Broken Monsters (Reading Group Guide)
Super well-done mystery novel set turned super-natural what-the-fuck. Wonderful characters including sketchy wanna-be youtube stars, troubled ex-cons, teens in over their heads, overworked cops and mentally ill artists all face unknowable something or other in post-industrial Detroit. Good fun.
I picked this up not knowing what to expect and was really pleasantly surprised when what I got was a page turner that felt new and vibrant. The writing here isn’t always flawless, and some of the scenes especially those involving the wanna-be youtube star, felt forced, but all in all an enjoyable novel. I’ll be checking out Beukes’ other works.
God Help the Child: A novel
A minor work by a major author, this slim book by one of the greatest American novelists is beautiful and haunting. It moves back and forth from the allegorical to the realistic tracing the story of Bride, a wounded child who grows into a celebrated, but wounded women. Morrison deals here with race, and gender, and the unique horrors our society metes out to black women. She address child abuse, and dysfunctional relationships, and love. All of it in a way that feels real and devoid of the hectoring tone some political works can have. Beautifully written, you shouldn’t pass this one up.
Emily St. John Mandel
This is a wonderfully strange, somewhat SF, pretty dystopian, near future novel that’s also about the nature of love, what it means to be a family, and how to stay human, and creative, in a word stacked against you. I loved this book. Science fiction type books that deal with humanities’ struggle to survive a major disaster are generally a sure bet with me, but here, Mandel takes the conceit to a new level of prose sophistication. As far as I know Mandel doesn’t have an MFA, but this book reads like she does. Its prose is polished and sophisticated, its characters are wonderfully particularized, and its plot, while perhaps not really “page turner” is involving and complex. Probably the best fiction book I read all year.
In the Woods
The first of French’s Dublin Murder squad novels, this is the type of literary novel masquerading as a crime novel that I absolutely adore. On the surface, this is the story of an unsolved disappearance and an unsolved murder, decades apart. And on that level, it’s a very successful crime novel. But it’s also, as all crime novels are, the story of a place (Dublin) and the story of people’s (the cops/victims) attempts to deal with the aftermath of childhood trauma and find human connection in a fucked up world.
All in all, a worthy effort and right up my alley. I’ll be reading the rest of French’s books eventually.
Baltimore Blues: The First Tess Monaghan Novel
The first book in Lippman’s Tess Monaghan Series of crime novels set in Baltimore. This was a bit of more breezy than I expected, but does what I want a crime novel to do – give me a sense of place, give me characters I believe, and keep me turning the pages. I like this well enough to finish it in a matter of days, but not enough to track down the other books in the series. If you like your crime novels hardboiled, this might not be your thing, but if you like you crime novels to tell you not only a story, but also about a place a time (here Baltimore, early 90s) then you’ll probably enjoy this one.
Recommended for the enthusiast.