Posts Tagged ‘Crime Noir’

Jim Thompson’s The Grifters

February 8th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Crime, Fiction, Kelly
 

GriftersJim Thompson focuses on the dark side of life in The Grifters. All three major characters are con artists, and at first, they don’t know the others are also in the game. Their greed and perverse love permeate the novel.

After reading the Red Riding Quartet, this novel didn’t seem shockingly dark. The Grifters showcases bad people doing unforgivable acts. Which just doesn’t mean the novel isn’t dark as disturbing, just that the noir genre has evolved since Thompson wrote in the 1950s.

Thompson’s writing is fearless, and I enjoyed the twist at the end. Roy Dillon has a chance at redemption and a real job, but his past won’t relinquish him. This novel is a great choice for fans of pulp novels, and authors such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Patricia Highsmith.

Read by: Kelly

Title: The Grifters
Author: Jim Thompson
Read: February 2011
Source: Public Library

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Åsa Larsson’s Sun Storm

February 5th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Award-Winning, Crime, Fiction
 

Sun StormReading Swedish crime fiction makes me wonder: is Sweden really so full of murder and evilness? Or do the dark, cold winter days and nights encourage sinister novels focused on the dark area of the human psyche?

Sun Storm, winner of Sweden’s Best First Crime Novel Award, deals with religion, hypocrisy, abuse, mental illness, and perhaps redemption over the course of the story. It’s setting of Kiruna, the northernmost city in Sweden, is important. Its remoteness and isolation are integral to the story.

The story starts off when charismatic religious figure Viktor Strandgard is brutally murdered in the revivalist church he created, The Source of All Our Strength. Rebecca Martinsson returns to Kiruna, her hometown, to support Viktor’s sister. The reader slowly learns Rebecca’s past as she unravels the truth and protects Sanna’s children from multiple forms of evil. Pregnant inspector Anna-Maria, her counterpart Sven-Erik, and a blow-hard Assistant Chief Prosecutor round out the cast.

Fans of Henning Mankell or Stieg Larsson’s The Millennium Trilogy will appreciate Sun Storm.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Sun Storm (published as The Savage Alter in the UK)
Author: Åsa Larsson
Read: February 2011
Source: Public Library

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1983 and Red Riding Quartet Wrap-up

January 23rd, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Crime, Fiction
 

David Peace's1983It’s impossible to talk about David Peace’s 1983 without putting into context as the final installment of the Red Riding Quartet. The first three novels in the quartet (1974, 1977, and 1980) tell the stories of both the Yorkshire Ripper and a child rapist/murderer. Each novel is told from different viewpoints from the novels before. In 1983, the story is told through three viewpoints: Maurice Jobson, high ranking police officer, John Piggott, Lawyer, and BJ, male prostitute. These three have the perspective to shed partial light on the mysteries that permeate the novels.

Some of the shadowy characters from the first three books are pulled somewhat into focus in the final installment, such as Reverend Laws, whom I assume is an unrecognized serial killer who preys on the weak. The police in this series aren’t much better, physically abusing suspects to force confessions so they can pin crimes on the innocent. Arguably the only people in the series who are innocent—the children—are victimized by the lack of true justice, as it allows abusers to walk free and the wrongfully accused to molder in jail.

The quartet shows a murky and unclear world with flawed, unlikable, and corrupt people. People who are somewhat decent and try to get to the center of the corruption or decay end up ruined.

Peace is purposefully repetitive, with whole passages repeated verbatim between both novels and within a single passage. This creates a mood and ambiance within the novel, even if it doesn’t always push the plot forward. But that’s okay, since atmosphere is at least as important as the plot in this dense and dark series. He also uses run-on sentences, sometimes lasting over a page, in interesting ways.

1983 didn’t bring about a full resolution of the various plotlines, although key elements, such as the identity (or identities) of the child rapist/murderer were resolved. There are lots of loose ends in this series, and I assume this by authorial intent. For example:

I assume Eddie Dunford died at the end of 1974, but it’s never confirmed in the text. Several people are clearly haunted by his memory, but if it’s because he died or went crazy, disappeared, etc is never shown.  Dunford drives a Viva throughout 1974, and there’s a mysterious old Viva in 1983. Does it belong to Leonard Marsh, son of a boogeyman, or is the Viva meant to imply Dunford is still there?  Is it an echo and/or ghost from the past?

The Red Riding Quartet was adapted into a film trilogy, and I’ll have to see how the filmmakers interpreted some of Peace’s more ambivalent plot lines, and how they summed up the stories. I’ll be interested in whether or not they left plot lines dangling, or if they tied the series up neatly with a little bow. The Red Riding Quartet isn’t unlike real life. For example, look at the Kyron Harmon case in Oregon. A young child disappears from school, and nine months or so later, has yet to be found. No arrests have been made. Someone out there knows the truth, but the story isn’t resolved, and might never be.

I’d definitely recommend this series to people that enjoy crime noir and atmospheric novels, with the caveat that it’s a dark, brutal, and violent series with an open ended conclusion. It’s not going to leave you happy at the end, but it will make you think.

Reviewed by: Kelly

Title: 1983
Author: David Peace
Read: January 2011
Source: Public Library

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1980 by David Peace

January 9th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Crime, Fiction, Kelly
 

1980 by David Peace1980 surprised me in one way: the protagonist, Peter Hunter, is likable. He’s not perfect, but he’s the closest to be a good guy yet in the Red Riding Quartet.

The novel begins when Hunter, a “clean” cop, is brought in from Manchester to review the Yorkshire Ripper case and offer a new perspective. He’s distrusted from the start, as he’s been brought to Yorkshire before to investigate police officers.

Like everyone who’s come into contact with the murders in this series, he’s caught into the tangled web of Yorkshire police corruption, and his life crumbles around him.  Meanwhile, the Yorkshire Ripper still lurks in the shadows, preying upon women.

1980 clarifies a few plot points brought up in the previous novels, and shows how the past is misinterpreted, hidden, or covered up with seemingly malicious intent. Like the rest of the series, the novel’s filled of imagery of rot and decay, and full of racism, sexism, corruption, police brutality, and sexual violence towards women.

The writing moves along at a furious pace, and passages and sentences are repeated, like echoes. I look forward to the final installment of this series—1983—and am interested to see how the quartet will be pulled together. (For example, maybe I’ll find out if Eddie Dunford from 1974 is actually dead.)

Reviewed by: Kelly

Novel: 1980
Author: David Peace
Read: January 2011
Source: Public Library

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David Peace’s 1977: even more dark and brutal than 1974

January 3rd, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Crime, Kelly, Mystery
 

1977From 1975 to 1981, the Yorkshire Ripper preyed upon women, murdering thirteen and injuring seven. While the majority of his victims were prostitutes, some were ‘ordinary’ women with regular jobs and lives. One murder victim was just sixteen years old.

David Peace’s 1977 is a fictionalized account of the hunt for the real life serial killer. The novel follows two characters: a slightly corrupt cop, and a jaded journalist. Both characters are present in the first novel in the Red Riding Quartet, 1974, although this novel brings them into focus.

Jack Whitehead, the journalist, is haunted by crimes he’s covered, and by the actions of his coworker Eddie from the first novel. Detective Sergeant Bob Fraser seemed like he was on the up-and-up in the first novel, so either the corruption of his fellow police officers has rubbed off on him, or he was always morally ambiguous. Both make questionable moral judgments throughout the novel, with surprising consequences.

Like its predecessor, 1977 has unresolved plot threads that will hopefully be tied up in the final two books of Red Riding Quartet.

On a side note, the real life Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, is in Broadmoor psychiatric hospital and has challenged his life sentence in court: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/nov/29/peter-sutcliffe-challenge-high-court

Sutcliffe was caught 30 years ago, and the young journalist who “unmasked” Sutcliffe has written about the experience: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1343210/Jonathan-Margolis-The-night-I-unmasked-Yorkshire-Ripper.html

Reviewed by: Kelly

Book: 1977
Author: David Peace
Read: January, 2011
Source: Public Library

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It was a dark and violent noir: 1974 by David Peace

January 2nd, 2011    Posted in Crime, Fiction, Kelly, Mystery
 

It’s Friday the 13tDavid Peace's 1974h, December 1974, and ten year old Clare Kemplay disappeared on her way home from school. Junior crime reporter Eddie Dunford attends the police press conference, eager for his first byline, even though his father’s funeral is in two hours.

Anti-hero Dunford ties Clare’s disappearance to the kidnappings of two girls in neighboring counties. Eventually he ends up on the wrong side of both the corrupt local police and the puppet-masters of his community, e.g. the business moguls and/or the Yorkshire mafia, depending upon how you view them.

1974 is filled with unsympathetic characters, and with ugly people doing bad things. There were a few plot details I didn’t fully understand. Did police burn down the camp because they wanted to pin Clare’s kidnapping on the gypsies? Or were they clearing the ground for developers? Or both? Neither?

The story relies on dialogue to tell the story in addition to terse, fast prose. Luckily the dialogue is strong. The women of the novel, however, aren’t strong—they’re expendable. They’re also memorable, from poor Clare with swan wings sewn onto her back to the mother of another missing girl that Dunford may or may not love.

The convoluted ending left me scratching my head. 1974 is the first novel in the Red Riding Quartet. Hopefully the unresolved plotlines will be cleared up in later books.

Reviewed by: Kelly

Book: 1974
Author: David Peace
Read: December 2010
Source: Public Library

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Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

December 28th, 2010    Posted in Fiction, Kelly, Mystery
 

The Big SleepWhile reading The Big Sleep, I kept trying to put the novel into its historical place. How decadent were the General’s daughters? How would readers in the 1940s react to the characters? Eventually I gave up and just enjoyed the descriptions, one-liners, and double-crosses that fill the novel.

Two of my favorite one-liners from the novel:

–  I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and didn’t care who knew it.

– It seemed like a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in.

After finishing The Big Sleep, it took me a few minutes to realize I never figured out who killed the chauffeur. Evidently I’m not the only person to miss that detail, as Raymond Carver did as well and he dropped that storyline. As I work towards my fifty-two books in one year challenge for 2011, I’ll have to check out another Philip Marlowe novel, as this novel was an enjoyable jump into hard-boiled detective fiction.

Reviewed by: Kelly

Book: The Big Sleep
Author: Raymond Chandler
Read: November 2010
Source: Library

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