The Luminaries

The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met.

This is over 800 pages, I’m just going to share that before anything else. And the first 300 – 400 are basically just world building and giving you the background of the characters involved. If I wouldn’t know better (Tolkien isn’t a kiwi author), I’d say kiwi authors can’t write short and to the point.

The point here is a detective mystery. Some people show up dead in this nineteenth century gold miners town, some things go missing, some relationships are destroyed and made. Before the reader gets to the conclusion of this mystery, they might be worn down by all the endless details shared leading up to it.

If you start this novel knowing that a very long game is being run here, you might enjoy it in an almost encyclopedic way. I didn’t know before that there was a New Zealand gold rush, I enjoyed the descriptions of nineteenth century New Zealand and the immigrants living there. I can’t remember precisely how the mystery was solved, though.

The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, Granta 2013

The Hollow

10 x 24 min.

Ja, wat is dit dan nu weer? Om de zoveel tijd probeer ik een geanimeerde serie, omdat ik daar mee ben opgegroeid en fijne herinneringen aan heb terwijl ik tegelijkertijd niet die nostalgische meut met ‘vroeger was alles beter’ wil zijn. Om die reden is veel anime niet the hollow netflixaan mij besteed, maar er is meer animatie dan anime.

Onderdeel daarvan is The Hollow, een Canadese serie die nu op Netflix te vinden is. Het zijn dan wel tieners die in een vreemde wereld wakker worden zonder dat ze weten wie en waar ze zijn, het is zeker geen kinderachtige serie. Na een ietwat log begin, ontvouwt de serie in iets dat Dali-light genoemd zou kunnen worden; minotaurussen, poorten naar andere werelden, het zieke paard van de Dood en zo verder. Het is vreemd en soms een beetje eng, tot één van de hoofdrolspelers weer zijn rol als comedic relief invult.

Het unheimliche gevoel verdwijnt snel wanneer de clue bereikt is, en de serie wordt weer standaard zaterdagochtend-kindertelevisiemateriaal. Misschien hoef je de laatste aflevering niet eens te bekijken. Maar daarvoor … daarvoor is het best allemaal vermakelijk met een vreemd randje.

The Hollow, Netflix 2018

Career of Evil

He had not managed to scrub off all of her blood.

This is going to be a grumpy review, with some (mild) spoilers.

First of all, why did I expect things to be much less misogynistic because of a female author (Galbraith is J.K. Rowling)? Was that a very stupid idea? Don’t we know already from the serial killer’s actions that he really doesn’t like women? And I know she isn’t the most original writer, but really, we had to put rape in a woman’s background?

Okay, to the story. Cormoran Strike is still a big, ungainly, ugly private detective that can barely keep his agency upright. Robin, intelligent, smart, fun and kind of attractive, is still his partner/employee/potential love-interest. This time the case seems to be quite personal, because Robin gets sent a severed leg, at the office! This seems to be the gateway to learning a bit more about her, but sadly there isn’t much cheer to be had about this. And all the while is just misogyny left and right, oh – with some romance sprinkled in.

Because in the previous books, and about the previous books, there had been plenty of comments about how Robin and Cormoran should start something, but Robin’s engagement (to someone without any visible redeeming feature) always kept that off. So when that changes, both people involved seem to fall back to something instinctual that means you suddenly have to get romantic feelings about the people close to you. It feels so shoehorned in that I wonder if Galbraith wasn’t writing some romance on the side and swapped documents from time to time.

There’s plenty of good detectives out there, and J.K. Rowling writes enough if that’s the shot you were looking for. But you can dodge this one.

Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith, Sphere 2015

Trouble is a Friend of Mine

Of course I didn’t like Digby when I first met him.

I never read a Nancy Drew novel (I think), but I’m pretty sure this could be the more reluctant, twenty-first century version of one. Protagonist Zoe mentions it as well, so I’m definitely onto something.

After the divorce of her parents, Zoe moves to a small town where’s she pretty quickly adopted by the town’s outcast, Digby. He wants/needs her for his research regarding missing girls. His lack of metaphorical bed manner doesn’t enthuse Zoe a lot at first, but plenty of shenanigans happen for her to slowly come round to his hypotheses.

He’s a weird but appealing fellow, and it’s not like Zoe is surrounded by new friends and an understanding mother. So instead of a high school story, the reader gets a small town detective with character descriptions that Celeste Ng would appreciate.

It’s a quick, smart read. The only thing I’m still unsure about is the ending; this novel is one of the very few cases in which there could have been a few more chapters to round things up a bit more completely.

Trouble is a Friend of Mine, Stephanie Tromly, Penguin Random House Company 2015

Happy Valley

13 x 58 min.

Laat ik maar voorop stellen dat deze titel zeker weten ironisch is. Happy Valley is een detective in een klein dorpje met zoveel criminaliteit dat het niet verwonderlijk is dat het zijn eigen politiebureau heeft.

Happy Valley posterHoofdrolspeler is Catherine, en zij en de actrice die haar speelt (Sarah Lancashire), zijn ook de USP voor deze serie. In plaats van weer een nukkig supergenie als leider te hebben, is Catherine zo verdomde menselijk dat het regelmatig ongemakkelijk wordt. Niets van wat zij meemaakt, lijkt geschreven voor goedkoop scoren of om haar karakter snel als eigen te beschouwen. Wat ze ook doet, er is een magnetisme waardoor je blijft kijken.

Het is een grauwe serie, maar door de onderwerpen, niet door kleurgebruik. Per seizoen (twee), is er een rode lijn, terwijl tussendoor Catherine politiewerk en leven op de best mogelijke manier wilt doen.

Ik ben niet vaak van de detectives, ze herhalen zichzelf snel, maar met Happy Valley krijg je zoveel mensen er bij dat de boel nergens vertraagt of gaat vervelen.

Happy Valley, BBC 2014

 

The woman in Cabin 10

The first inkling that something was wrong was waking in darkness to find the cat pawing at my face.

The narrator being unreliable (or do I only think she’s unreliable?) definitely set my teeth on edge, almost as much as the paranoia slowly building.

Main character and narrator Laura (Lo) has to experience a luxurious cruise for work. If only the tight spaces didn’t remind her so much of the very recent home burglary she experienced.

Instead of work, the luxuries and familiar faces present to distract her, Laura is sure that one night she witnesses a murder. Her frazzled state never ceases, only grows, because there was no woman in that cabin, and is it true that she’s been recently traumatised?

The roll up and conclusion aren’t completely satisfying, but the way towards it is creepy enough for a few hours thrilling entertainment.

The woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware, Harvill Secker 2016

Radiance

Come forward.

First of all, I’m not very fond of the novels that show their story through a collection of notes, diaries, pamphlets, and so on. Add those as decoration, but it feels too fragmented to build a story from. Or that’s simply laziness from me.

Secondly, there’s more room for world building than plot. Yes, I know, me complaining about too much world building? On this blog? But with Radiance there is no balance between the two. Character names are thrown around while my mind’s still reeling from learning about Mars’ society, more time spent on the interior of a space ship than motivation of caring for the main characters. Who are even the main characters?

The main plot – at least I think it is – is about how a company tries to reconstruct the disappearance and or ending of one of their employees. This being a film company, and the employee being a director and daughter of a Well Known Director, makes things just a bit more glamorous.
Because that’s what Radiance is, glam. Shiny. A picture book set in words.

 

Radiance, Catherynne M. Valente, Corsair 2015

John Wick: Chapter 2

122 min.

Can you get any more violent? When you’re talking to John Wick versus John Wick: Chapter 2, the answer is yes. Maybe the question should be: can it be more bloody? Also, yes. When the first five full-on-screen exploding skulls and body parts might make one flinch, there’s so many of them it’s tempting to just go ‘Ah, you again’ after a while.
john-wick-chapter-2

Viewers were promised more of the world building regarding the criminal world (and hotels) through which John moves. The promise was full-filled, although scantily. This time we learn that this world is international, spending one third of the film in Rome (and under it). Again it’s beautiful surroundings, beautiful people and some worrying rules these people live by.

But mostly it’s violence. With weapons, without. On the roof, under ground (and in the underground), anywhere. But don’t worry about the dog this time, Wick does it utterly, completely by himself.

John Wick: Chapter 2, Thunder Road Productions 2017

Luther

57 min. 16 afleveringen

Luther is Idris Elba, maar om het weg te zetten als niet meer dan een stervehikel zou een belediging voor de show en een gemis voor de kijker zijn.Heeft de eerder genoemde Paul Rudd misschien alle charme, Idris Elba is een magneet in wat hij ook doet, hoe lelijk of aggressief ook.

Luther_TV_Series_BBCWant, zoals vele hoofdpersonen-van-politieseries voor hem, detective John Luther is geen lieverdje. geen gezellig type, op trouwe collega Ripley na geen mensenman. Dat komt deels vast door de zaken die hij moet oplossen, gruwelijke situaties waardoor je bijna Londen niet meer in zou durven.

Wat Luther geen zaak-van-de-week serie maakt, zijn Elba en zijn collega’s. In welke plotlijn ook, of ze nu voor of tegen hem zijn, de serie is een bastion van acteerwerk.Voeg daar het karakter van zeer vreemde vogel Alice Morgan aan toe en de show is meer karakterstudie dan politie-en-verlos.

Ondanks de kleine hoeveelheid afleveringen raad ik ‘binge watching‘ toch af. Je wilt je nog wel af en toe ergens veilig voelen.

Luther, BBC 2010

The Axeman’s Jazz

John Riley stumbled into the offices of the New Orleans Times – Picayune an hour and a half later after he was supposed to have started work.

New Orleans in the early ninety twenties, close to prohibition, close to racial tensions. And in the midst of it is a chain of brutal murders. Yet it is more of a human interest story than a detective or thriller.

There are two main players: cop Michael, ex-cop and ex-convict Luca. On the side there’s Louis Armstrong (that Louis Armstrong) and his friend, aspiring detective Ida. The Axeman at first seems to target only Italians, until he doesn’t. Minorities are pointing fingers at each other, the mob is involved and there’s a lot of layers only amateur sleuth Ida seems to have a clue about. But she’s mixed race, so no-one, and no-one will listen to her.

New Orleans is a character of its own. It might discard rules and morals, but that means it’s dangerous and dog eat dog as well. It’s a mean old lady, as one of the characters puts it, and one with iron teeth as well.

The case gets solved, but the reason for it even existing is more gruesome and interesting. A dark, humid story.

The Axeman’s Jazz, Ray Celestin, Mantie 2014