First, I have to say that I’ve always wanted to read this book. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this book and this author- Don Winslow. I know it’s not true but I feel like I’m the last person to discover how great he is. California Fire and Life won the Shamus Award in 2000 for Best P.I. Novel which is why I bought it at that time. In paper. No digital copy as I write this (for shame). Two days ago, I read a few pages and was immediately hooked. This is one of those novels written by someone whose subject happens to be something he’s an expert on and that’s being a fire investigator. The protagonist, Jack Wade is two things: a surfer and a fire investigator. He speaks the language of fire fluently.
Fire has a language.
It’s small wonder, Jack thinks, that they refer to “tongues of flame,” because fire will talk to you. It will talk to you while it’s burning — color of flame, color of smoke, rate of spread, the sounds it makes while it burns different substances –and it will leave written account of itself after it’s burned out.
The novel begins with…a house fire. The victim is a woman who is home alone. She was supposedly smoking a cigarette and drinking vodka and (accidentally) burns herself up in her bedroom. Her dog survived the fatal house fire. Since they weren’t with her, her estranged husband and their two children did too. Yes, there is background info about the marriage – it was a troubled one – and the estranged husband does act kind of weird. He’s a Russian real estate developer with a history of adultery. He tells the kids who in turn tell Jack that “mommy burned up.” Okay. There’s a lot of unsaid/said accusations towards the husband. Whispers of a possible murder. Continue reading
It is 1978 in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos. Dr. Siri Paiboun, the country’s only coroner is quietly pulled by Vietnamese security from a screening of a movie he was attending with his wife. He’s asked/escorted to the crime scene of a murdered young woman who’s been speared through the heart by an épée –a french sword. Marked on her thigh is the killer’s signature.
The events that led up to the discovery of this young woman’s body has Dr. Siri suspicious. Speaking with the officers on patrol to glean facts, Dr. Siri feels he is being lied to but he doesn’t know about what. Two more murders in the same fashion occur right after the other causing outcry and expediency to find the killer. There’s no pattern between the three murders except for one thing: all three Laotian women were given scholarship to study in the Eastern bloc. Love Songs From A Shallow Grave (2010, 304 pgs) has to be the darkest book in the series since Dr. Siri first appeared in The Coroner’s Lunch (2004, 272 pgs). As of now, I’ve read all seven books in this (ongoing) series and find this one to be the most chilling and compelling. Overall, the series on average is excellent. Continue reading
Since it’s going on day 11 or 12 since I last blogged about anything, I thought I’d write a quick note to say that I haven’t had time to read anything online or off. I’m behind. I hope to get back on track and catch up with everything and everybody as soon as I can. It’s my day job. I’m working longer hours of late because it’s busy and I have no life (partly joking). Oh, I did attempt to read one book, a novella, by James Sallis and that novel was Drive and that didn’t work out at all. The story is super short (like I said) about a stunt driver but I had to call it quits after 23 very rough going pages. I hear Sallis is a popular author though so I’m not completely discouraged from trying him again.
What I have done is watch a lot of movies/documentaries. Here are a few of the highlights. I finally saw and don’t laugh, in its entirety, The Social Network and came away hating Facebook even more. Joking, joking. I don’t even have a Facebook account and don’t see the appeal of having one either. But I will admit to being the last person in the world to finally see this movie and thought it was somewhat entertaining. Saw PBS doc Prohibition by Ken Burns and thought it was meh. I usually enjoy his stuff and was expecting–I don’t know what– but it was okay I guess. Right now I am in the middle of watching a Steven Soderbergh film ala documentary style starring Benicio del Toro as Ernesto “Che” Guevara in the movie “Che“, about the socialist leader/physician/guerrilla leader who was a major political figure in the Cuban revolution. This movie is available for streaming via Netflix. Interesting movie. That is all.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (2010) uses for its title a mnemonic kids in the south use to learn to spell Mississippi. I read an interview that the author fought to have this title. Well, anyway. This southern mystery, set in a tiny town in Southeast Mississippi, draws you in almost immediately. The story is short and is told in third person. I don’t know how you would categorize this novel. The depiction of the south, its culture and language is well written. The story is about two boyhood friends of opposite race, social and economic background who reunite after 25 years. We see how lies and secrets brought them together and then eventually push them apart. To quote the author: this is a sad book and… this story, this book wasn’t for me. I didn’t care for it no matter how well written it was.
Larry Ott is the only son of a white, middle-class family. His father is a mechanic who loves to tell stories. Larry’s life is depicted as someone who was strange, lonely and never given a chance. He didn’t have any friends so he kept to himself and read a lot. He’s a big Stephen King fan like the author. Larry was a lonesome kid whose mother would often pray that he would find a true friend someday. Then he meets Silas “32″ Jones (who prefers to be called 32 his baseball number), and the two become friends and develop a bond. Silas is black and poor and stays with his mother in a hunting cabin on the property belonging to Larry and his family. The author goes on to show how the two boys build their friendship over a brief period of time. Continue reading