Thursday, June 21, 2012

Kevin Wignall: Alchemy

I was away on a trip for over a week. We were in Sicily, in Cefalú to be exact, and travelled around the island for couple of times, in Palermo for instance. It's a beautiful city, with all its history and nice buildings. We also were at the Etna mountain. I'll probably post some pictures one of these days once they have been downloaded from the camera, but I'll save you from longer ramblings. I'll just say that it's a pity we didn't have enough time to try to find Aleister Crowley's house in Cefalú.

I read three books during the trip (I had four with me, and I started the fourth late last night, and it looks very good indeed: Duane Swierczynski's Expiration Date), one of them being a Finnish crime novel from an author I was requested to do an interview with. One was James Herbert's The Spear (1978), essentially a fun novel about neo-Nazis trying to rule the world with the help from the spear of Longinus, but also a bit outdated, with lots of old-fashioned thriller clichés to somewhat ruin the experience. But the one book rose above all the others: Kevin Wignall's Alchemy, the second installation in his Mercian trilogy. I reviewed the first one, called Blood, here. I seem to have written that Blood will be published in Finland, but that has changed, I'm sorry to say. I'm not sure what the current situation is.

Back to Alchemy. I was a bit confused in the beginning, since - being lousy on plots - I didn't remember much about the first book. Eventually I got into the story and it drew me in with irresistible force. The sadness and melancholy gave way also to other feelings, such as hatred and aggression, as Wignall introduces new characters. There are also some revelations of the most evil character in the book - in the whole universe, it seems - and it shows Wignall's mastery that I was beginning to doubt whether Lorcan Labraid really is worth all the talk, but indeed he is. The book ends in the midst of one of most harrowing reading experiences I've had in a while. Can't wait for the third book, Death, to appear. (And I'm sorry that it will be the final episode in the series.)

One point still, though: there are lots of discussion in the blogs and other venues that crime and other genre writing has deteriorated in the recent decades, say, Alistair MacLean is better than Tom Clancy. I won't dispute that, but Wignall absolutely beats James Herbert hands down. (Well, okay, Herbert isn't a very good example. I did enjoy his Rats, though.) What I mean to say is that sometimes things are just done in a bolder way. Wignall does exactly that.

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