Friday, 12 August 2011

The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo


DATE READ: August 2011

NOTES: The Redeemer is a tautly plotted crime thriller. The wintery atmosphere of Oslo is brought to life as Harry Hole investigates the murder of a member of the Salvation Army. Much of the book follows the modern formula of a policeman with a troubled private life, drinking problem and antagonism to his superiors. However the writing is good, the characters well drawn and fairly credible and the action moves at a cracking pace.

The plot is fairly complex, involving a hitman (the Redeemer) from Croatia coming to Norway to carry out a contract killing. But who sent for him? Nesbo keeps us guessing right to the end. There are biblical references to the Redeemer and how he rises again on the third day – but this is not overdone. It may have been better with fewer characters but there were lots of twists and turns and it was a compulsive read.

Translators are rarely acknowledged – but Don Bartlett deserves congratulations for a very stylish translation.

The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam


DATE READ: July 2011

NOTES: This is the follow-up book to Tahmima Anam’s excellent A Golden Age. It follow the story of Maya and Sohail and their mother Rehana and what happened to them after the end of the Bengali War of Independence.

She uses the narrative device of two different time lines: the first in the immediate aftermath of the war in 1972 and the second in 1984. She shows how all have been affected by the war in different ways. Maya is cynical about the way things have turned out and is shocked and confused by her brother Sohail and his devout adherence to Islam. But even though she counts herself as an unbeliever she finds herself drawn into the spiritual atmosphere of the female followers of Sohail.

Feelings of despair about the new state of Bangladesh run through the book but fortunately there is a redemptive ending. The one false note in the plotting was Sohail’s attitude to his young son Zaid whom he treats with disdain and neglect.

The Good Muslim is beautifully written – and tells a good story.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Our Kind of Traitor by John Le Carre


DATE READ: July 2011

NOTES: After the somewhat disappointing A Most Wanted Man John Le CarrĂ© is once more back on form with his latest book. An English couple on holiday in the Caribbean meet a rich Russian, Dima, and his family. They are both curious about him – their relationship with him is a mixture of fascination and revulsion. Dima seems to be at odds with the Russian criminal fraternity and wants to make a deal with the British to enable him to live in London and bring his large laundered fortune to British banks.

Needless to say the plan does not go smoothly. Perry and Gail have different motives and the Intelligence Services are murky and untrustworthy. Our Kind of Traitor is written with great verve and style as we are propelled through political and financial machinations. Le CarrĂ© casts his cynical eye over the current British establishment. Links between grasping politicians, amoral bankers and the criminal fraternity? Surely not! The dialogue is terrific – especially that of the intelligence agents Hector and Luke. A film script already written….