27 January 2014

Library Limelights 48

Jo Nesbo. Police. Random House Canada, 2013.
For a committed fan (like me), a new Nesbo book is occasion for tingling anticipation, the occasion to hole up (pun) and read non-stop. Would he introduce all-new characters? Would he refer in passing to his former lead detective, the go-to guy for solving crimes despite his own inner damage? Well, if you thought the last one was complicated and cried when Harry Hole was shot (in Phantom), this one is even better. The red circle on the cover is a bit of a giveaway but hey, I'm no spoiler. Nesbo goes from one triumph to the next which explains why the translation was accomplished immediately.

One might think that Oslo is little more than a den of drug dealers, vicious criminals, and gruesome murders. But no more so than any other capital city, because Nesbo evokes all the surroundings for his — a lively town in a magnificent setting, home to the Boiler Room elite police squad. We meet the same familiar team again. Rooting out a corrupt cop is difficult enough for them, but hunting a serial killer who emulates previous murders is taxing all their capabilities. It's policemen who are being killed. And/or blackmailing each other. Nesbo has the gift of leading the most practised reader down one path and another, toying with a spectrum of suspects. Every single word is important for home sleuths testing their own wits. I actually began making a chart.

It's a masterpiece. Join the Nesbo fan club.

The morning police meeting:
"Morning, folks. As most of you are aware, we have received some calls after yesterday's conference. Eighty-nine in all, of which several are being followed up now."
He didn't need to say what everyone knew, that after close on three months they were now scraping the bottom, ninety-five per cent of all calls were a waste of time: the usual nutters who always rang in, drunks, people wanting to cast suspicion on someone who had run off with their other half, a neighbour shirking their cleaning duties, practical jokes or just people wanting some attention, someone to talk to. By 'several' he meant four. Four tip-offs. And when he said they were being 'followed up' it was a lie. They had finished following them up. And they had led where they were now: nowhere. (28)

The angst:

But it wouldn't stop. It wouldn't give him any peace until he had solved the problem. And there were only two ways it could be solved. There was the old way. The one that every fibre of his body was screaming for now. A drink. The drink that multiplied, expunged, veiled, numbed. That was the provisional way. The bad way. The other was the final way. The necessary way. The one that eradicated the problem. The devil's alternative. (396)

Jonas Jonasson. The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. (Swedish original, 2009) Toronto: HarperCollins, 2012.
Those Swedes again! A little black humour is just what the life coach ordered. This style is so my cup of tea. Enter the wildly wacky world of Allan Karlsson, in reality a mild-mannered centenarian who downplays his pivotal role in the shaping of climactic world events from the Russian Revolution to the collapse of the Soviet Union. We learn many previously unknown historical secrets, such as how several countries created the atomic bomb and how much American presidents drink. And one of those little karma events: unexpectedly I meet Djibouti again in a memorable moment. Decidedly apolitical, Allan managed to either personally befriend or be persecuted by various global leaders.

But now in the present he is escaping from an assisted living facility, inadvertently collecting a gaggle of new friends, one by one. Without much ado on their part, they accidentally leave a couple of corpses in the wake as they meander rural Sweden. You know what that means: a police inspector and a prosecutor must enter the picture. The lawmen become the straight men in merry group antics; the hilarious proportions just keep on expanding.
On balance, life treats Allan quite well. Through thick and thin he rarely lacks a friend and a decent drink of vodka or facsimile thereof. As he would say, " ... the more I think about it, the more I think we should just leave it at that, and you'll see that things will turn out like they do, because that is what usually happens — almost always, in fact." Jonas Jonasson — more, please!

Travelling by rail with new friends:
Julius, Allan, and the corpse rolled along through the forest. At Vidkärr they had the misfortune to meet a farmer. The farmer was there inspecting his crops when the trio came racing by on the inspection trolley.
— Good morning, said Julius.
— Nice day, said Allan.
The corpse and the farmer didn't say anything. But the farmer stared at the trio for a long time as they went off into the distance. (51)

Allan takes revenge on the fox who killed his cat called Molotov:
For the first and only time in his life, Allan was angry. And it wasn't dispelled with vodka, a drive (without a driver's license) in his car, or an extra long bike ride. Revenge was a poor thing to live for, Allan knew. Nevertheless, just now that was precisely what he had on the agenda.
Allan set an explosive charge beside the henhouse intended to go off when the fox got hungry next time and stretched its nose a little too far into the hens' domain. But in his anger, Allan forgot that right next to the henhouse was where he stored all his dynamite.
Thus it was that at dusk on the third day after Molotov's ascent to heaven, an explosion was heard in that part of Södermanland, the like of which hadn't been heard since the late 1920s.
The fox was blown to bits, just like Allan's hens, his henhouse, and woodshed. But the explosion took the barn and cottage too. Allan was sitting in his armchair when it happened, and he flew up in the air in the armchair and landed in a snowdrift outside his potato cellar. He sat there looking around him with an astonished expression on his face, before finally saying:
— That was the end of the fox. (375)

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