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13 august 2017

Forget Stephen King, forget The Walking Dead: in the opinion of my partner, the gardener, the scariest book I could bring into the house was Constance Kirker and Mary Newman's Edible Flowers.     read more

11 august 2017

The original title of Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza's detective novel Blackout is Espinosa sem saída: "Espinosa at a dead end," in several senses. One is literal. The dead body that kicks off the mystery in Blackout is found in a cul-de-sac, a beco sem saída. But there seems no way to make any progress on the case – it's a dead end – and ultimately, the whole affair is full of existential horror. No Exit for Espinosa.     read more

9 august 2017

"Inspector's first case" is a well-developed subgenre of crime writing. We meet most detective inspectors midcareer. They are well set in their ways; they're sometimes minor celebrities. We may hear something of their backstories as their series thread their way along, but only late in such characters' fictional lives do we roll back the clock and see them as junior investigators, prequel-like. Even just here at lection, over the years, I have reviewed the "first cases" of Montalbano, Ghote, Erlendur, and Wallander – and the genre goes back at least to the 1940s and La première enquête de Maigret.     read more

8 august 2017

The Big Sleep is one brilliant, troubled book. It is the pattern for all the first-person private-eye fiction of the last 80 years, and as such is one of the most influential novels in American literary history. There is much to dislike about it, but there's also a manic energy in its language that propels you into the Philip Marlowe series. I have a lot of other things to read over the next few months, and I have to be careful not just to drop everything and (re)read Chandler straight through.     read more