09 May 2013

Library Limelights 28


David Baldacci. Hell's Corner. New York: Grand Cemtral Publishing/Hachette Book Group, 2010.
Too many Baldacci books—or any popular author with a series, for that matter—in fairly rapid succession inevitably meets a sticking point; usually it's because the author had a bad day (year?) and the novel is not up to scratch. So you've guessed it. Hell's Corner, currently the last and perhaps final Camel Club book, ultimately failed me.

The very complicated plot is packed with Baldacci's mix of fast-developing action and intriguing characters. Is the case in point a terrorist attack or drug cartel revenge? I enjoyed every minute until the climax unrolled. And kept unrolling. Then my suspension of disbelief (not convinced I was suspending anything, so credibility is a better word) crashed and burned. Up till then it was all I expected of the prolific author. Oliver Stone was about to redeem himself in the self-serving eyes of the multiple clandestine agencies that more or less reluctantly demanded his services. His Camel Club friends troop valiantly behind him, although out-numbered by spies and double agents, finding ways around the roadblocks on every avenue.

Avoiding a spoiler alert I think it's OK to say I also suffered from automatic machine gun fatigue. Baldacci has developed other series with similar heroes of an ex-military or highly trained investigator nature. The man has a fertile brain for plots. I just don't want to think he's playing to Hollywood.

Mons Kallentoft. Summertime Death. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 2012. (Originally published in Sweden as Sommardöden in 2008.)
Ahhhh. Back to the Scandinavians, a new one for me. Just for fun, I'm showing the original book cover. This is the second in a series that features police inspector Malin Fors. Since I like to be chronological when series characters are involved, I lined up to borrow his first novel of the series, Pesetas. Imagine the consternation when it arrived after half a year of waiting, in Swedish—the sole copy in TPL's system; imagine one librarian and I pondering this information oversight on their website. Plus, Toronto is immensely multicultural, but I didn't know there were that many Swedes!

Summertime Death takes place during a scorching heat wave in a provincial town also experiencing forest fires. I needed adjusting to insertions of the characters' digressive thoughts; initially they felt stilted. Tracking a potential serial killer turns up multiple suspects but no evidence. Kallentoft wins an A+ for plot (largely based on how little I can solve myself before the climax) and the overtones of discrimination at all levels. Inspector Fors is one of those intuitive detectives we all admire because she/they have empathetic insight beyond prescribed procedures. In addition, we are privy to Malin's family life, a tactic not uncommon in detective novels to help the reader "bond." Repetitive images of burning and volcanic lava, among other things, reinforce a creeping evil in the enervating atmosphere, somewhat overdone to my mind.

No problem with Kallentoft's adept adoption of the female voice, so did I have a problem? Yes. The dead victims speak. And keep coming into the narrative to speak. The device has been used successfully by others but here I found their voices unnatural, awkward, forced. I'm on the fence whether to try another in the series. Not all Scandinavian authors are created "equal"—a statement heavily dependent on personal tastes and preferences―and mine crave Nesbo, Nesbo, Nesbo.

Victim speaks:
We're drifting somewhere below the ceiling of the arrivals hall, watching you and thinking that maybe it would be better if you were concentrating on us, on what has happened, instead of concentrating on your own nearest and dearest. 
At least that's what we'd like. 
Worrying about your own concerns doesn't disappear where we are. But it's different, it encompasses more, it's as if it encompasses everything that is or has been or will be. 
Worrying about your own concerns becomes consideration for everyone. ... We are all girls and all who have been girls. But we're boys as well. 
Does that sound odd? 
I can understand that, Malin. It's all very strange, actually. 
Where should you start? 
Start with your nearest and dearest. 
But who wouldn't choose love, if the choice were between it and violence? (340)


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