Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Seven Days in South Africa

Deon Meyer 7 Days Drew ratter writes: THERE'S been a fair gap since my last Thrillfilter review. I have not stopped reading the stuff, of course. For instance, I consumed the whole of Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen series (they are cheap on Kindle). Once I started, I could not stop. I find that character driven material of that kind appeals particularly to me. I can live with limited plotting if the writing is good, the imagined world is vivid, and the chief character has character. The next writer I picked up was a sort of accident. Looking at recently returned books at the library, I picked up 7 Days, by Deon Meyer. Meyer lives in Durban, in South Africa, and writes in Afrikaans. He's the first South African police procedural writer I have sampled, and so far 7 Days is the only book by him I have come across. He's good though. His hero is Benny Griessel, recovering alcoholic, completely lacking in self confidence, and with a tendency to swearing at inappropriate moments, and then being wiped out by embarrassment. His love interest, Alexa Barnard, is likewise recovering, and driven by a complete loss of belief in her music career. The book is by no means a one man band. Apart from Benny, one vivid and believable character after another crosses the scene, all interacting, fluent, and well defined. The narrative is well judged and propulsive. The background, that is South Africa recreating itself after the end of Apartheid is well realised. It's good to come across something worth recommending!

Norwegian by Night

Derek B Miller Norwegian by Night Drew Ratter writes: Derek B. Miller is the director of The Policy Lab and a senior fellow with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research. He has a PHD in international relations from the University of Geneva, among numerous other academic distinctions. He is also the author of rather a marvellous novel, a thriller certainly, but a very unusual one. His hero, and a hero he is, is an old Jew. Eighty-two years old, and recently widowed, Sheldon Horowitz has grudgingly moved to Oslo, with his grand-daughter and her Norwegian husband. They are lovely, but Sheldon is unsure, and grouchy. In New York, he was a watch repairer, with friends, and a relationship with his dead son. He was a marine in Korea. He may be slipping into senility (especially given his conversations with his son and his old friend 4000 miles away in New York. Both dead). He may have been a sniper, or he may have been a cook's helper. When he takes on, without the slightest hesitation, the child of a murdered woman, to save him from his monstrous Albanian father; the murderer of his mother, we begin to accept that his marine training and career were serious, and he is, without qualification, wonderful. Norwegian by Night is full of wonder, rather a marvellous piece of work. I certainly hope this fine and deeply humane writer produces more work.

The Hitman's Guide to housecleaning

Hallgrimur Helgason The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning Drew Ratter writes I wonder if the cult of the Scandi thriller is receding, as everything does, sooner or later. I might be mistaken, but there seems little new blood lately, and being honest, some of those who rode the wave were middling, at best. Shan't name them here, but if you want bad writing....well, as I said,not now. Helgason, though, is great fun, and this is only book written in English. His principal is most definitely an anti hero, Tomislav Bokæsiâc, with accents, who moved to New York, became Tom Boksic, without, and then Toxic Thus into the only occupation which can use his skills effectively. A massively effective contract killer working for a horrible Eastern European mafia. It goes wrong, though, and he has to run. Dodging the law on his way through an airport heading for Zagreb, he ends up murdering a fundamentalist preacher, stealing his identity, documents, and air tickets to Reykavik; a destination he has never even heard of. The remainder of the book is about the life he makes among the evangelist community on that island, as the Reverend Friendly. It is very entertaining indeed. Among other things, his phonetic rendering of Icelandic names is excellent. Goodmoondoor, Sickreader, the evangelists. Gunholder, their daughter, who fairly quickly becomes his lover. And so on, though not to the point of tiresomeness. It's written in the first person, something of which I think there is rather too much these days. But still.