Monday, January 16, 2012

Haven't Read 'Dragon Tattoo' Yet? Give it a Try!

“The Girl with the Golden Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, $15.95), one of 2012’s best selling books, initially came out in an English translation in 2008.

This latest paperback edition showcases a new cover with images from the hot new David Fincher movie. It’s also gotten a big push through assorted blog sites and positive reader recommendations
The other two books in the blockbuster series, “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” have also sold incredibly well, with worldwide sales of over 21 million copies.

At almost 600 pages, reading the first book in the series seems like a massive undertaking for the average mystery/thriller lover, who’s more used to completing books half that length.

After the first 100 pages or so, one’s likely to be puzzled as to what all the fuss is about. But the book gets better and better; soon the reader’s ensnared and amazed, wanting to drop everything to find out more about
the actions of Larsson’s intriguing, enigmatic main characters.

Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced Swedish financial journalist, is hired by the head of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families to investigate the 1966 disappearance of Harriet Varner, a pretty 16-year-old family member.

Eventually, he gets assistance from computer hacking prodigy Lisbeth Salander, an independent, asocial young woman who’s under court-ordered psychiatric guardianship.

Salander’s gritty experiences with a new court-appointed guardian are daunting; her revenge is justifiably memorable.

Surprisingly, the investigative pair works together remarkably well; soon the relationship becomes more than just work-related. The novel, like the movie, is exceptionally complex and atmospheric. The pair has minimal initial success as they try to track down facts using traditional and more contemporary information-gathering methods.

Their quest isn’t easy; reticent family members and many of the assorted authorities have long ago given up ever solving the puzzling case.

Unusual sexual relationships abound; unnerving information surfaces and the search for truth reveals disturbing and deadly, long hidden secrets.

Moviegoers who’ve caught the excellent recent film starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara won’t be disappointed with the book. A few sub-plots have been deleted and some scenes necessarily altered.

Larsson, who died in 2004, has created a fascinating, absorbing tale that succeeds exceptionally well on a variety of levels.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on January 15, 2012.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Treats for Real Mystery Lovers

Die-hard mystery lovers can start the year off with a few real treats – there’s an excellent new novel out by Michael Connelly and a pair of books relating to Agatha Christie.

“The Drop” by award-winning, best-selling author Michael Connelly (Little, Brown, $27.99), is the seventeenth in his popular series starring Harry Bosch, a hard working Los Angeles police detective.

Bosch gets assigned a puzzling cold case where a predator’s DNA was recently matched up after the initial 1989 rape and murder investigation. The only problem is, the suspect was 8 years old at the time!

As if that’s not tough enough, he and his partner are called by the chief of police to investigate the suspicious death of George Irving, the son of Bosch’s old nemesis, influential City Councilman Irvin Irving.

Bosch faces many challenges, exploring a variety of false leads in both cases, trying to make sense of conflicting information. There’s even a touch of unexpected romance; Bosch gets emotionally involved with a woman who has a dark secret of her own.

Connelly is in fine form, offering a mesmerizing tale of death and deceit by one of America’s best crime fiction novelists.

“Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making” by John Curran (Harper, $25.99) is the sequel to his intriguing 2010 release, “The Secret Notebooks of Agatha Christie”, which won many of the genre’s top writing awards.

Subtitled “More Secrets and Stories from Her Notebooks”, Curran provides over 400 pages of highly- detailed, previously unpublished material, including a rare version of a Miss Marple short story.

He also showcases an essay by Christie regarding her fictional detective Hercule Poirot, which originally appeared in a British newspaper in the 1930’s.

Curran, who formerly edited the official Agatha Christie newsletter, has created an intriguing book that serious Christie fans should really appreciate.

“Agatha Christie - An Autobiography” (Harper, $29.99) is a handsome reprint of a title that was originally published in 1977.

Christie began writing this book in 1950 and continued for 15 years, until she was 75 and decided “it seems the right moment to stop.”

This new edition includes a cd of newly discovered recordings of Christie dictating parts of this book.
Agatha Christie, (1890-1976), remains one of the world’s most popular authors, selling over 2 billion copies of her books worldwide.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop,
has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on January 1, 2012.