate to find the true circumstances surrounding this death. What transpires is something far more sinister than a simple overdoes, is it murder? Or even worst, is it a conspiracy?

One thing that I really enjoyed about Knots and Crosses was the way Ian Rankin took on a different approach to the crime genre. The crime took a back seat in the story and the novel spent most of the time developing characters and building the backstory that will set up the rest of the series. I understand that Hide and Seek would not be able to continue developing John Rebus as a character the same way Knots and Crosses but I still expected more. I knew Rankin could write a crime novel that was not formulaic or unoriginal, but Hide and Seek was not on the same level as the first book in the series.

It has been come out that Hide and Seek was Ian Rankin’s attempt in presenting a modern take on The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. A story that fascinates Rankin; he has even filmed a documentary (Ian Rankin Investigates Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) exploring the origins of this classic from fellow Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson. There are a few nods to the classic found in this book from ‘Hide’ in the title of the novel and the private member’s club known as the Hyde club.

Ian Rankin found himself in the middle of a scandal when a case featuring similarities to the novel became apparent. This scandal was mentioned in parliament and two lawyers opened an investigation into Rankin to determine if there was any connection. While any allegations made towards Ian Rankin turned out to be false, this real life scandal gave this book some extra attention in the public eye.

I was very disappointed with Hide and Seek and will continue my search for a new crime series. I have very particular taste, but mostly I want a series that is dark, gritty, original and does not feel like a ‘crime of the week’ situation; is this too much to ask for? I thought Inspector Rebus may have been a good series to explore, but this novel convinced me otherwise. Not sure if the next book (Tooth and Nail) is any good but I do not think I will be finding out.

The Whites by Harry Brandt

Posted February 11, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 1 Comment

The Whites by Harry BrandtTitle: The Whites (Goodreads)
Author: Harry Brandt
Published: Bloomsbury, 2015
Pages: 333
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Library Book

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In the mid-90s, Billy Graves worked in the South Bronx as part of a special anti-crime unit. He made headlines when he accidently shot a ten year old boy, emotionally scarring Billy and damaging his career.  Eighteen years later, Billy has finally become a sergeant in Manhattan Night Watch. The Whites follows the life as Billy Graves as he gets a 4:00 am slashing of a man at Penn Station. However The Whites is much more than a police procedural, rather it covers the life of the people in working the night watch.

Harry Brandt is a pseudonym of crime writer Richard Price who has been acclaimed for his books, like Clockers. He adopted the pseudonym so he could explore his writing in a new direction. However, I have heard that the writing style turned out to be very similar to his other stuff. I have not read anything by Richard Price, but hearing it is similar I hope to pick up Clockers in the future.

What I think stands The Whites apart from a typical police procedural is the fact that Richard Price focuses mainly on the character development. I love exploring the lives of people working in a similar field and how the people are effected in different ways. Sure, Billy Graves is the primary focus and there is a great deal to do with the crime but Price really did a good job of not making this a typical crime novel.

The Whites is a fascinating read and the style of book I look for in police procedurals. The novel even made the Tournament of Books list, but I do not expect it to make it too far. It was a wonderful book but not something I would consider high literature. If you have some recommendations of other books similar to this, please let me know.

Mini Reviews; Crime Edition

Posted January 13, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Thriller / 14 Comments

I do not know if it is the fact that I have had some big months recently or that I associate violence with the holiday period but I have felt the need to read crime fiction lately. I think after a recent review of Dexter is Dead, I have been searching from a new crime series, and hopefully I will find one soon. As crime novels are hard to review without spoilers I thought I will combine them into a mini-review.

Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: Vanishing Games (Goodreads)
Author: Roger Hobbs
Series: Ghostman #2
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: Library Book

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Jack the Ghostman is backed, this time his mentor, Angela needs his help. After a heist to steal some uncut sapphires worth millions of dollars goes wrong, Angela finds herself in trouble. An unknown crime organisation seems to be after her and she is stuck in Macau without any help. She turned to her protégé in the hope to get back the sapphires and get out alive.

I remember Ghostman to be a fun, fast paced heist novel so when book two, Vanishing Games was released, I knew I would eventually read it. What worked really well in the book was the setting; Macau becomes this mysterious city full of uncertainty. A sovereign state of China, Macau is one of the richest countries in the world, thanks to housing the largest gambling district. A tourist attraction for high rollers, but still housing a seedy underbelly. I had a lot of fun with this book, it was fun and action packed, but still a typical heist novel which is not a bad thing

Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: In the Woods (Goodreads)
Author: Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad #1
Narrator: John McCormack
Published: Viking, 2007
Pages: 429
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Audiobook

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I have been recommended the Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French multiple times, not sure why. So I finally decided to pick up the first book In the Woods, which tells the story of Detective Rob Ryan and Detective Cassie Maddox assigned to the murder of a twelve year old girl. More than twenty years ago Ryan and two friends got lost in the same woods. He returned, but what happened to his friends remains a mystery.

This was a fresh and dark psychological suspense, which I enjoyed far more than I expected. My problem with best-seller crime novels is they tend to be very formulaic and unoriginal. Tana French managed to keep the same format but still made the book stand out. I think the chemistry between Ryan and Maddox played a big part of this. I was shipping the two and hoping they will end up together. I hear this series follows different characters in the Dublin murder squad which I am worried about, I want more from these two characters.

Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: Villain (Goodreads)
Author: Shūichi Yoshida
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Published: Vintage, 2011
Pages: 295
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Library Book

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One morning in January 2006, the body of a female insurance saleswoman, Yoshino was found dead on Mitsue Pass. A young construction worker, Yuichi is arrested for her murder. Shifting perspectives, Villain tells the story of the events leading up to Yoshino’s murder and the aftermaths.

Kosaku Yoshida is often considered as one of Japan’s best crime writers and as a fan of Japanese Lit, I knew I had to check one of his books out. However I was a little disappointed; the story was interesting but I was not a fan of the execution. I thought it builds up the suspense, then shifts perspective; which felt like it kept stopping and starting and that just felt too clunky. Yoshida explores the idea of alienation, which seems to be a common theme in Japanese fiction. This worked well, however this was not enough to redeem the novel for me.

Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: Hit Man (Goodreads)
Author: Lawrence Block
Series: Keller #1
Published: Harper Collins, 2002
Pages: 342
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: eBook

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Lawrence Block is a hard working pulp crime novelist, best known for his hard-boiled detective Matthew Scudder, gentleman thief Bernie Rhodenbarr and hit man John Keller. Hit Man is the first book in the Keller series, combining a collection of short stories to develop this character. This is an interesting technique and Block’s short story book One Night Stands and Lost Weekends remains one of my favourite crime collections. He manages to pack the same punch of a normal pulp novel into a stripped down story.

I enjoy Lawrence Block’s style; it is nice to know someone is trying to keep the pulp crime genre alive. However Hit Man is more of a thriller series, which develops the complexities of this character with short intervals for an assassination. I like the way the stories interlock as a way to introduce John Keller, I have never seen this technique and think it worked well. Having said that, I think this is a fun book but I am not sure if I will continue the series. I am looking for something darker and do not think the Keller series will give me what I desire.

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

Posted December 22, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 2 Comments

Knots and Crosses by Ian RankinTitle: Knots and Crosses (Goodreads)
Author: Ian Rankin
Series: Inspector Rebus #1
Published: Wheeler Publishing, 1987
Pages: 341
My Copy: Library Book

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I have been reading a lot non-fiction lately; my plan was to devote the entire November to non-fiction. However I got a little run down and found myself in need of some mindless fiction. I picked up Knots and Crosses, the first book in the Inspector Rebus by Ian Rankin. While writing my review of Dexter is Dead, I felt the need to find a new crime series to read through, but I have particular taste; I want something with an interesting protagonist and an overarching story arc. I have heard some good things about the Inspector Rebus series, so I thought I would check it out.

Knots and Crosses starts off telling a lot of the backstory of John Rebus, former member of Britain’s elite S.A.S. suffering from PTSD. Using his connections he got out of the army and joined the police force. However Edinburgh is being terrorised by a serial killer who is taking teenage girls and someone is sending Rebus mysterious notes.

There is something very different about Knots and Crosses to the normal bestselling crime novels, it deals with developing the main character and the mystery seems to be back story. I enjoyed the way Ian Rankin did this but I am unsure about the series; I might have to attempt another book first. I found the mystery completely obvious but that did not bother me much, I was more interested in the characters more than the plot.

I am not sure if there is an overarching story arc in this series but there were a few threads left, so hopefully this means book two will continue on. Unfortunately the crime is not dark and gritty, like I normally enjoy but the character development made up for that. I am not sure how this will fit in throughout the series but I am curious enough to find out. If you know of a crime series that you think I might like, please let me know.

The Devil’s Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth

Posted December 5, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Horror / 0 Comments

The Devil’s Detective by Simon Kurt UnsworthTitle: The Devil's Detective (Goodreads)
Author: Simon Kurt Unsworth
Published: Del Rey, 2015
Pages: 368
Genres: Horror
My Copy: Library Book

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Thomas Fool is one of the Devil’s Detectives, known as Information Men, his job is to keep order in Hell. When a badly bruised and unidentifiable body is discovered, Fool is given the case. The problem is, this is Hell and everyone is guilty of something. How can he investigate a murder where everything around him screams death? Who will come forward as a witness when everyone has something to hide?

I have been thinking a lot about writing better reviews and I feel like Simon Kurt Unsworth has made that job a whole lot easier with The Devil’s Detective. Before reading this book I had most of the themes worked out in my head. So let us start with the basic; a mystery novel is typically a quest narrative. We have the detective that is the hero of the story, setting out to solve a mystery. We know what the mystery is from the back of the novel but then again there always is something more going on.

If you think of the detective as the hero, it is easy to think a white knight on a journey to bring justice to the world. Although can this really be a morality tale? This is set in hell and if we go by the depiction of hell found in the Bible or Dante’s Inferno, it is one of hopelessness and despair. Assuming Unsworth is going to try to keep to the traditional narrative structures and also keep the Christian theology we can illuminate some core character traits.

There will be no true justice, Thomas Fool will not be a savour figure; he might solve the crime but they are still in Hell. Justice in Hell, seems unlikely. Now the idea of the detective being called an Information Man, leads me to think he will have knowledge of what goes on in Hell, but can he change anything? Considering the location this is unlikely, I do believe he will never effect the social balance, there will be no change and no real justice. If you do not believe me, consider his name, Fool.

I went into The Devil’s Detective with these preconceived thoughts, and turns out I was correct in thinking this way. I did not expect anything special, this novel was a light read; blending horror with a typical mystery plot. I wish I could say I enjoyed the book but I did not, there were no surprises and nothing stood out. I do think the theology was a little off and Unsworth’s depiction of Hell really needed work. If you want to read something set in Hell, I recommend Inferno; it has some of the best descriptions of what Hell might be like. Obviously we cannot be sure but it really does capture the despair and pain they we often associate with Hell.

Dexter is Dead by Jeff Lindsay

Posted November 25, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Dexter is Dead by Jeff LindsayTitle: Dexter Is Dead (Goodreads)
Author: Jeff Lindsay
Series: Dexter #8
Published: Orion, 2015
Pages: 286
My Copy: Library Book

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When I first started reading back in 2009, one of the series I became obsessed with was the Dexter Morgan series. I loved the concept of an anti-hero as the protagonist and Jeff Lindsay had come up with a good concept of a forensic analyst/sociopath. I liked exploring the mind of a killer but not just any sociopath; Dexter had a code, he could not control his urge to kill but he made it his mission to only hunt the people that deserved to die. We can talk about the moral complexities at great length but now I want to review Dexter is Dead.

This is the eighth and final book in the Dexter Morgan series; the books were a bit hit or miss but Dexter was a great character. Most people know of Dexter Morgan from the hit TV show Dexter, the character is the same but after the first book and season the two mediums took different directions. There are plenty of times where it felt like both the show and the books stole good ideas from each other but for the most part the storylines were different.

I cannot go into the plot of this one because it would contain too many spoilers; especially for book seven (Dexter’s Final Cut) as this takes place directly after those events. I liked that this novel took up after the last novel, bringing together a much larger plot; I want more crime novels to have an overarching plot line. I do not read many series, and I think the Dexter series is the only one I have spent so much time in, but I really enjoyed returning to such a great character.

Jeff Lindsay’s writing is not that strong and I felt there were many times where this book and series just got clunky or too clichéd. However because the protagonist was so well developed, this helped carry the bad writing. I am pleased to say Dexter is Dead is one of the stronger novels in the series and helped end everything on a high note. Also the ending of the book series is so much better than the ending of the TV show. I am going to miss the Dexter books and might have to find another crime series to replace the void it has left. Suggestions welcome.

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

Posted November 12, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan LethemTitle: Motherless Brooklyn (Goodreads)
Author: Jonathan Lethem
Published: Vintage, 1999
Pages: 311
My Copy: Paperback

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Frank Minna is a neighbourhood owner of a seedy detective agency, or he was until he was found stabbed to death. Lionel, along with Tony, Danny and Gilbert worked for Frank and were often collectively known as Minna Men. The group grow up together in St. Vincent’s Home for Boys and owe a lot to this small time mobster turned private eye. Lionel is determined to find out what happened by Frank.

This is my first Jonathan Lethem novel and I have been keen to read him for a long time. What I heard about Lethem is his ability to combine genre fiction and explore themes in an interesting way. Motherless Brooklyn does just this; under the vial of a hard-boiled detective novel, this also is a coming of age story as well as exploring life with Tourette’s syndrome. Lionel Essrog has lived with Tourette’s for his entire life, manifesting in physical and vocal tics. He is often referred to as Brooklyn’s human freakshow, which only begins to cover the reactions people to have Lionel’s disorder.

I have to admit I knew very little about Tourette’s syndrome going into this novel, I knew the effects but I did not fully grasp what was going through mind of someone living with the disorder. One of the things I love most about reading fiction is learning about the lives of people living in different cultures or living a different life than my own. Motherless Brooklyn allowed me to explore life living with Tourette, it was an eye opening novel.

On the surface Motherless Brooklyn is a pretty simple hard-boiled detective novel, but exploring growing up as an orphan in an all-boys home with Tourette’s makes this novel great. Jonathan Lethem is a brilliant writer; he takes a typical genre plot and explores just how complex the story can be. I believe The Fortress of Solitude does this with comic books (similar to The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), Gun, With Occasional Music with science fiction and Chronic City with drug culture. I have not read these books, so I might be wrong; either way I am keen to check them out.

I am so glad to have finally picked up a Jonathan Lethem book and Motherless Brooklyn was the perfect starting point. I wanted to stay in this world for as long as possible, and I ended up slowing down on my reading. I have since discovered to joys of reading slowly with The Valley of the Dolls, but Motherless Brooklyn may have been my starting point. I have no idea which Lethem book to read next, I might have to try to get to all of them. Motherless Brooklyn was a great book and I loved that it was set in a hard-boiled setting. The combination between the genre style and understanding Tourette’s worked really well for this novel; highly recommend Motherless Brooklyn to everyone.

October 2015 Mini Reviews

Posted October 27, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary, Crime, Literary Fiction, Thriller / 2 Comments

October 2015 Mini ReviewsTitle: World Gone By (Goodreads)
Author: Dennis Lehane
Series: Coughlin #3
Published: William Morrow, 2015
Pages: 416
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Library Book

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Ten years after the events from Living by Night by Dennis Lehane, World Gone By, tells the story of Joe Coughlin in a changing world. Prohibition is now dead, the world is at war again and Joe’s enemies have destroyed his empire and killed his wife. The novel is set in both in Cuba and Ybor City, Florida and World Gone By explores the implications of Joe Coughlin’s past. A novel of crime, revenge and the moral complexity of a criminal past while being a good example for his son.

I am somewhat discontent with the state of popular crime fiction and find myself longing to be surprised. Normally I am a fan of crime novels and like to explore the psychological or gritty nature of the plot. World Gone By seems to offer something different, I did not connect with Living By Night, but the synopsis of its sequel was enough to raise my interest. Sadly, this was unable to deliver, and I felt disconnected to the plot due to the fact that it was overly cliché. I wanted to enjoy this book; the time era and the premise are two elements I love in fiction and I had heard such good things. I need to stop listening to hype, or maybe I should give up on crime fiction all together.

October 2015 Mini ReviewsTitle: Mislaid (Goodreads)
Author: Nell Zink
Published: Fourth Estate, 2015
Pages: 288
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

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Set in 1966, at the campus of Stillwater College, Mislaid tells the story of Peggy. A freshman with literary aspirations, Peggy finds herself falling for Lee, a poet and one of her professors. Peggy falls pregnant and the two end up married. The only problem is, Peggy identifies herself as a lesbian and Lee as gay. This turns into some wry joke; they are an odd couple that has been mislaid.

Nell Zink takes it upon herself to explore the complex issue of sexuality with a mismatched pair stuck in a marriage that neither are interested in. The problem with Mislaid, is that this is such a complex issue and Zink was unable to handle the novel in a way it deserves. From the first chapter when the term ‘Mecca for lesbians’ was used, I felt uneasy about the way the GSM (Gender and/or Sexual Minorities) community was being treated. Then the wit found in Mislaid did not work for the majority of the novel. I was less than impressed with this book; it could have been a great story but nothing seemed to come together the way I expected.

October 2015 Mini ReviewsTitle: Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico (Goodreads)
Author: Javier Marías
Translator: Esther Allen
Published: New Directions, 1996
Pages: 57
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

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I do not know how I found this little gem, I would like to know who recommended it so I could personally thank them. Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico is a short novella that tells the story of Ruibérriz de Torres who is brought in to translate for Elvis Presley who is in Mexico to film Fun in Acapulco. While in town, Elvis and his entourage, find themselves in a seedy bar where they get into a little trouble with a local kingpin.

Javier Marías has managed to create a punchy story that explores a complex life of a translator, on one hand he has a big famous singer/actor that the world idolises and adores but his entourage has got him into trouble with a crime lord that is feared in Acapulco. Ruibérriz de Torres is stuck in the middle unsure if he should be translating the words that could get everyone into a fight. Should he censor the words for either Elvis or the kingpin just to keep the peace? This novella explores the idea of translations and the second hand nature of words, in a very meta way since this novella was translated from the Spanish into English by Esther Allen. This is only fifty pages long, but manages to explore a complex issue in a very interesting way; I have not been able to stop thinking about the ideas found in Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico.

October 2015 Mini ReviewsTitle: Leaving Berlin (Goodreads)
Author: Joseph Kanon
Translator: Esther Allen
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

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Almost four years after World War II, Berlin is a mess, divided in two. The east is occupied but the political ideas from the Soviet Union and the Allies are trying to control the west. This power struggle will later divide Germany into two with the erecting of the Berlin wall in 1961. Alex Meier is a young Jewish writer who managed to flee Nazi Germany to find a home in America. Only he found himself in the crosshairs of Joseph McCarthy during his “Red Scare” witch hunts. Alex and his family are now facing deportation; that was until he was given an alternative by the CIA but is this a solution at all?

The setting for Leaving Berlin is fascinating, the rebuilding and restoration of Germany is interesting enough as it is, but then you have the political struggle and influences of America and the Soviet Union as well. The American propaganda towards communism plays a big part in this espionage novel, and reading a book about a country being torn apart by the Cold War was really interesting. I am very interested in the history behind the Cold War, especially when it comes to the way the media was used to manipulate and of course I am interesting in the Soviet Union. As far as this novel goes, it was entertaining and I enjoyed reading it, however the setting and political history interested me more than the plot. I would have enjoyed a non-fiction novel of post-war Berlin more than Leaving Berlin, but that does not mean I regretted reading it.

The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith

Posted August 14, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Thriller / 0 Comments

The Two Faces of January by Patricia HighsmithTitle: The Two Faces of January (Goodreads)
Author: Patricia Highsmith
Published: Sphere, 1964
Pages: 306
Genres: Crime, Thriller
My Copy: Library Book

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Con artist Chester MacFarland is wanted by the police back in America, but here in Greece, he feels free to roam with his young Colette. That was until he accidently kills a police officer in his hotel room. The young American law graduate, Rydal Keener is there to help them escape the city. This accident has brought the three together but is this for the best or is there something else at play?

Patricia Highsmith is often referred to as the queen of suspense and The Two Faces of January does not do anything to contradict this. The title alone gives the reader a pretty clear idea of what to expect; the month of January is named after the Roman god Janus. Janus has two faces, one looking to the future while the other looks at the past. The term Janus-faced means “having two sharply contrasting aspects or characteristics”. In the biography Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson, Highsmith stated that the title was a reference to the flux-like nature of the characters that she likes to create.

When it comes to character development, Patricia Highsmith really shines like no other. She has a great ability to create complex characters that feel authentic, and that is an ability that I find lacking in a lot of suspense novels. In The Two Faces of January, Highsmith creates a love triangle that is actually interesting to read about. There is the homoerotic relationship between Chester and Rydal and Colette is also quite taken by this young law graduate. This turns the book into more of a psychological look at the shifting nature of relationships rather than a thriller. It does depends on how the reader decides to read The Two Faces of January but for me the depth is what stood out for me.

I probably should mention that The Two Faces of January was adapted into a movie back in 2014 starring Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac. This was the directorial debut for Hossein Amini, who is best known writing the screenplay for the novels Drive and Our Kind of Traitor; he even wrote the script for The Two Faces of January. I know I need to have more Highsmith within my reading life and I am thinking about re-reading The Talented Mr Ripley, before continuing on with the series. I have noticed there are new editions of the Highsmith’s novels lately and I think I should take advantage of the availability while they are easily accessible.