Tag Archives: book review

A Good Book I Read Lately

28 Apr

“Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They
read it to get to the end. If it’s a letdown, they won’t
buy any more. The first page sells that book. The last
page sells your next book.”
                         MICKEY SPILLANE

I am a sucker for a good mystery, especially one set in Italy. Besides the sheer pleasure of getting lost in a good book, as a mystery writer, I love to see how other writers in the genre practice their craft. There is probably room for as many mystery novels as there are writers with unique mystery voices. This is one of the best and most unique that I have ready late.

The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri

Translated from the Italian, The Potter’s Field in the latest in the series featuring Inspector Montalbano, a police detective in the fictional town of Vigáta, Sicily.

The story begins when a local man finds a dismembered body in a plastic bag in an area called “‘u critaru,” which is Sicilian for “the clay-field.”  Even as the police officers fight a driving rainstorm to reach the site where the body was found, their personality quirks illustrate the relationships of these men. Montalbano must identify the victim, find the killer and deal with personality conflicts in the police department at the same time. The first of those tasks turns out to be comparatively simple, due to skillful forensic work when a dental bridge is found in the victim’s stomach.

The case becomes much more involved when the victim is found to have connections to a local Mafia boss. To complicate matters further, one of Montalbano’s officers has been in a particularly bad humor for some time, and his romantic entanglements also have a bearing on the case.

With all these pressures going on in his life, Montalbano begins to dream of retirement, but he is able to see through the complexities and identify the betrayals, as he connects the potter’s field where the body was found to the Bible and the betrayal of Judas for thirty pieces of silver.

This is the first in this series that I have read, and I felt that I missed out not knowing the background. However, Camilleri’s descriptions of the foibles of the police officers often had me laughing out loud, even as I read the gruesome details of the crime. Only an author with true knowledge of Sicilian life could create a story which reflects the unusual setting, as well as the human weaknesses and idiosyncrasies that are universal.

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Friday Book Review

10 Dec

Review of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

      James Halliday, the genius who created OASIS, the virtual reality that occupies the lives of most people in the dreary world of 2044, has just died. He left his fortune to whoever can follow his clues through his virtual world and find “the egg.”

     Several years have passed and no one has even found the first “key” in the treasure hunt, when a geeky eighteen year old boy in a trailer park on the outskirts of Oklahoma City finds it, and his avatar name “Parzival” appears on the scoreboard.

     Even for someone as ignorant of video game culture as I am, this novel pulled me in. Cline has not only written a gripping story, with good guys pitted against bad guys, but he has done it all in the context of avatars, virtual reality, and an obsession with 1980s pop culture. In order to reach “the egg,” players must be familiar with the Rubik’s Cube, the Walkman, and movies such as War Games and Monty Python’s Search for the Grail.

     The details of life in this future world, where the majority of the  population spends their time wearing visors and haptic suits that allow them to experience an alternate reality, are nothing short of amazing. “Parzival” even attends a virtual high school. Cline creates layers upon layers of virtual experiences with his knowledge of everything from Pac Man to prizes in Cap’n Crunch cereal. And his heroes must also possess this knowledge to reach the “egg” before the “Sixers” do, which means they have spent most of their lives watching ‘80s TV and movies and playing video games.

     This book is beautifully written and the humanity of the characters wonderfully portrayed with all their genuine emotions. It doesn’t matter that most of the story is told through their avatars. This is an unusual work that deserves a place among the best of innovative novels.

 {Review originally published in Suspense Magazine)