Quinlan flies flag with witty thriller
HAS the sociopolitical climate in the US killed off a great crime writing tradition? Well, judging from what’s published, almost.
But then along comes Patrick Quinlan, whose Smoked grabbed attention about a year ago. Now here’s The Takedown ( Headline, 295pp, $ 32.95) starring Dick Miller, who is fresh out of prison, where he picked up typing skills.
These land him a job at Feldman Real Estate, where the boss, Dot Racine, reckons he’s hot. But after a wild night together Dick discovers Dot’s body in the boot of his car. He can’t remember much about that night. Did he kill her? He can’t believe it. Behind all this there’s a money scam Dot was in with Lydia, plus, lurking in the shadows, Nestor Garcia, Dot’s really scary ex- lover. This moves fast and is heaps of fun.
Sadly, End Games ( Faber, 335pp, $ 29.95) fits as the title for this novel, appearing so soon after Michael Dibdin’s death at 60.
Dibdin’s Aurelio Zen is probably the most entertaining of those cops whose investigations are tracked by genre buffs hooked on Italian food, style and sunshine. This time Zen is filling in for somebody in Calabria, where he despises the habit of cooking everything with tomatoes.
True to supposed Calabrian mores, an American lawyer associated with a film company is kidnapped and killed in extraordinary fashion.
Making the film, a biblical tour de force, seems to have been a cover for getting at a treasure believed to be buried beneath a river way back when barbarians were displacing Roman rulers.
The plot is engagingly complex, with oodles of historical detail to transport readers to another time, another place.
A few already may have encountered the prolific and multivoiced Russian author Grigory Chkhartishvili.
As himself, he has edited a large anthology of Japanese literature, written The Writer and Suicide , and lots of other stuff. As Boris Akunin he conjured the 19th- century Russian detective Erast Fandorin and more recently introduced the curiously practical Sister Pelagia.
Pelagia & the Black Monk ( Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 394pp, $ 32.95), her second investigation, penetrates Christian darkness when, screaming ‘‘ Basilisk is coming. It is the end!’’ a traumatised monk bursts in on a gathering in Zavolzhsk, a provincial town. Authoritarian men of the cloth having failed the task, pretty soon our savvy nun, in disguise, begins to unravel the mysteries of life at a corrupted New Ararat Monastery.
Meanwhile in Norway, a nine- year- old girl who loves animals rides off on a yellow bicycle, only to vanish 35 minutes later. This is Black Seconds by Karin Fossum ( Harvill, 247pp, $ 32.95). Fossum refuses to pander to popular demand for entertainment in the form of the inevitable punishment of a criminal’s evil act.
Black Seconds is much more disturbing, presenting unexpected ways in which circumstance may make a criminal of anybody. Ida was such a sweet girl. But then the young automobile addict, Tomme, is a nice guy who doesn’t want anything to do with drugs from Amsterdam.
Also well intentioned is an intellectually handicapped young man with his talking parrot. And yet the girl is dead. While not at all preachy, it’s possible this story may trigger unexpectedly compassionate responses, even among the more bloodyminded readers.