Friday, October 03, 2008

I don't know what to do this afternoon.

Today is my last free day in New York City. I have shows tomorrow and Sunday, and Monday I head to Washington, DC for a few days before going to Baltimore for Bouchercon. (I am moderating a panel at 8:30 Thursday morning. If you get up that early and come see us, I will buy you coffee after and be your best friend for life.)

Anyway, I'm paralyzed by choice. What to do with my last free afternoon -- The Met? MOMA? The Guggenheim? The Morgan Library? The Cloisters? Somewhere I've never been? Maybe I could just go to a movie... or sit in a cafe with a cup of decaf and a slice of cake, doing Bouchercon homework and watching the world go by.

As I prepare to leave New York, I'm proud of how well I packed -- not just clothes, but books. I've read all but three of the books I brought with me, and we won't mention the three I bought yesterday, the two I got in this week's mail, or whatever I might pick up between now and Monday.

What I Read These Weeks (special two-week edition, since I didn't post last Friday)

Irvine Welsh, CRIME. It always interests me when "literary" authors turn to genre or young adult fiction, as if those were somehow easier than writing Serious Work about Serious Topics. I could make an argument for classifying some of Welsh's earlier work as crime fiction, and certainly he's fascinated by violence and redemption. CRIME is the story of a Scottish police detective who investigates a young girl's troubles while on vacation in Florida. Vivid writing and sophisticated literary techniques (alternating present-tense and second-person POV -- wouldn't one of those have been enough?) didn't keep this book from feeling weirdly tedious. It was interesting to compare CRIME with THE UNQUIET by John Connolly, a superior and very different take on similar subject matter.

Derek Haas, THE SILVER BEAR. More present-tense narration, but very well done; an impressive first novel about a hit man who calls himself Columbus, hired to take out a Presidential candidate with whom he shares a secret past. Reminiscent of Richard Condon and early Charles McCarry.

Will Thomas, THE BLACK HAND. The latest in this Sherlockian series finds private inquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn, investigating a series of Mafia attacks on and around the London docks. More action than plot, but the pleasure of this series is the two main characters.

Alex Kava, EXPOSED. FBI Special Agent Maggie O'Dell is exposed to a deadly virus, spread by a criminal mastermind who borrows tactics from historic serial killers and mass murderers. The copy I read was labeled "in progress," but this was a solid thriller.

Jeffery Deaver, THE BROKEN WINDOW. Deaver's best in ages, a frightening thriller about identity theft. Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs investigate a killer who frames suspects by using the most intimate secrets of their daily lives.

Patricia Sprinkle, SINS OF THE FATHERS. I don't read many amateur-sleuth novels. This one, about an investigation into how a black family's graves came to be on an all-white Georgia island, was plausible and compelling, but marred by two gratuitous acts of violence at the very end of the book.

Declan Burke, THE BIG O. I was favorably inclined toward this book because 1) it was a gift from the author, 2) my friend Bobby recommended it, and 3) it includes a reference to my friend Gary's movie Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead. Notwithstanding, this thriller is great fun in the Elmore Leonard tradition, unapologetically jammed with wild coincidences, and surprisingly low-violence for a book whose main characters are an armed robber, a kidnapper and a Siberian wolf.


Bea said...

I'll be honest, I'm not sure I'd really want to classify Welsh as "literary." Sure Trainspotting is awesome, but I'm more inclined to put it in the same category as Fight Club. Pop literature about serious things.

Declan Burke said...

Nice one, Bea. "Pop literature about serious things." 'Pop' being short for 'popular', no doubt.

Clair? Much obliged for the big-up, ma'am ... Hope to catch you at B'con.

Cheers, Dec

Tom Ehrenfeld said...

Oh I'm so annoyed that I read this at night--if I had read it earlier in the day I would have recommended that you check out the Van Gogh at night exhibit, apparently there's a terrific show showing his paintings of stars. I'd give anything to see that. Anything.