22 January 2013

Library Limelights 21


Choosing books to read is never a sure thing. Sometimes they choose you. The writing quality or creative content (and thus customer/patron satisfaction) can zip up and down from one to the next. My next trio went from blah to winner.

Glen Cooper. The Devil Will Come. London: Arrow, 2011.
Picking up remaindered books is always a little like roulette. It's personally hard to resist anything that says catacombs together with conspiracy. My mistake, even though Rome and archaeology and parallel stories from the first and sixteenth centuries AD are involved. The church and the world are on the verge of collapse if Ms Archaeologist persists with her digging. Sorry, I almost quit when images of feral children began. Maybe I did quit.

What do you call this genre--wildly popularized by The DaVinci Code? The invention of ancient Christian secrets and errors are not exactly new fodder for novelists, but surely we can do better than cardboard characters and the obligatory astrology folderal. Fans of Dan Brown and company will likely enjoy it.

Peter Robinson. Watching the Dark. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2012.
Banksy, yes! Do not disappear or grow old and die, please was my first response when I grabbed it by fortuitous chance during its rounds of the in-house waiting list (I said the same thing about Nesbo's Harry Hole and Rankin's Rebus and where did that get me). And yet .. and yet .. this novel might be a blip in Inspector Alan Banks' portfolio. Long series that feature well-loved main sleuths often seem to experience a dip or two along the way. The plot or the characters may not be up to expected scratch. In my opinion, that's what happened here.

Certainly there's enough mystery--a dead policeman, a disappearance in Estonia, illegal immigrants--but the slow development only creaks along with excessive expository Banksy ruminations instead of the usual crisp pace. Colleagues Annie and Winsome do most of the leg work. His taste in music has definitely changed to classical sombre; what's with that? The attempted romantic tension between Banks and Inspector Joanna Passero (to be continued?) is too forced; all those dinners in Tallin! One senses the story could have unfolded and meshed better. Is Banks becoming too weary?

No, Amazon, I don't think it's "Banks' most suspenseful mystery yet." And I had to return the book so fast I neglected to save some quotes.

David Baldacci. Stone Cold. New York: Grand Central Publishing/Hachette, 2007.
This is more like it, a story (actually about three stories) moving at a good clip from one scene to the next. Breathless comes to mind. I'd almost forgotten about Baldacci's eccentric group, the Camel Club (shame!); apparently it did not grab me sufficiently to overload with library system with requests. After my last Baldacci read, however, I went back to a prior story to get a better handle on CC leader Oliver Stone. Stone Cold is not the first CC novel; you can search out the author's prolific lists on the Internet. Baldacci's sinister scenarios are always intricate, compelling, and plausible.

Washington DC is the setting for the majority of scenes with pleasing characters leading the ample quota of surprises. Harry Finn is a Homeland Security agent tasked with testing the security measures of government facilities; the details of his penetration techniques are only part of the non-stop action. The unorthodox Annabelle Conroy is a repeat character, one of several. There's even a nice touch of genealogy--a search for a Canadian birth record, and cemetery plots--with the following thrown in for free:
"Actually, since she's Russian, she would have three names: her given name or imia, a patronymic name or otchestvo, and a surname or familia." By Gray's condescending expression, he could've finished this mini-lecture off with the words 'you idiot,' but he wisely refrained."Cold War baggage," the director replied. "Not really our focus any more.""You might want to rethink your priorities. While you're placing all your bets on Muhammed, Putin, Chávez and Hu are eating this country's lunch. And they make Al Qaeda look like kindergarteners as far as their potential for destruction on a large scale." (154-155)

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