Sunday, November 27, 2016

Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura

(hb; 2010, 2013. Translation from Japanese by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates.)

From the inside flap:

"When Fumihiro Kuki is eleven years old, his elderly, enigmatic father calls him into his study for a meeting. "I created you to be a cancer on the world," his father tells him. It is a tradition in their wealthy family: a patriarch, when reaching the end of his life, will beget one last child to cause misery in a world that cannot be controlled or saved. From this point on, Fumihiro will be specially educated to learn to create as much destruction and unhappiness in the world around him as a single person can. Between his education in hedonism and his family's resources, Fumihiro's life is one without repercussions. Every door is open to him, for he need obey no laws and may live out any fantasy he might have, no matter how many people are hurt in the process. But as his education progresses, Fumihiro begins to question his father's mandate, and starts to resist."


Evil is a rare thing: it is a perfect novel that works on all levels – emotional, plotwise, character-wise and action-wise. I would not change one word of this original, disturbing and intense work, whose ties to real world history serve to imbue Evil with a resonance it might otherwise lack. This, of course, is worth owning, an entertaining, provocative and landmark neo-pulp book.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Bat by Jo Nesbø

(pb; 1997, 2012: first book in the Inspector Harry Hole series. Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.)

From the back cover:

"Before Harry took on the neo-Nazi gangs of Oslo, before he met Rakel, before The Snowman tried to take everything he held dear, he went to Australia. Harry Hole is sent to Sydney to investigate the murder of Inger Holter, a young Norwegian girl, who was working in a bar. Initially sidelined as an outsider, Harry becomes central to the Australian police investigation when they start to notice a number of unsolved rape and murder cases around the country. The victims were usually young blondes. Inger had a number of admirers, each with his own share of secrets, but there is no obvious suspect, and the pattern of the other crimes seems impossible to crack. Then a circus performer is brutally murdered followed by yet another young woman. Harry is in a race against time to stop highly intelligent killer, who is bent on total destruction."


Bat is a flawed but worthwhile read. It is flawed because its plot feels scattershot at times, and, as a result, the book runs longer than it should, anywhere between twenty-five and fifty pages. What saves this otherwise so-so police procedural is its intriguing – for some exotic – environs [Australia], some of its interesting characters, its use of Aboriginal folklore, as well as other Australian cultural elements. Bat is not worth owning if purchased at full price but it is worth reading if bought used or borrowed from your local library.

Followed by Cockroaches.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fast Women and Neon Lights: Eighties-Inspired Neon Noir edited by Michael Poole

(2016 eBook: crime fiction story anthology. "Foreword" by Will Viharo.)

Overal review:

Good anthology, all of the thirteen stories had something to keep my attention, even the works that did not make me go wow (in a positive way). This is a collection worth owning.

Standout stories:

1.) "Valley Girl" -- Kat Richardson: The interrogation of a murderous, spoiled girl (Kim) goes bad for her lawyer (Marberg), and the cop (Willet) who is interrogating her. Good read, nice end-twists.

2.)  "Big Shots" -- S.W. Lauden: Fun, fast and darkly funny tale about Gary, a heroin-hooked, convenience store-robbing manager of an up and coming punk band.

3.)  "Widowman" -- Matthew J. Hockey: In Tokyo, a cycle of corruption, revenge and treachery plays itself out in a fast-paced and bloody way.

4.)  "Meantime" -- Will Viharo: Miami Vice, Scarface, lust, drugs and Elvis in a clever, chock-full-o'-quotables blender. Excellent, fun read -- if filmed in the Eighties it would have been one of the best Vice episodes ever. One of my favorite stories in this collection.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Crimson Labyrinth by Yusuke Kishi

(pb; 1999, 2006. Translated from Japanese by Masami Isetani and Camellia Nieh.)

From the back cover:

"When an unemployed former math major wakes up one day, he wonders if he's somehow ended up on the red planet. The good-looking young woman with aid-she says her name is Ai and that she draws erotic comics for a living-seems to have no clue either as to their whereabouts. Their only leads are cryptic instructions beamed to a portable device. Has the game begun?

"There is no reset button, no saving and no continue-make the wrong move and it's really GAME OVER. In the cruel world of THE MARS LABYRINTH, mercy and compassion are only for the weak or the very, very strong. The stakes are nothing less than your life-and apparently a lot of money."


Crimson is an excellent, clever, mood-effective thriller. Its plot, action and twists are not always unexpected, but they are well-executed and the characters are well-sketched out. It is fast-paced, hard to set down and worth owning.

<em>Mother Night</em> by Kurt Vonnegut

(pb; 1961) From the back cover “ Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy du...