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16 november 2019

Faber's series of "New Irish short stories" is an outstanding way to discover new writers, and to keep up with some established ones.     read more

15 november 2019

Poirot's Early Cases showed up free on Kindle during a semester when I was teaching Agatha Christie anyway, and the 13 short stories in the set seemed to me a pleasant way to be put to sleep nights. Evidently this collection was first assembled in the 1970s, including stories that appeared in magazines in the '20s and '30s. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, whose energies tended to flag at novel length, Hercule Poirot always seemed to do best in relatively long and very elaborately-structured mysteries like The ABC Murders or Murder on the Orient Express. In some of the "early cases," one sees Christie's tendencies toward creating large casts and intricate puzzles for Poirot, to the point that some of these stories read like novels manqués. But they're worth reading for Christie completists.     read more

10 november 2019

A.J. Finn's Woman in the Window is a very skillful, extremely popular psychological thriller that has drawn its share of envy and backbiting. Its author (a long-time editor really-named Dan Mallory) was subjected to a juice-filled exposé by Ian Parker in The New Yorker. The Woman in the Window novel has been dismissed as derivative, even part-plagiarized. It's a pretty good book for all the controversy, legitimately "unputdownable" as Stephen King, coining a word, dubbed it in a blurb.     read more

6 november 2019

The Nazis killed millions of Jews in largely secretive fashion. They hid death camps like Sobibor from public view. To this day Holocaust deniers leverage that secretiveness into insane assertions that the Shoah never happened. One often hears that the German people did not know what was happening to the Jews. The sudden absence of all Jews from Germany must have been a clue, but maybe German Gentiles honestly thought they'd all just been relocated. Nevertheless, as Jeffrey Herf showed in his 2006 book The Jewish Enemy, the Holocaust took place in front of a backdrop of Nazi propaganda preaching the extermination of all Jews, everywhere. The only defense for ignorance became the principle that the rhetoric of Hitler, Goebbels, et al. was too insane to be believed. Things were just as insane as the Nazis advertised, though, and worse.     read more