What I read this week…
Seasonal Work by Laura Lippman
The award-winning master of psychological suspense is in top form in this collection of diverse and diabolically clever stories.
In the never-before-published “Just One More,” a married couple–longing for that old romantic spark–creates a playful diversion that comes with unexpected consequences.
Lippman’s beloved Baltimore PI Tess Monaghan keeps a watchful eye on a criminally resourceful single father in “Seasonal Work,” while her mother, Judith, realizes that the life of “The Everyday Housewife” is an excellent cover for all kinds of secrets.
In “Slow Burner,” a husband’s secret cell phone proves to be a dicey temptation for a suspicious wife.
A father’s hidden past piques the curiosity of a young snoop in “The Last of Sheila-Locke Holmes.”
Plus seven other brilliantly crafted stories of deception, murder, dangerous games, and love gone wrong–irrefutable evidence that Laura Lippman’s riveting fiction will more than satisfy any crime reader.
My thoughts: I very much enjoyed Laura Lippman’s Sunburn, so I jumped at the opportunity to check out this collection. These stories have been described as “domestic horror”, but I’d argue “domestic thrillers” would be more appropriate. While unsettling in many instances, their focus is on the psychology underlying our relationships, and the strange, occasionally baffling choices it can trigger. The opening tale is a perfect example of this, how a simple misunderstanding snowballs into an emotionally destructive lie fueled by unspoken familial pressures. Another, “Five Fires”, is a terrific character piece that demonstrates how social pressures and the need to belong can skew a young mind. Other stories are more akin to the author’s longer suspense novels in tone and conceit: a couple tries to spice things up with an online dating app, a wife discovers her husband’s secret burner phone, a con man may have finally met his match in his young daughter. Each sets up an intriguing scenario that pays of in surprising fashion. Who doesn’t love a good twist ending?
As with any anthology, your mileage may vary. Like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. While I love praline, someone else may prefer mint cream. But, in the end, there’s something here for everyone.
You Only Find Them When They’re Dead, volume 1 by Al Ewing and Simone Di Meo
Captain Malik and the crew of the spaceship the Vihaan II are in search of the only resources that matter—and can only be found by harvesting the giant corpses of alien gods that are found on the edge of human space. While other autopsy ships and explorers race to salvage the meat, minerals, and metals that sustain the human race, Malik sees an opportunity to finally break free from this system: by being the first to find a living god.
But Malik’s obsession with the gods will push his crew into the darkest reaches of space, bringing them face to face with a threat unlike anything they ever imagined, unless the rogue agent on their trail can stop them first…
My thoughts: The four-person crew of the Vihaan II autopsy ship explores the outer reaches of space in search of the corpses of gods, free-floating giants from parts unknown. Their flesh commands a high price on the open market and the Vihaan II has done well for itself, but for its determined Captain, it’s not enough. Driven by a desire to find the greatest prize of all – a living god – he presses his crew onwards while an equally obsessive individual from his past follows, in search of revenge. This book is wild if not a little confusing, an intergalactic Moby Dick with a visual style reminiscent of the kaleidoscope anime of the 90’s. It’s got a great look and a fascinating set-up yet, for now, offers little in the way of answers to the origins of these mysterious gods. In all fairness, however, it’s early still.
Rating pending series conclusion.
Red Milk by Sjón (translated by Victoria Cribb)
In England in 1962, an Icelandic man is found dead on a train bound for Cheltenham Spa. In his possession, policemen find a map on which a swastika has been drawn with a red pen. Who was he, and where was he going?
In a novel that reads as both biography and mystery, the internationally celebrated novelist Sjón tells the story of Gunnar Kampen, the founder of Iceland’s anti-Semitic nationalist party, with ties to a burgeoning network of neo-Nazi groups across the globe. Told in a series of scenes and letters spanning Kampen’s lifetime–from his childhood in Reyjavík during the Second World War, in a household strongly opposed to Hitler and his views, through his education, political radicalization, and his final clandestine mission to England–Red Milk urges readers to confront the international legacy of twentieth-century fascism and the often unknowable forces that drive some people to extremism.
My thoughts: This short novel opens with the discovery of a dead man on a train. Then, in a series of flashbacks, it tells the story of said victim, Gunnar Kampen, from his early years as an impressionable young boy through his rise in an Icelandic new-Nazi group, to the fateful journey that ends his life. It’s an interesting study of the allure of nationalism, but it’s not very successful in giving us a sense of WHY young Gunnar is drawn to this ideology. And I really feel this should be at the core of this personal tale, an understanding (or even a hint!) of why our protagonist does what he does. To be fair, this lack of character depth or introspection may be characteristic of Icelandic literature in which case I simply may not be the audience for this type of book. Provocative yet, ultimately, unsatisfying.
Invisible Kingdom, volume 1 by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward
In a distant galaxy, two women discover an inconceivable conspiracy between the world’s most dominant religion and an all-powerful mega corporation.
Suddenly the prey in a desperate interstellar chase, they’re faced with a life-or-death decision: reveal the truth or risk plunging their worlds into anarchy.
My thoughts: The (literally) colorful crew of a transport ship runs afoul of their corporate overlords, and compounds the problem by throwing in with a rogue space nun. There’s some nice world-building here and some very interesting characters but the plot to take down the church and corporatocracy feels like a bit of a buy given that, today, politicians, bankers, and insider traders commit brazen crimes yet face few repercussions from a disinterested public. Christian Ward’s art is, always, gorgeous. A solid opening chapter to what promises to be a fun sci-fi adventure.
Unrated pending completion of series.
The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm and human-free world. They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous panda and they’re in trouble.
It’s not just the Kaiju Preservation Society that’s found its way to the alternate world. Others have, too–and their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die.
4 thoughts on “January 31, 2022: Baron’s Book Club Blab Blog!”
You are on fire with your reading this year! At this rate you’ll read… what… over a thousand books this year? Are you a speed reader or do you skim through quickly? Amazing.
I’m fast. My target was 100 in 2022 before I started, but now aiming for 200.
My Dad is a fast reader, too. It’s really annoying. 😉
I’m a slow but absorbent reader. Except when I was finishing Harry Potter books as a kid, but I stayed up at night to do that.
Several of these sound weird and wonderful.
“We Only Find Them When They’re Dead” I’d already heard of from following Boom! Studios comics, and I know the authors of most of the others but not the specific works.