Hmmm so I am the Hungry Reader. The one who reads. The one who is constantly reading or wanting to read constantly. This blog is all about the books I have read, the ones that I am reading and gems that I plan to read in the future or whenever it arrives.
Title: Under the Midnight Sun
Author: Keigo Higashino
Translated from the Japanese by Alexander O. Smith with Joseph Reeder
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Literary Thriller
Rating: 5 Stars
Literary thrillers are hard to come by. Let me rephrase this: Good literary thrillers are hard to come by and thank God for Keigo Higashino. I was a fan the minute I finished reading “The Devotion of Suspect X” and then when I read “Salvation of a Saint” I knew I would continue reading whatever he would dish, no matter how good or bad. I think it has got to do with the atmosphere that is built in his novels, and that is so important for a good thriller. The right kind of setting – the fog if necessary, the ambience of the hotel maybe or just describing a regular street. He is a master at that, bordering noir, if there could be Japanese noir (given most of their literature is dark anyway) and almost surpasses himself in it.
“Under the Midnight Sun” is a big book at 560 pages. But at no point do you feel overwhelmed or intimidated reading it, because of its size. The story is so gripping that you want to turn the pages no matter how late it is at night or for that matter early morning. In Osaka, in 1973, the body of a murdered man is found in an abandoned building. Detective Sasagaki is unable to find the murderer. In all of this, the lives of two teenagers – Ryo and Yukiho get embroiled which will leave the reader shocking and gasping for breath as the end of the book nears.
Higashino in this one is mainly concentrating on the aftermath of a crime. Twenty years have passed and it is 1993 and how the teenagers then are impacted by the crime that took place. Why must they get impacted you ask? Well because one of them is the child of the one who got killed and the other the child of the killer. The psychological impact then – as they strive to find the truth behind the killing and how Sasagaki gets involved again is spine-chilling.
Higashino doesn’t mince words while writing. Everything is crystal clear and the way it is supposed to be. The plot while threadbare, as you go along keeps getting layers added to it, which doesn’t really let it remain threadbare for long. The characters are etched to accuracy and no one has received more or less print time. “Under the Midnight Sun” is a feast for any lover of pulp fiction.
Give me a good crime novel any day! The thing about crime novels is that one does not have to think too hard. Yes, the reader is involved all the time trying to solve the crime, but that is where the thinking ends. To a large extent that’s what crime readers want – the idea that they are involved and also that it does not compel them to think so much.
“Cloudland” by Joseph Olshan is one such book. It is but obviously a crime novel and a great one at that. Once having been a major reporter for a national newspaper, Catherine Winslow has retreated to the Upper Valley of Vermont to write a house-hold hints column. Her life is smooth sailing till one fine day; she discovers the dead body of a woman thawing in the snow, leaning against an apple tree, dressed in a pink parka. Catherine recognizes the woman as a victim of a serial-killing spree who was reportedly missing since a couple of weeks in a blizzard.
She further gets embroiled in the case, when she discovers her neighbour – a forensic psychiatrist is working on it. The mystery gets further intense when she realizes that the serial killer is taking his/her tips of a rare and unfinished Wilkie Collins novel, which is missing from her personal library. To add to this drama, Catherine’s ex-younger lover surfaces, wanting to win her affections and has a mean glint about him.
This is the basic premise of the story. There are more layers to it, which I cannot reveal as it would then kill the fun of reading this book. The book is also complicated but in a nice way (yes that is possible). What I liked about the book is that the book is not just about mystery – it is also about fascinating characters and some side-stories. The plot gradually builds up and I can safely say it is one of the edge-of-the-seat thrillers. The writing is crisp and once in a while it is great to sit with a tub of popcorn and enjoy a thriller.
Title: Death and the Maiden
Author: Gerald Elias
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Murder Mystery
Death and the Maiden by Gerald Elias is all what a mystery should be – fast paced, not losing sight of the plot, a bit of psychology thrown in and above all set around music, which made this mystery even more wonderful. I have not read the earlier Elias mysteries, however now that I have read this one; I can safely say that one doesn’t have to read the earlier books to read this one.
Death and the Maiden is centered on a string quartet. The new Magini String Quartet is being sued by its former disgruntled member, Crispin Short and to add to that, the 1st violinist, Aaron Kortovsky has disappeared. Aaron is also feared dead when severed fingers are found in the instrument cases of all the members of the quartet, including Ivan Lipinski who has been hired to replace Kortovsky. The killer’s motive: The quartet should not perform a modern reimagining of Franz Schubert’s, “Death and the Maiden”.
Enter: Blind violinist and our detective in the book, Daniel Jacobus who at any cost wants to identify the serial killer (yes there are a couple of murders thrown in as well). For me, the most unique aspect of the book was the fact that the detective was blind and I was intrigued with every page to know, how he would solve the mystery. Jacobus has been struck blind in his prime by a rare disease and has been left bitter and angry. He does not know what to do about it, so he teaches the violin and plays Scrabble. It is while teaching the violin to one of his students, who coincidentally belongs to The New Magini String Quartet, does he chance on this unusual situation. Both the killer and the investigator are similar in the sense that they both have faced tragedies and yet they cope with them differently. That’s the psychological angle to the book.
I loved how Elias managed to build the plot. There was not a single dull moment for me in the book. With every chapter there was a new turn and that is what keep mystery readers glued. The tone of the book is perfect. The writing in its place. The characters are sometimes complex and sometimes easy to get and for all of this and more, read the book. I cannot wait to read the other two books.