Archive for the ‘Harper’ Tag

Norwegian Thriller   Leave a comment

redbreast

The Redbreast is the third of the Harry Hole series by Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo. It’s also the fifth one I’ve read. Clearly, I haven’t read them in order. Initially, it was difficult to find translations of Nesbo’s books, so I savored them as I found them. He is apparently so in vogue now, that all ten, including a newly released novel, are readily available. At this point, I don’t mind the leap frogging. Nesbo has always provided enough backstory that I never felt I missed anything. However, what’s particularly appealing about The Redbreast is the introduction of the love of his life: Rakel, and her son, Oleg. Both figure significantly in the later books. But I’m jumping ahead of myself, literally.

Unlike others in the Hole series, The Redbreast is slow to build momentum. Initially, it was like being a passenger on a local train, with lots of stops, before finally getting on the express.

Nesbo’s story travels effortlessly between modern-day Oslo and World War II. The latter sets the stage for the underlying threat of neo-Nazism, which becomes the focus of an investigation Hole pursues. His efforts to discover how, and why, a rare sniper rifle was brought into the country lead him to several men who were Nazi sympathizers during the war.

Several parallel love stories emerge, as does a particularly sad one about friendship. All demonstrate Nesbo’s ability to evoke emotion while wanting to make sure all the doors in the house are securely locked.

The Redbreast
Four Bookmarks
Harper, 2000
520 pages

Perceptions vs. Beliefs   4 comments

faith

When I first picked up Faith by Jennifer Haigh, I almost immediately put it down. I was afraid it was going to further magnify the bull’s eye on the back on the Catholic church, which is already too easy a target for many. Yes, Haigh’s book is framed by the possibility of a priest molesting a young boy, but it’s much more than that. It is, indeed, about faith in its many manifestations: belief, conviction, trust, reliance and loyalty.

Old school Catholics, priests, families and perceptions are all deftly portrayed by Haigh as she tells the story of Father Art Breen, a quiet, unassuming parish priest whose primary vice is that he smokes like a steam engine. Father Art’s story is told through his sister’s eyes. Sheila begins with her step-brother’s progression through school, details his seminary years, his parish assignments and how he came to be accused of molesting a second-grader. Sheila also shares details about her family background: her mother who is a staunch Catholic unable to find fault with her church; her younger brother, Mike, who immediately believes Art is guilty; and her own conflicted thoughts as she discovers she is unsure who and what to believe.

The setting is Boston in the spring of 2002, just as the news of numerous molestation cases begin to emerge. The reader is asked to consider Art’s innocence or guilt just as his family struggles with this question. It seems so unlikely, and that is exactly what makes the possibility real.

Faith
Four Bookmarks
Harper, 2011
318 pages

A Technicolor Love Story   4 comments

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins is a cinematic novel. It’s easy to imagine this story playing on the silver screen. It spans years and continents, relies heavily on the relationship between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and features a strong connection to the movie industry. At its core, this is a love story, and a beautiful one at that.

Jess Walter’s tale involves a young actress, Dee, who arrives in an isolated Italian fishing village on the Ligurian Sea, where she meets Pasquale the owner of the Adequate View Hotel. Dee has been sent from Rome, where she had a bit part in the filming of Cleopatra. Dee is also pregnant with Burton’s child. Although it may sound like a blurb from People magazine, Walter imbues his narrative with deep feelings, humor, interesting characters and a clear passion for romance.

However, just when it seems the story will settle in the fishing village (the most interesting place) or even Los Angeles (because of the Hollywood scene), several miscellaneous locales are introduced: Seattle, London, Spokane, Florence, even Donner Pass in Northern California. Walter includes an assortment of characters, none of whom, surprisingly, are superfluous. Added, to this mix are different time periods: the early 1960s, the 1800s, and something more contemporary. The myriad of people, places and eras at first seems disparate, but they actually are essential what makes this such an engaging work.

Ruins are most often associated with architecture. Here Walter incorporates them into the erosion, but not extinction, of human emotions.

Beautiful Ruins
Four Bookmarks
Harper, 2012
337 pages