Friday, September 12, 2008

Megan Abbott's Queenpin

Again a short review on a piece of new American noir and hardboiled: Megan Abbott's Queenpin (with thanks to Patti Abbott, in ways more than one!). I finished the book last night and enjoyed it very much, with some reservations.

The book is a stylistic exercise: how to write a book that's set in the late fourties or early fifties and not to mention anything that could give the setting away? Abbott uses mainly only language to convey the feeling of the era. She uses the slang known from film noirs and hardboiled novels of the era, but she doesn't mention any films or books or celebrities from the era which would've been the easy way out. She succeeds marvellously, but at the same time I have hard time imagining a reader who'd be able to get into this, had he or she no knowledge of the usual expression of film noir or the vintage hardboiled literature. But being who I am, I had no trouble. The book is terse, tense and brutal, which are equivalent of "good" in my vocabulary.

There's one thing more that gives Queenpin an unusual edge and makes it rise from usual pastiche-like quality: the two leads are two women, the men are somewhere around, on the fringes, but not very important (except when a love story comes along). And these women are no ordinary housewives: they are big operators in a Mob-related business. The way Abbott writes about them makes that seem totally plausible.

I could've wished there was more plot to the book, though. It's actually a pretty straight-forward story. But maybe it might've been too tough to follow, if there'd been a more difficult plot.

I haven't read Abbott's previous novels, The Song Is You and Die Me a Little, but she certainly is someone to watch.

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