January was bitterly cold, snowy and generally dreary, much like the winters I remember from childhood. So much for glorious reminiscences.
A quick overview of my January reading, excluding those books I've already reviewed:
I enjoyed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. The girl, Lisbeth Salander, is anything but wishy-washy, while the two plot lines were both intriguing to me. One is a mystery about a young girl who went missing nearly 40 years earlier and one is a financial crime caper. Despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews, this is not a perfect book. The author, may he rest in peace, was clearly a crusader and he crammed as many of those crusades as possible into this book. The main crusade is about the level of violence against women in Sweden. Frankly, it's horrifying, and worse, few of the victims are as ready as Lisbeth Salander to take up the cudgels in their own defense. Larsson didn't need to tackle any other social ills to make this a terrific story. The other crusades are about corruption in the financial industry, the lack of ethics in journalism, and I disremember the fourth one I noted. My faulty memory. Anyway, there are several passages that read like a newspaper article rather than a novel, expounding facts and figures in a dry fashion. Also, the sheer number and relationships of the Vanger family members involved in the mystery presents a challenge for the readers. Despite the flaws, I never lost interest or felt like putting the book aside, and I will read the sequel.
L.A. Outlaws by T. Jefferson Parker: The only other book I had read by Parker was Silent Joe, an Edgar winner but not one I cared for. In fact, I avoided Parker's books afterward. The summary on the book jacket for L.A. Outlaws was very persuasive though, and I'm glad. It's a violent tale about a flashy schoolteacher-cum-armed robber who may or may not be a descendant of the famous California bandit, Joaquin Murietta. And the cop who sleeps with her and wants to catch her, and has his own secrets. And a killing machine named Lupercio who will never stop until he gets her and the diamonds she stole. Sharp dialogue, well-drawn characters, and a scorching pace. A sequel, The Renegades, is due out next month.
Two tales by Donald E. Westlake, and you know I won't have anything bad to say about them: Somebody Owes Me Money and A Likely Story. ALS is not a crime novel, it's a novel about a writer fighting for his work and trying to straighten out his family life. I enjoyed the witty insights into the publishing industry. SOMM is a crime fic tale, about a young NYC cabbie who just wants to collect on a bet, but someone murdered the bookie and everyone -- the cops, two rival mobs, and the bookie's sister -- think the cabbie was involved.
Fatal Impressions by Wayne Warga. A story about art forgery and theft that sounded promising but the main characters, a married couple named Rachel and Jeff, are so perfect they set my teeth on edge. The book has a terrific beginning but lost its way right about the time that the murder of Rachel and Jeff's close friend should have made the story more intriguing. Shortly after that, I was unable to suspend my disbelief for the duration of the book.
The Case of the Deceiving Don by Carl Brookins, and Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs. I didn't enjoy either of these books and for the same reasons: The prose lacked any flow or rhythm that would have allowed me to enjoy the characters. Not that the characters were all that interesting. I thought TCOTDD had a good premise but the contruction of the book got in the way of the story. And I can't think of any praise for CB, sorry. Dull plot, flat characters, stilted prose -- did they really get a tv series out of those Bones books?
On the plus side of my reading ledger, I've really enjoyed the short stories I've read so far this year. My favorite to date is Peter Blauner's Going, Going, Gone, a nightmare of a tale about a man who gets separated from his very young child in the NYC subway system. This story just sucked the oxygen right out of my lungs.
And now on to February. It's Superbowl Sunday. Do the Cards have a chance? I sure hope so.