Source: Library Book

Back to Moscow by Guillermo Erades

Posted January 25, 2017 by Michael Kitto in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Back to Moscow by Guillermo EradesTitle: Back to Moscow (Goodreads)
Author: Guillermo Erades
Published: Scribner, 2016
Pages: 371
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

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Martin has just arrived in Moscow, on the advice of an old girlfriend (she thought it would be easier to score a scholarship from a Russian university). He plans to finish his studies and write a thesis on the Russian heroine, exploring the difference between Russian literature and the western world. However, it is the early 2000s and Moscow is changing rapidly, and the appeal of nightclubs, woman and cheap alcohol is distracting him from his study. Guillermo Erades’ debut novel Back to Moscow is a booze soaked exploration of an aspiring writer in a new setting.

Do not get me wrong, I love those novels that are set in New York that follow to wannabe writers that are often difficult men. I cannot get enough of those types of stories but this is so much better, for starters this is about Russian literature. Back to Moscow thrilled me from start to finish because of the setting and the exploration into Russian classics that appeared at the start of every part.

I am normally am hesitant in picking up a book set in Russia by a western author, but I seem to have decent luck with Spanish authors. Granted I have only read Encyclopedia of a Life in Russia by Jose Manuel Prieto and now Back to Moscow but both have impressed me greatly. Maybe my hesitancy should be directed towards American authors rather than the entire western society. I find the lack of knowledge of Russia often reflects poorly on the author.

With Back to Moscow, the whole novel was structured around understanding Russia and its literature and this is a quest that I am personally on as well, so my gushing review is inevitable. I also enjoy reading about terrible people and Martin fits into that category but I never thought of him as an anti-hero. I had some empathy for him, partly because I have made so many of those stupid mistakes. I have put my desire for pleasure over the feelings of others and as result hurt myself and the people I love.

This does not mean I sympathise with Martin; I did get frustrated with every selfish action but I could relate (as much as I hate to admit it). Add that to the mix of an antisocial writer with a passion for Russian literature, and you have someone that closely resembles me (although the bad life choices are over for me, thankfully). I do wonder if Back to Moscow is at all autobiographical, because the way he writes makes me think this is the case.

I like the focus on exploring the differences between Russia and western society. This becomes the focus of the novel. It is this exploration that allows people to try and gain a better understanding of the differences. One of Martin’s friends even said. “You Westerners are always angry because you want to change everything in life. We Russians are always sad because we know that most things cannot be changed.” This quote really stuck with me in really understanding the differences. There is so much more to understand, but I am working on an essay on Russian literature (stay tuned).

“Russia is lost” she continued. “First we had God. Then we had Lenin. Now we have nothing.”

Without giving away much about the plot, I will say that this debut novel impressed me greatly. There is a definite affection for Russia and the classics coming from the author and I think that is the appeal. The novel ends with the perfect metaphor for the entire story and Russia literature itself.

“In Metro systems around the world, a screen about the platform shows the time left until the arrival of the next train. Five minutes. Four minutes. Three minute. Two minutes. One minute. Then the countdown stops and you feel the breeze and you hear the rattle of a new train approaching through the tunnel.

Not in Moscow.

In Moscow’s metro, the electronic counter about the platform shows the time that has passed since the departure of the last train. With unnecessary precision, the seconds keep adding up one by one, informing you not about the train to come, but the one you’ve missed, the train that would be carrying you, if only you arrived earlier. But that train is for ever gone. You don’t know when the next one will arrive.”

The back of the novel compares Guillermo Erades to Ben Lerner and Bret Easton Ellis, while I can see the comparison with Larner, I debate the other. I think the only thing Erades and Ellis have in common is their ability to write a difficult men. Back to Moscow is one of those books that I wanted to turn back to page one and re-read straight away. I cannot say this is a novel that will appeal to everyone, it appealed to me for the reasons I have mentioned. I do not think there is anything profound to get from this book, but the quotes I have added to this review are lines that stuck with me. I find it hard to review this critically because I got so much out of it personally. If you have a love of Russia and its literature then maybe you need to give this book a go as well.


In the Café of Lost Youth by Patrick Modiano

Posted January 16, 2017 by Michael Kitto in Contemporary / 0 Comments

In the Café of Lost Youth by Patrick ModianoTitle: In the Café of Lost Youth (Goodreads)
Author: Patrick Modiano
Translator: Euan Cameron
Published: MacLehose Press, 2007
Pages: 160
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

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Recently I read my first Patrick Modiano novel, Missing Person which I enjoyed immensely. So much so, that I picked up In the Café of Lost Youth soon after. This book follows three different narrators talking about their memories of a woman named Louki. The four different perspectives (one being Louki herself) paints a detailed portrait of this one woman, Jacqueline ‘Louki’ Delanque. A woman that grew up in poverty, the daughter of a single mother working in the Moulin Rouge, and someone that comes across as well liked and popular.

In the Café of Lost Youth is a wonderful character portrayal, exploring someone that has had a hard life but appears to have it together. However, this novel explores the idea of loneliness while also looking at that perception we put to others. I think Patrick Modiano has this unique ability to capture the feeling of loneliness, especially while surrounded by people. The aggrieved husband, a private investigator hired by said husband and a student in a café all show different sides of this woman and piecing it all together allows you to see the complete picture (or is it?).

I said this in my review of Missing Person as well, Patrick Madiano won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2014. The committee awarded him this prestigious prize “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable of human destinies”. This is also used as a blurb (or a stripped-down version of this quote) for this novel, and with good reason. The way that In the Café of Lost Youth explores the idea of memory is what drew me to Missing Person as well and one of the reasons Modiano is worth exploring.

One major concern I have about reading In the Café of Lost Youth so close to Missing Person is the fact that they do draw on similar themes. While the plot is very different it still felt the same. I am not saying I did not enjoy In the Café of Lost Youth, rather that I will need to allow some time to elapse before dipping into Modiano again. I still think he is an excellent writer and one worth exploring. The way he explores loneliness and memory are worth checking out.


Missing Person by Patrick Modiano

Posted November 29, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Missing Person by Patrick ModianoTitle: Missing Person (Goodreads)
Author: Patrick Modiano
Translator: Daniel Weissbort
Published: Verba Mundi, 1978
Pages: 192
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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I have been wanting to read Patrick Modiano; not only has he won a handful of awards, he is the recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel was “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable of human destinies” but the committee also called him the “Marcel Proust of our time”. Unfortunately, not many of his novels have been translated from the French into English, despite the fact that he is so prolific (I counted six English translations prior to winning the Nobel Prize in Literature and a further eight since winning).

Missing Person appeared to be the perfect starting point for me, as it covered two elements that I am drawn to in literature, noir and philosophy. The novel follows Guy Roland, who was been working for Constantin van Hutte in his detective agency for the past eight years. As Hutte has decided to retire, Roland embarks on one last case, to find out who he really is. Guy Roland (a name given to him by Hutte) lost his memories during the war and is essentially a blank slate.

What drew me into this story was the cinematic style; it feels like a French film noir. The French title of the novel is Rue des Boutiques Obscures, which translates to the Street of Dark Shops. This is not a hard-boiled story, as Roland is not hard-boiled in anyway; this is what I would probably call existentialist noir. A perfect blend of the mysterious setting; dark cafes and plenty of wine and cigarettes. With the enhanced feeling of being completely lost, as Roland tries to find out who he really is.

“The sand holds the traces of our footsteps but a few moments.”

Essentially this is a novel exploring the ideas of identity and memories. I like the way Modiano played with the idea of a blank slate. What defines this person? What makes up this man’s character, and will what defined him in the past return to him? An exploration into the way people remember you and how that shapes your character and personality. Roland tries on different personas; in his investigation he may not discover who he really is but he adopts this ideas of people to see if it feels right or sparks a memory. The way memory plays out in the novel is particularly interesting; in one scene he recalls a love affair with a woman, but fifteen years after the breakup she denies that it ever happened. So you are left wondering if it did happen, or is this a distortion of the truth or maybe even a suppression of her past.

This is the type of novel you do not read for the plot. Missing Person is meant to explore an idea, invoke an emotion and get you thinking about identity and memories. The pulp-ish style to this novel really worked for m., I love the idea of investigating yourself; playing with the idea of self-discovery and identity. I will be exploring more from Patrick Modiano; in particular I want to try his novel Honeymoon. I am glad I read Missing Person and I have not been able to stop thinking about the ideas explored in this novel.


Happy Moscow by Andrei Platonov

Posted October 14, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Short Stories / 0 Comments

Happy Moscow by Andrei PlatonovTitle: Happy Moscow (Goodreads)
Author: Andrei Platonov
Translator: Robert Chandler
Published: Vintage, 1991
Pages: 263
Genres: Short Stories
My Copy: Library Book

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“Life has become better, comrades, life has become merrier” – Joseph Stalin

Happy Moscow was an unfinished novel by Andrei Platonov, finally published in 1991 and yet it still became one of his greatest works. It is believed that Platonov started the novel in about 1932 but abandoned it a few years later. Happy Moscow tells the story of Moscow (or Moskva) Ivanovna Chestnova, an orphan trying to make her way through life. Named after the Soviet capital, Moscow becomes a metaphor for life under Stalin.

The story of a woman’s struggle through life is an obvious metaphor for Russia’s own journey starting with the revolution. Starting off with a clear and ascending life however as the years go by, life becomes more and more complex. Dreams turn into distant memories as responsibility and bumps along the way happen. While Andrei Platonov was a communist, his novels were often banned due to his criticism towards Stalin regarding collectivization and other policies. It is easy to see why Platonov would leave this novel unfinished out of fear of the consequences.

This anarchic satire is very odd to read, it is fragmented due to it being left unfinished and Platonov’s experimental or avant-garde style. There is a complex struggle that comes out in the writing, making this more of the writings of a man trying to understand his own views. This alienating struggle that unfolds on the page is what made Happy Moscow an interesting read because Platonov’s writing style was a struggle. Platonov is a philosopher, using his writing to explore his ideas, often drawing on Marxism or Leninism while criticising Stalinism. Stalin obviously did not see Platonov as having any worth in literature but his feelings were some what complex, calling him a “fool, idiot, scoundrel” and then “a prophet, a genius” in the same meeting. Platonov was eventually arrested and exiled to a labour camp as an anti-communist (anti-Stalinist would be a better suited term).

The book I read contained a few short stories and a screenplay with the unfinished novel Happy Moscow. These stories include ‘The Moscow Violin’, ‘On The First Socialist Tragedy’, ‘Father’ and ‘Love for the Motherland’. While all had their own themes they all seem to have similar threads that tie them back to Happy Moscow. Andrei Platonov was a difficult author to tackle, but I am glad I did it. There are a few more of his novels I would like to get to including The Foundation Pit but I think they will be in the distant future


The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

Posted June 2, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Gap of Time by Jeanette WintersonTitle: The Gap of Time (Goodreads)
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Series: Hogarth Shakespeare
Published: Hogarth, 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

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I have not read many of Shakespeare’s plays. I remember in high school I did do Romeo and Juliet and all I remember is watching the movie. Since starting my reading journey, I have now read Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. Hogarth have announced that they will be releasing modern retellings (they are calling them cover versions) of Shakespeare plays in celebration of the 400th anniversary of his passing. This will be including books by Howard Jacobson, Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson. The first novel in this series is Jeanette Winterson’s interpretation of The Winter’s Tale called The Gap of Time.

I had to read The Gap of Time for book club and I will admit I was nervous, having never read the original play, but was happy to finally check out something by Jeanette Winterson. I am not sure if not reading The Winter’s Tale, put me at a disadvantage but I approached this book as a new story, not knowing what parts are influenced directly from the original text. I noticed many themes of identity, jealousy, forgiveness, parenting, power, race and sexuality but unsure if this was the work of Winterson. I know Jeanette Winterson often explores sexual identity in her novels but that does not mean William Shakespeare did not have an interest in the topic.

I read this book more like a coming of age story, exploring the idea of family in a modern day setting. There are elements of romance but for the most part it was a story of discovery and identity. It was playful (with quotes from Shakespeare in the text) and at times tragic. I think this is a balance that Shakespeare does really well in the plays I have read and Jeanette Winterson seemed to capture this really well in The Gap of Time.

I found this to be an enjoyable novel even if I could not compare it to the original text. I am impressed with Jeanette Winterson but I would be more interested in checking out what she can do without being constrained to a pre-set plot. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Sexing the Cherry are both books I would love to read in the near future. As for the Hogarth cover versions, I am not sure how many I will read. There are some great authors being selected but I think reading the original text beforehand would be a huge advantage. Only problem is, I have a huge reading list already and not sure when I will get a chance to read more Shakespeare.


Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin

Posted April 22, 2016 by Michael Kitto 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.


Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Posted April 21, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander EssbaumTitle: Hausfrau (Goodreads)
Author: Jill Alexander Essbaum
Published: Pan Macmillan, 2015
Pages: 336
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

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Lisa Benz is a thirty-something American living in Switzerland with her new husband. While he is off working as a banker, she is alone to look after the kids; she cannot do much else because she has yet to learn German. Lisa wants to be the perfect mother and wife but she is unhappy and alone. Hausfrau is the punchy debut novel from poet Jill Alexander Essbaum.

If you look at Jill Alexander Essbaum’s Goodreads profile, you will see that she is obsessed with many things, including puns, sex, God and words. These kind of obsessions lead her to become a poet; her collections of poetry often feature religious and erotic imagery within them. I have heard mixed reviews of Hausfrau in the past, but when I heard her on the Literary Disco podcast, I knew I had to check it out. I think Essbaum’s love for putting words in the right way helped to release a strong debut novel.

The novel follows the life of Lisa Benz, who is unhappy and alone, which leads her to make some bad decisions. Hausfrau is a typical domestic novel exploring one person’s unhappiness in their marriage. However this book still feels fresh and different to the others, not just because it is the wife who is making terrible choices. I found Jill Alexander Essbaum took an interesting take on the importance of communication and the idea that a marriage should be a partnership. She explores the breakdown of the marriage and makes it obvious the root causes.

I really enjoyed Hausfrau and it was nice to see a destructive female character for a change; it always feels like the husband is the one that ruins everything. Jill Alexander Essbaum really knows how to write and I am very interested in trying her poetry, especially her erotic religious poetry. I think Essbaum will be an author to take notice of in the future and I eagerly await her next novel.


The Whites by Harry Brandt

Posted February 11, 2016 by Michael Kitto 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.


Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar

Posted February 3, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Graphic Novel / 0 Comments

Superman: Red Son by Mark MillarTitle: Superman: Red Son (Goodreads)
Author: Mark Millar
Artist: Dave Johnson
Published: DC Comics, 2014
Pages: 168
Genres: Graphic Novel
My Copy: Library Book

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What if Superman never crashed in Smallville Kansas? What if he lands in the Soviet Union? How different would the story be? Mark Millar has created this alternative history in Superman: Red Son. Growing up in a Ukrainian collective farm, Red Son explores an alternate version of the Cold War. Rather than fighting for ‘truth, justice and the American way’, Superman works with Joseph Stalin and champions the communist ideals.

I was a little hesitant in reading Superman: Red Son; there was always a chance that this mini-series would just be propaganda, proclaiming the brilliance of Capitalism and the American way. While there is a little of this that bleeds through, for the most part, Mark Millar has taken a fair approach. If you think about the ideals that Superman has, it does closely align with the Communist ideal; equality for all. In the graphic novel, we often see Superman and Soviet leaders in disagreements about the way things should be done, reminding them of their own greed or desire for power.

There was an ideology within the soviet era of how a man should act, this is known as the new Soviet man. A new Soviet man is selfless, learned, healthy, muscular, and enthusiastic in spreading the socialist Revolution. I found it interesting how Mark Millar managed to capture this ideology and how easy it fits Superman’s own personality. While eager for the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact, Superman championed the Soviet ideals but would avoid violence whenever possible.

Interestingly enough, Mark Millar seems to capture a problematic America, that wish to intervene in the way the Soviet Union is run. While time and time again, Superman shows that he does not intend to inflict harm on the country. They still enlist Lex Luthor and S.T.A.R. Labs to help fight the spread of communism, exploring what I think was the major problem with the Cold War. If you look at the history of the Cold War, it feels like the majority of it could have been avoided if America just let the Soviet Union (and other Communist countries like Vietnam) fail on their own. This is obviously a personal opinion on the Cold War, I am aware that it was far more complex than an anti-communist war.

I may have read Superman: Red Son differently to others, but I truly enjoyed the experience. There are some interesting ideas explored, and I enjoyed the alternative versions of not only Superman, but other superheroes like Wonder Woman and Batman. There are a few flaws with the comic mini-series but for the most part, I found this to be a fresh take on the Superman story. It would be nice if this was a bigger series but for the most part Mark Millar wrote a great story and the illustrations by Dave Johnson and Kilian Plunkett were stunning.


Mini Reviews; Crime Edition

Posted January 13, 2016 by Michael Kitto 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.