Jo Nesbo. Midnight Sun. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2015.
Jon Hansen is on the run from the relentless reach of the Fisherman, Norway's sinister drugs boss whom we've come across before. Jon had been a come-by-chance a "fixer" for the man, albeit inept at the job. Botching an assignment to kill, he finds himself in a village at the edge of the world, a strange world for an urbanite. His paranoia is only increased by the ever-present sun, the quietude ... and the waiting. Unexpected consequences follow as Jon meets the customs of the Sámi people and the rigid fundamentalism of the Laestadian Christians.
Nesbo is rarely predictable but there's always a tender nuance in the mix; this novella is no exception. Love, fear, redemption. Word is that both Michael Fassbender and Leonardo DiCaprio are adapting Nesbo stories for films. The author is an unstoppable creative force, intense and entertaining.
Not that I didn't know that calling a woman a whore is an internationally recognised signal to stand up and plant a fist in the speaker's face. (151)
But here I stand, holding out my hand to you, and in it lies my beating heart. (170)
Mattis pointed at his narrow, slanted eyes. "We Sámi are children of the earth, you know. You Norwegians follow the path of reason, whereas we're just foolish shamans who don't understand, but we sense things, we see."
"Lea just lent me this rifle," I said. "Until her husband comes back from fishing."
Mattis looked at me. His jaw was going up and down in a grinding semicircle. He took a tiny sip from the cup. "In that case, you can keep hold of it for a good while." (59)
Toralf and I called it the black hole. I'd read about a guy called Finklestein who had discovered that there were holes in space which would suck everything in if you got too close, even light, and that they were so black they were impossible to observe with the naked eye. And that was exactly what it was like. You couldn't see anything, you were just getting on with your life, and then one day you could just physically feel that you'd got caught in the gravitational field, and then you were lost, you got sucked into a black hole of hopelessness and infinite despair. And in there everything was the mirror image of the way it was outside, you'd keep asking yourself if there was any reason to have any hope, if there was any good reason not to despair. It was a hole in which you just had to let time run its course, put on a record by another depressed soul, the angry man of jazz, Charles Mingus, and hope you emerged on the other side, like some fucking Alice popping out of her rabbit hole. (88)
He designed churches. Because he was good at it, he said, not because he believed in the existence of any gods. It was a way of making a living. But he said he wished he believed in the God they paid him to build churches for. That might have made the job more meaningful.
"I ought to design hospitals in Uganda," he said. "It could be planned in five days, and built in ten, and it would save lives. Instead I sit for months designing monuments for a superstition that doesn't save anyone."
Places of refuge, that's what he called his churches. Places of refuge from anxiety about death. Places of refuge for people's incurable hope of eternal life. (176)
Inger Ash Wolfe. The Night Bell. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2015.
Another tale about the Port Dundas police station and cop Hazel Micallef, now in her sixties. Not only are they finding human bones in a new housing development, they are feeling beleaguered by jurisdictional changes in the policing system. Plus one of their own cops mysteriously vanishes. Hazel ploughs ahead following her own nose as usual, despite the RCMP taking over the case and her boss's warnings. She remembers a high school girl who went missing fifty years ago, just like some orphans disappeared from the local Boys Home ~ shades of residential schools. Officer Wingate, recovering from the previousbook in the series, is helping her with research. Several brutal crimes come to light, literally. Plenty of headline social issues.
There is a fair amount of annoying quantum leaps or disjointed, inexplicable (to me) sequences and references. Missing connections, you might say. It doesn't make for smooth reading when you stop regularly, saying "Huh?! Where did that come from?!" Genealogists will get a kick out of the invented, easy access to vital stats records but literary license troubles me less than bumpy narrative. I want to like this series set in my province ― the characters have shape and form and the story lines are great ― but I'm finding it less enjoyable each time.
The veins on her arms seemed to be keeping her muscles lashed to her body. (29)
A human life is like a bead of water on a hot griddle. (333)
Her brother had come into her life like a firecracker thrown through her window. He arrived when he was ten and she was twelve, and he had stayed in their home to the age of twenty. By then he was too much to handle. Drinking, petty theft, getting into fights and accidents. He confided to her later on that he'd suffered from crushing depression for as long as he could remember. She knew this about him, although he'd not spoken of it until they were both adults. She remembered how his face would change colour when a dark mood took over. It would purple, was how she saw it in her mind's eye. Like a bruise. (126)
"When you get to my age, try to stay out of doctors' offices," Emily said.
"They are employed by government forces to make people shuffle off their mortal coils, thus saving the economy billions a year."
"It would be nice to put an end to that plot."
"There's no plot. When it's your time you don't have any say in it."
"You talk like I'm driving you to your execution."
"You could be," Emily said. "Too bad it isn't covered."
Yoshida smiled. He was a ridiculously calm and sunny man. "I was at the Ministry of Child and Youth Services. I worked as a placement officer for the public adoptions department. I'm retired now. But I had access to government records Leon could never get."
"Well, the public knows now what the priests and hockey coaches were doing. But you don't know half of what went on in this country's asylums and nursing homes and foster care homes and even hospitals. I have evidence of forced sterilizations, abortion without the patient's consent, even euthanasia. And eugenics." (293-4)
Jussi Adler-Olsen. The Hanging Girl. New York: Dutton/Penguin/Random House, 2014.
An author I love, perhaps a bit carried away here. Department Q of the Copenhagen police bursts into action when a contact, Christian Habersaat, kills himself in public over a cold case. This time, assistants Rose and Assad take the lead whenever their boss Carl Mørck has doubts, or has a nap, or internally chews on his own existential limbo. Carl feels guilty that he rebuffed the man. Their search for an unidentified killer of seventeen years ago follows baffling information and dead end clues, while a parallel story takes place in a free spirit, pagan cult enterprise. Dozens of characters are involved, some more suspicious than others, in trying to determine motive for the death of a lovely young woman. Here and there a previously unsolved cop-killing intrudes to haunt Carl and his quadriplegic colleague Hardy.
A second suicide and secret murders keep the double plots moving; we know they are going to mesh somewhere. Some of the actions I found a bit over the top for belief. But as always, there are sidelights regarding Mørck's ex-wife Vigga, his shockingly intransigent parents, cousin Ronny the blackmailer, and Assad's shadowy background. Don't read this book unless you wish to read much about astrological, alternative, sometimes wacky beliefs in the cosmos ― nonetheless, interesting for the history of mankind's age-old affinity for sun worship and the sacrificial figure. Scandinavian noir from an excellent writer who knows when to use humour, a surefire combination.
But when you lived in the land of Hans Christian Andersen you knew only too well how quickly a little feather could turn into five hens. (7)
"Have you ever stood downwind from a camel with colic, Carl?" (89)
Assad gave him a thumbs up. If it was something to do with camels, he was with you all the way. (233)
A god once called Frank:
For Pirjo, Atu symbolized man and provider, incarnate sexuality, spearhead, security, and, finally, spirituality, all in one and the same person. That's how she'd felt ever since she first met him. Maybe she'd become a little thick-skinned over the years in terms of the status Atu had fought his way up to as prophet and spiritual guide. But it definitely hadn't always been this way.It had, after all, been a long road. (157)
Thoughts from the basement:
"Gordon!" he shouted. "Come here a minute, you lanky whiner." He could have the job of getting rid of the stuff.
"Gordon's busy being depressed," Assad said from out in the hallway.
Depressed? As if that was anything special. Who wasn't, in this workplace? It would've been worse if they'd placed his desk among the removal boxes. (167)
One more worry:
"Sorry, Carl," said Gordon. "I totally forgot to tell you that someone called Morten called. It's probably the guy who lived with you once. He said that Hardy hasn't come back."
"What did you say?"
"That Hardy's missing." All the idiot was missing was to start bleating, he looked so sheepish.
"When did you find out?" asked Assad, looking worried.
"Almost two hours ago."
Carl took out his cell phone and looked at the display. The sound was turned all the way down and there were at least fifteen messages and missed calls from Morten.
Now he stopped breathing. (223-4)
Feelings from the past:
He felt good for a few seconds. He'd managed the balancing act, managed to neutralize Vigga. But while he was buying chocolates before setting course for the nursing home, he was once again overpowered by the feeling that things could've been different. That the past was weighing down on him, squeezing the air out of him. On the whole, it wasn't very pleasant. (381)