book book book goose

We have to go out of town for a couple days. Nobody’s dead or dying, just some business we need to take care of. I’ll be back Wednesday night.

In the meantime, a few words about a few books:

The Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill

This is a very effective, evocative thriller/horror type story with a lot of interesting twists. The main characters: a 50-something hard core rock star, his Goth girlfriend, his ex-exgirlfriend (who committed suicide after he sent her packing), and a really nasty ghost who arrives on the rockstar’s doorstep in the form of a dead man’s suit. The rockstar bought the suit in an on-line auction, and on a whim; he collects oddities, and the idea of buying a haunted suit appealed to him.

Except then it didn’t. The novel takes off fast, no long backstory or build up. There are touches that made my heart beat faster, in particular phone calls from people who should not be making phone calls. I think this really got to me as I have recurring dreams that are somewhat similar.

It’s hard to keep up the pace when you start off with a bang, but Hill mostly manages to do that. The climactic scene and the resolution come across as a bit stilted, as if Hill wrote himself into a corner and had to do some quick stepping to find a way out.

The final chapter really surprised me. It seems at first like a typical epilogue, what happens and how, but then an earlier character shows up at the door. I read this very carefully, thinking that maybe Hill was setting up a sequel, but when all was said and done, I think it was something much more subtle that he was trying to accomplish — and he succeeded.

Sometime soon I’m going to write about horror novels more generally, how they work for me or don’t, and why they are too much of a challenge for me to try to write.

City of Shadows, Ariana Franklin

I’m half way through this novel, which hooked me hard in the first few pages. It’s set in pre WWII Berlin (a setting and time I have always liked since I saw the film version of Cabaret and then went out to find Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin, the source of the original stage play). I am finding a lot to admire about the character of Esther — a Russian refugee with terrible scars and a past to match. There’s a good mystery in this novel. I haven’t figured out yet what’s going on.

The Blade Itself, Marcus Sakey

I really love this genre, have I ever mentioned that?

This is a first novel, and here’s what Lee Child (the brain behind be-still-my-heart Jack Reacher) said: “like vintage Elmore Leonard crossed with classic Dennis Lehane.” I have to admit that I started reading with a good dose of scepticism, because who can live up to that? But it seems that maybe Child was right. I’m still thinking on it.

And the new Joe Pike novel is out. If you put me in a room with Joe Pike and Jack Reacher, I’d call that an embarrassment of riches.