Robert Wilson. The Ignorance of Blood. London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.
It doesn't get any better than this! One caveat: it does help if you read the previous novel in the four-book series, The Hidden Assassins. Seville's Inspector Jefe Falcón is still dealing with the fallout from a terrible bomb blast in his city while a new murder opens a complicated investigation that threatens his personal family life on more than one front. Falcón performs an incredible juggling act between the Russian mafia and Islamic terrorists. His soul brother Yacoub Diouri is in trouble, an accused colleague languishes in prison, and his lover Consuelo's son is used as an unforeseen bargaining chip.
One surprise after another. I have to say: I buy it all. The scenarios are entirely credible and the tension is heart-stopping. Falcón picks his way through a minefield of conspirators; trust is an all-consuming issue. The author reveals character in conversations, brief as some may be, at the same time never veering from the story's propulsion. Wilson's grasp of Spanish and Moroccan culture is nothing but impressive. I so regret that Javier Falcón was retired after this. May he sleep well. I will never rest until I investigate Wilson's newer series featuring Charles Boxer.
She woke up at two in the afternoon with her head and mouth full of cotton wool, feeling as if she'd been embalmed. (177)
Spanish dinner at midnight:
The starter arrived. Three tapas on an oblong plate: a tiny filo pastry money bag containing soft goat's cheese, a crisp toast of duck liver set in sticky sweet quince jam, and a shot-glass of white garlic and almond soup with an orb of melon ice cream floating at the top and flakes of wind-dried tuna nestling in the bottom. Each one went off in his mouth like a firecracker. (88)
"There are more than six thousand members of the Saudi royal family," said Yacoub. "Their total wealth is greater than the GDP of many smaller nations. All those people with all that wealth make the royal family a political monster. Every point of view is represented by its members, from the utterly corrupt, drug-running fiends of America, to the reclusive, ascetic, profoundly devout Wahabi fundamentalists. Some flaunt their wealth in tasteless displays of extravagance while others quietly channel funds into international terrorism." (134)
After a long day:
He slapped his legs, stood up, cleared away the empty glasses and remains of crisps and olives, took them back to the kitchen. He hoped this mild activity would stop the fever in his brain. This is the blight of modern mankind, he thought, a world so full of accessible information, lives so crammed with work and relationships, people so constantly connectable that we've all developed what Alicia Aguado would probably call tachy-rumination. Nothing meditative about it, just a feverish mental grazing. (245)
Giles Blunt. Until the Night. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2012.
From one detective hero to another ... John Cardinal of the Algonquin Bay police is the best kind of cop – intuitive, resourceful, the kind who often defies his superiors, but usually successful in closing his cases. Where to start this time, when bitter winter weather uncovers ‒ literally ‒ a couple of murdered women, found frozen in strange circumstances? His partner Lise Delorme suspects a local nightclub entrepreneur and pursues her own angle. For a smart cop, Cardinal is all but inarticulate in his personal feelings for Lise who is secretly allowing some free rein to her dark side. Both of them have to put up with the grandiose posturing of their colleague Loach who leads the investigation.
What makes this novel by Blunt more suspenseful than ever is the juxtaposition of a story from an earlier, isolated scientific research lab on an ice island near the North Pole. Fascinating enough to make you shiver while pondering a possible connection. Cold pervades both stories (at first seeming to be the only common element). As the song goes, what does love have to do with it? Rich with dialogue, Blunt at his very best!
Word: gyre – a spiral, a vortex; a giant circular oceanic surface current (Merriam-Webster).
One-liner: If I have any virtue, it must be my not claiming any. (105)
It is possible in the Arctic—possible sometimes—to mistake oneself for a superhero, one's faculties, one's perceptions can be so transformed. Such is the array of optical and acoustical phenomena. It is a special moment, the first time you realize you are overhearing a conversation taking place more than a kilometre away. Distances of three kilometres are not unusual, depending on temperature, wind speed, surface conditions. In contrast to temperate climates, Arctic air is coldest close to the ground; it refracts sound waves downward instead of upward.That moment has the quality of an excellent dream—the feeling of vindication and exhilaration one sometimes gets from a gorgeous subconscious narrative: Yes, of course! This is who I am! I've always been infinitely more perceptive than others! (62)
One character self-reflects:
I turned away and lay on my back and sighed. Petulant. Childish, even. But this is the truth of the matter. I am—was—someone who chose a solitary life. Not womanless. Not gay. Solitary. The emotions and how we deal with them are every bit as Darwinian as fins, genitals, tentacles. We all find our mechanism of survival—or not. Mine was monkish solitude. It worked for me. Had done for more than a decade. I was frightened by my loss of equanimity. (64)
When they reached her house, Delorme stopped at the front path and started to thank him again, but Cardinal found himself speaking over her words. "I just have to say this," he said. "I'm really happy when I'm with you. That's all. Simple, true, and it's not the champagne talking. I'm really happy when I'm with you."
Delorme squinted at him. Gave him the full Clint Eastwood stare he'd seen her use on thugs and lawyers, not to mention those colleagues whose commitment to honesty was imperfect. "What did you just say?"
"Nothing. I'll see you Monday. You're in Monday, right?" (110)
Terry Devane. Uncommon Justice. New York: Berkley Books, 2002.
This was a "filler" book ― by my definition one that comes to hand in that desperate waiting stage between desirable items. Sometimes I discard some fillers partially-read; sometimes I don't bother to make notes. Uncommon Justice had some merit in its characters but a flimsy story. Mairead O'Clare is a novice lawyer working for Sheldon Gold who has a touchy, opinionated receptionist called Billie. The homeless world of Boston figures largely, but we have no enlightenment of individual histories. Mairead experiences her first courtroom trial. The wonderfully-named Pontifico Murizzi aka the Pope does their investigative work. Often it's hard to tell whose personal thoughts are inserted at any given time. The little law office has possibilities of further development but suffice to say I did not find the story a "legal thriller" (see cover) or "page-turning suspense."
Looking down at the form she was typing, Billie Sunday reached for the little bottle of Wite-Out to use on the last two letters she'd hit by fright when the Pope popped through the suite door. Wite-Out itself was getting harder to find, which alone was going to make the new child Mairead right about the office having to go over to computers.
She looked up at Murizzi now. "You made me make a mistake."
"Sorry," with no conviction behind it.
"What do you want?" with no warmth behind it.
"Thought I'd check to see if Shel needed anything brought over to him."
"At the court, you mean?"
"If that's where he is."
"Uh huh." Billie capped the little bottle. "Third Session, but he didn't say or phone me about anything."
"Guess I'll just stroll over then, broaden my horizons."
"Anybody ever call you glib but shallow?"
"Anybody ever call you a woman of great dimensions?"
Murizzi was through the door before the bottle of Wite-Out hit it. (245-6)