07 April 2016

Library Limelights 106

David Lagercrantz. The Girl in the Spider's Web. Viking/Penguin Canada, 2015.
Wow. Just wow. Worthy indeed of the original Steig Larsson series, with original characters journalist Mikael Blomkvist and hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander. Their complicated lives all but interfere with the goal of exposing an international criminal conspiracy. Blomkvist's magazine is on the brink of extinction and his reputation under ferocious attack. Salander still guards her privacy but a family member may be her newest threat. Scenes alternate among Swedish police levels, American security agents, magazine boss Berger, and a safe place for an autistic eight-year-old boy. And our heroes, of course.

Balder, a reclusive computer programmer working on artificial intelligence, first comes across the secret conspiracy; his son August becomes a murder witness and thus also a target. Subject matter occasionally turns to prime number factorization and elliptical curves (Salander and August understand them; I don't), luckily not distracting whatsoever from the action. Always more than one plot line is racing along, with separate resolutions expected. It makes for many breathless moments, definitely in the hard-to-put-down category. At the beginning the author provides a cast of characters from Larsson's previous novels: welcome and helpful, because there are many. Bravo and tack, Lagercrantz!
One-liners: "Hackers steal and lawyers legitimize the theft." (95)
He got no further, because she pulled him to her and kissed him with a force which emptied his mind. (307)

Theft:
"It's a minor revolution in the industry and I was actually involved in developing it," Brandell said. 
"Congratulations. In that case you must have made a killing." 
"That's just it." 
"Meaning what?" 
"The technology was stolen from us and now Truegames is making billions while we don't get a single öre." 
Blomkvist had heard this line before. He had even spoken to an old lady who claimed that it was actually she who had written the Harry Potter books and that J.K. Rowling had stolen everything by telepathy. (35)

Dangerous allies:
"He had boundless admiration for you." 
"Bullshit." 
"No, Mikael, that's where you're wrong. He loves his power and his money and his villa in Cannes. But more than that, it bugs him that he's not as cool as you. If we're talking cred, he's poor and you're stinking rich. Deep down he wants to be like you, I felt that right away, and yes, I should have realized that that sort of envy can become dangerous. You do know what the campaign against you is all about, don't you? Your uncompromising attitude makes people feel pathetic. Your very existence reminds then just how much they've sold out, and the more you're acclaimed, the punier they themselves appear. When it's like that the only way they can fight back is by dragging you down. The bullshit gives them back a little bit of dignity―at least that's what they imagine." (79)

Salander drops in to Professor Balder's class:
She just sat there slouched over a desk. Eventually, in the midst of a discussion of the moment of singularity in complex mathematical calculation, the point where solution hits infinity, he asked her straight out what she thought of it all. It was mean of him to pick on her. But what had happened? 
The girl looked up and said that, instead of bandying fuzzy concepts about, he should become sceptical when the basis for his calculations fell apart. It was not some sort of real world physical collapse, more a sign that his own mathematics were not up to scratch, and therefore it was sheer populism on his part to mystify singularities in black holes when it was so obvious that the main problem was the absence of a quantum mathematical method for calculating gravity. 
With icy clarity―which set off a buzz in the hall―she then presented a sweeping critique of the singularity theorists he had quoted, and he was incapable of coming up with any answer other than a dismayed: "Who the hell are you?" (117)

Claire Berlinski. Lion Eyes. Thomson Gale, 2007.
Well! Here's a different twist on spy mysteries like no other! First person narrator Claire pulls off a very clever story starring herself. The first half of the book feels like a po-mo romance (and it is). Dedicated Iranian archaeologist Arsalan meets American author Claire online. Exotic settings, Paris and Istanbul. Then reality interjects its shocking self after the funniest dinner party I think I've ever read about or laughed at so much. Claire's friends ― Imram the psychologist, Samantha the gender-confused, Charlene the failed CIA agent, Sally the embassy worker ― provide ongoing hilarity. To say too much would spoil the deft effect. But it does have a kitten and tiny turtles. In real life, Berlinski is also known as a journalist and political author. Don't miss this chance for an "inside" look at international spy machinations.

Words:
anhedonic – inability to feel pleasure
gynophobia – abnormal fear of women

One-liner: There are no ointments for disappointments. (290)

Parisian dining:
The restaurants on the Place Dauphine look so inviting, with their belle époque painted storefronts and their outdoor tables. The waiters write the day's menus on chalkboard easels in that careful rounded cursive they teach in French schools, and at lunchtime the tables fill up with plump, well-appointed attorneys and their mistresses. The women wear leather pants and carry small dogs; everyone smokes furiously. The food comes stacked in artful little pyramids: galettes of this and confits of that, all drizzled with a coulis of something-or-other and served in the summer with a cold Sancerre. (17-8)

Diplomatic corpse corps functions:
" ... We just had to repatriate the body of this guy from Baton Rouge who got whacked by a taxi." 
"Oh, no!" 
"Oh, yes! Cab hit him on the sidewalk." She shook her head. "Worst thing was he'd been with his girlfriend that night, and, you know, he shouldn't have had a girlfriend. So he didn't have his wedding ring on. We found it at his hotel when we went to collect his personal effects. We figured we better stuff it on his finger before we packed him up, but by then he's all bloated, and his finger's about ten times the size of the ring. Oh, man, it was horrible ―we had to use pliers." (154)

Nervous hostess greeting:
"Come in, have a seat," I urged again. "How thoughtful of you," I said to Sam, taking the carnations. "Let me take your coat," I said to Lynne. "Who wants wine? We all do, don't we. I'll get us some. It's just about chilled. German. I have a French wine, too, if anyone wants one. Well, of course we do; we're in France. So much good wine here. Not like Istanbul ― that's not a great wine-drinking city! I'll just pour us a few glasses. You must still be so jet-lagged. Air travel is the worst. I'm always a zombie for days after that flight. I can't sleep on planes, ever; I always look at people who seem to be sleeping so soundly in those little seats and wonder―" 
I realized how I sounded, and shut up. (239)

Kyrgyzstan woman seeks Englishman:
I am very kind, have open mind and never lie because I hate when somebody lie. I dislike coldness and onion. This not game for me and I am very serious about marriage in near future. I am ready for my love man make everything only good. I am have very tender character, always sincere, I am like beautiful things, flowers, cook food tasty, very love travel but never be in another country, only can see in TV this, and have dream about someday visit beautiful places in world. I one year ago have finished institute, and now I work in the insurance organization by the bookkeeper. At leisure I am engaged in sports and domestic colors. Like to have rest on nature in company of friends. You are brave, kind, undertaking, like dancing, small-arms-firing, swimming. I dream to meet my big love, for whom I can give all my passion, love, and tenderness. (321)

Sheila Quigley. Bad Moon Rising. UK: Magna Large Print Books, 2005.
Tyne and Wear DI Lorraine Hunt works a serial murder case that might hark back to an old fatal accident and link to a current missing child. As the annual, highly anticipated Houghton Fair is about to begin, young women are being strangled with no clues left behind. It's not a bad story but the writing and characters are not from a polished pen. And I'm not just referring to the liberal usage of colloquial language, combined with questionable investigative procedures, that make the cops appear semi-literate and/or incompetent. Conventional wisdom does not have a serial killer being active several nights in a row.

The town is full of people with handicaps and misery ― Doris, struggling with onset of dementia; Jacko, father of missing child; Josh, the disfigured carny lad; painfully shy Christina; unemployed youth in general; even Lorraine faces a slyly ambitious fellow cop, her mother's illness, and her ambivalence about attractive colleague Luke. Rage is another recurring element that goes overboard at least once. Often the interaction amongst police force members, and other characters' relationships, seems clumsy. The author is popular, has likely improved with age, but doesn't challenge my latent detective brain.

Suspect:
Stella shook her head. 'Sorry.' 
Yeah, yer look it. Lorraine thought, but said, 'Right then, if yer can't help we'll not keep yer any longer and we'll be on our way. But yer know we'll be keeping an eye on yer, don't be in any doubt of that. Isn't that right, Luke?' 
Without waiting for Luke to answer, Lorraine went on, 'Goodbye then. For now.' 
Stella nodded, trying hard not to look too eager to get rid of them. 'I, er, if I do remember anything, or hear anything at all, I'll give yer a ring.' 
'You do that, Stella.' Luke smiled, as they turned away from the door. (239-40)

Rage:
' ... Are yer fucking blind, or what. I'll never forgive yer for this, Doris Musgrove. Yer no longer me mam, d'yer hear me? I no longer own you as mine.' He looked with disgust at Mickey and Robbie, 'And neither of youse two are me friends any more.' (362)

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