Tag Archives: crime novel

“The Quiet Girl” by Peter Hoeg

Genre: crime fiction, sort of…aka, philosophical thriller (according to Amazon).

This book takes place in Denmark and was translated from Danish.

The plot is confusing, the characters interesting. The girl of the title remains mysterious. Hard to explain why I kept reading, but I did.

I’ve been told the test of “really good literature” is that you want to go right back to the beginning and read again. I re-read the first few chapters. I found that some intriguing elements of character from early chapters were not ever fully developed (psychokenesis?). Too bad. But lots of other good details emerged. Some reviewers refer to the mystical or metaphysical abilities of the hero.

Two other striking aspects of this book are the framework of a circus, and the science of geology. (Sounds crazy? Don’t blame me! I didn’t write it…)

The protagonist has an unusual (supernatural?) sense of hearing and a multidimensional relationship with classical music. He often refers to classical composers or pieces to explain his reaction to people or situations.

I recommend this book to whoever likes a book that slows you down a little. I returned it to the library, but may give it a second shot.

I believe I read the author’s Smila’s Sense of Snow a little before I started blogging in 2013. It was a blockbuster hit  (300 reviews on Amazon, four stars) and was made into a movie. Maybe I should dig out the comments in my old reading journal! If you saw the movie, please fill me in! Thanks.

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“Full Dark House” and “The Water Room” by Christopher Fowler

These are the first two books in the series about the fictional London “Peculiar Crimes Unit”, also known as the Bryant and May mysteries after the two protagonists.

These are first class mysteries, full of atmosphere and detail.

Full Dark House takes place during the Blitz, and reflects the anguish of a country at war. A German invasion is expected. Civil order is stressed near the breaking point. Deaths in a popular theater need to be solved. Bryant and May are young and inexperienced – the War forces people into jobs for which they are unprepared.

The Water Room takes place decades later, when Bryant and May are past retirement age and the Peculiar Crimes Unit is threatened with dissolution. Crime strikes a neighbor balanced uncertainly between slum status and upward mobility.

Bryant and May represent two different approaches to crime. Bryant is an intuitive and “non-linear” thinker, likely to propose mythical or psychological explanations for human behavior. He cultivates a wide acquaintance among London’s fortune tellers, psychics, witches, cultists and oddballs, sometimes using them to aid his investigations. May represents the “conventional” approach to crime – interview witnesses, seek motives and connections, repeat as necessary. Together, they solve seemingly impossible conundrums.

These books force the reader to confront the question, which am I, logical or intuitive? Given that “logical” is now (at least in theory) mainstream and dominant, how do I incorporate the intuitive into my mental processes? When do I rely on my “intuition”? Important questions! When does intuition slide into prejudice?

I have good friends on both sides of the line. I come down on the “rational” side… mostly. If I was a crime victim and the investigating detective decided to consult a psychic, I wouldn’t be pleased. How about you?

Wikipedia points out that the city of London itself can be considered a “separate character” in the Peculiar Crimes novels. This is especially true in The Water Room. London is built over ancient structures, including enclosed rivers and underground chambers. This historical framework adds a wonderful dimension to Fowler’s writing.

I plan to keep a novel or two from Fowler on my Kindle, against a rainy day or travel delay. Fowler is a very prolific writer. I won’t run out soon!

“The Burning Wire: a Lincoln Rhyme Novel” by Jeffery Deaver

I picked up this crime novel at the beach house where we spent Thanksgiving, and couldn’t put it down. Not wanting to steal it, I made sure to note the author so I could find it for download onto my Kindle, and I finished it promptly after the trip.

This detective story focuses on the “grid”. Yes, the electric power grid, the vast network of wires, generators, appliances, towers, etc., that brings us our light, many conveniences, and sometimes also our heat. It also brings us the occasional blackout, brownout or glitch. Much speculation has been expended on the vulnerability of the grid. Major storms bring havoc, and the possibility of sabotage cannot be ignored.

One reason the grid fascinates me is that I play a tiny role in the “big picture” of electric power management. (We all do! Paid an electric bill lately??) I manage “curtailment” for the institution where I work. More formally, curtailment is called “demand side management”. When the grid is under strain (not enough electricity flowing where it is needed), my employer (and thousands of others) reduce load to get through the bad times, six hours maximum. The practice of utilities getting on the phone and begging customers to cut back is long obsolete. The ability and willingness to reduce (or curtail) is now a marketable commodity, and I manage it for my institution.

Enough about me! The Burning Wire is about sabotage. It starts with manipulation of the grid to produce an “arc flash” explosion, and gets crazier from there, with a smart, nasty bad guy taking lives and making threats. The lead detective is one Lincoln Rhyme, a quadriplegic genius with a devoted team of police and other agents who specialize in catching criminals who threaten public safety. The Burning Wire is one of a series of Lincoln Rhyme novels.

Deaver writes in a way that makes his characters extremely compelling. His descriptions are vivid, and when I was reading this book, I didn’t pay any attention to my immediate surroundings. Some of the plot twists took me entirely by surprise.

If you need a book to make time pass and keep you involved, read this! I am sure Deaver’s other books would also serve. I’m giving a selection of Lincoln Rhyme novels to a friend for Christmas.