Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Paul Johnston: The Golden Silence

Paul Johnston is a writer I've had some interest in for quite a while. His thrillers have been published in Finland only under Harlequin's Bestseller imprint, and the books haven't had almost any kind of recognition. Yet I've heard good things about them, and I've been looking for a cheap copy (meaning one euro, tops) in thrift stores and used book stores. Finally I found The Golden Silence, Kultainen hiljaisuus in Finnish (it's a literal translation) and read it a week ago wanting to read something light-weight. 

The book was light-weight all right, but it also clearly wanted to be something deep, yet not really achieving that status. There are many original things about the book, though. First, the hero: private eye Alex Mavros lives and works in Greece. Second, the mystery he deals with in The Golden Silence has to do with the Greek dictatorship of the early seventies and the Leftist uprising against the said dictatorship. Mavros's older brother disappeared in the aftermath of the uprising and he keeps looking for him, and this case brings him closer to finding him. 

Mavros is a likable character, though not very multidimensional, and the Greek setting is believable - Paul Johnston lives in Greece -, but there's still something that unfortunately doesn't make to want to back for more. The style is too straight-forward and flat, and there were lots of stilted moments throughout the book. During some of these I thought of letting the book go, but the mystery remained interesting. It also made the torturing duo of father and son more intriguing and essential to the plot, though I wasn't all the time sure if they were necessary characters. 

The Golden Silence is not bad at all, and it may have suffered from the hasty translation (Harlequin is not really known for their good salaries), so if this sounds your kind of stuff, go for it. In the back cover there are enthusiastic blurbs from George Pelecanos (!) and Mark Billingham, so if you have any trust for blurbs, you could do worse than picking up Paul Johnston.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Marisha Pessl: Night Film

During the holidays, I wanted to read - as always - something that is not at all related to my work, usually something criminous. Normally I like to read something hardboiled or noirish, but during this holiday I decided to try something else entirely.

I'd heard good things about Marisha Pessl's Night Film, and though it's over 700 pages in Finnish translation, I read it. I wasn't disappointed, and the length didn't bother me at all. There's bound to be some padding in 700 pages, but not overtly so in this case. Night Film (translated Yönäytös, which is a literal translation, though it misses the "film" part) is about the mysterious film director Stanislas Cordova and his legacy, and the death of his daughter that seems like a suicide at first. An investigative journalist starts to dig around Cordova and finds himself deep in the mysteries and even horrors of Cordova's films.

There's some forced deepness in the book, especially in the end, but then again the ending is also fitting with the rest of the book and the themes of Cordova's films, which, quite wisely, are described only shortly. There are also some scenes that are gripping as all hell, and I found myself turning a page after another and not wanting to stop reading. (This also affected our Christmas holiday, as I didn't seem to be interested in the festivities.)

Night Film wasn't 100 % non-work reading, as I have an unfinished novel manuscript in which similar things happen, but in a Finnish milieu instead. Don't really know if reading this helped, but I also wanted to know what roads had already been traveled. I'm thinking I'd order me a copy of Tobe Hooper's novel, Midnight Movie, and maybe go back to Theodore Roszak's Flicker (a great novel, if you ask me). Night Film resembles Flicker, by the way, but not too much, and the conspiracy theories Roszak weaves are much more world-embracing than the ones Pessl has.

By the way, I seem to remember stumbling on a mention of a new novel, possibly translated from German, that's also a thriller about a mysterious film or a film director. I can't trace this anymore, so if somebody could help me identify the book, I'd be grateful.

I also managed to squeeze in a Sue Grafton title (C Is for Corpse) in a memory of her death. I've never read her much, but can't see why: Kinsey Millhone is a likable protagonist and the stories are believable and complicated.