Memoir of growing up in extreme poverty in Battle Mountain, Nevada; Phoenix; and a tiny coal town in West Virginia. What makes it so fascinating aside from one harrowing adventure after another is how damaged yet intellectually sharp her parents are as they haphazardly care for four kids. The scenes involving cheetah-petting and traveling in the back of an enclosed U-Haul truck across Nevada will stay with me a long time. A classic.
The serial killer from book #2 in the series — “Wire in the Blood” — escapes from prison and exacts vengeance on the main characters. Kind of a gimmicky, TV-like ending — I would've preferred the showdown between the killer and his final victim to be told in real-time rather than in hindsight and in more detail — but overall it’s a typically good Carol Jordan/Tony Hill book. Bechdel test: pass.
A serial killer is targeting teenagers, and clinical psychologist Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan are on the cases, which initially don’t appear related. Good backstory on Tony’s mother. You probably need to already love the characters to love this, but I do, enough so that I immediately started the next in the series as soon as I finished. Bechdel test: Pass.
If you thought the first book was rough going with its serial killer/rapist/necrophiliac plot, you should know the sequel is even harder to take with its pedophilia plot. Hayder never gets too graphic, but describing other people’s reactions to the child rape as they watch is harrowing anyway. And this isn’t just child rape but a twist on it that’s so repellent, I’ve kind of blanked it out. Maybe this is because there’s another subplot that made me squirm more with a mentally disabled person mistreated. There was one angle that I decided if Hayder did what I feared she was going to do, I’d never read her again. When it ended, I thought she copped out by leaving it hanging, so I read the last chapter again. If I interpret it right, she actually let happen what I was begging her in my mind not to do. But she did it in such a subtle and clever way, that it’s really kind of brilliant, even if horrendous. The writing and plotting is amazing, plus there are some interesting rape discussion points. I'll be back for more, just not soon. Bechdel test: I think it failed.
Narrator was perfect.
A woman seeks a Polaroid taken for a child porn collector because the child victim wants to see it destroyed. She hires the paranoid, jerk private detective named Burke. You really get the sense Vachss knows the world he’s writing about, from the therapists working with kids who have had horrible things done to them, to the lawyers advocating on their behalf, to the runaways hustling on the streets of NYC. It all rings true, even if Vachss gets a little carried away with his noir tough-guy prose. In the end, it’s another piece of social activism disguised as revenge fantasy. Written in the 1980s; 2nd in a series.
As for the narrator, he was kind of offensive with his stereotyped readings of black and Asian characters in the first book but he tones it down here. He gets Burke perfect.
A dog romping in the hills above Los Angeles finds a bone that turns out to be from a child murdered 20 years earlier. Detective Harry Bosch is on the case. Connelly’s love for the LAPD is evident even as he exposes its flaws when the department seeks to protect its image instead of the truth. This was the only book in the 18-book series (as of this writing) I hadn’t read, and I’d put it in the upper half. Bechdel test: fail.
As for the narrator, he doesn't differentiate the voices. There's one scene where the 50-year-old hard-boiled Bosch is talking to a woman in her 30s and you can’t tell which is saying what. He's not as good at delivering Bosch as Len Cariou (best until he lost his voice near the end), Dick Hill (second best) and Peter Giles (close third) but he's still better than Michael McConnohie, who practically destroyed "The Black Box."
A dog finds a dead body: a young woman cut into two big pieces, but missing her head and hands. Soon we realize the story is about finding out who made a snuff film and whether the film is even real. This is the third in a Swedish crime series, and I enjoyed it enough that I'll go back and read the others. It was a little sprawling and long but the fractured time structure with flashes forward to transcripts from an internal affairs investigation into how things went so horribly wrong keep the momentum going. I’m still a little confused about what happened, and the final scene brings up a mystery as to who is watching the film at the end. I like not knowing and I have my theory. Bechdel test: pass.
As for the narrator, she speaks like a weary old man. At first I hated it and thought there was no way I could finish the book but after an hour, her voice really grew on me and disappeared into the background. Her voice perfectly captures the personality of the lead detective.
Part of me wants to write a dissertation on this book. It appears to be a typical noir detective novel with a dame going to see a hard-luck private investigator to find a man, only in this case she describes the person she seeks as a "child rapist." It was written in the mid-1980s after Vachss wrote a nonfiction book about violent juvenile offenders and nobody really was interested in it. So he took his advocacy for abused children and put it in a detective thriller set in the porn/prostitution world of New York City — oh, and he also advocates for dog breeds viewed as dangerous. The detective — and the author — come off like condescending jerks who prefer to be white knights, as opposed to being allies, with those who aren't as privileged, but I think that would be a misreading. The main protagonist characters are diverse — one is deaf; one is a woman of color, another is a transgender woman, who is always treated with respect and the proper pronouns used, which was extremely unusual 30 years ago. In the end, the book is "just" a vigilante revenge tale but it's doing interesting things within the too-often limited genre of the crime novel. I enjoyed it enough that I've already picked up five more books in the series.
The audio narration is great except for some of the voices of the non-white characters are a bit too stereotyped.
The book reads like a crappy Bruce Willis movie and, indeed, it was made into one. Every character is drawn from movie cliches, starting with the brilliant tough-guy cop who was devastated by a previous case gone bad and now must come out from his emotional hiding to save his family. But crappy action-thrillers have a way of pulling you forward by sheer momentum of the plot so there’s three stars. But it gets docked a star for also having that action-movie cliche of the women characters being non-existent or there to be rescued like damsels in distress — only men do anything important in this book. And it gets docked another star for holding back an absurd secret that one of the characters was hiding until near the end; it completely removes the plot from reality and is just stupid. Fortunately, this is an early Crais book and he gets better. Bechdel test: miserable failure.
Smart, young woman tries to put her ugly beginnings in rural poverty behind her by coming to the big city, where she becomes a prostitute. Written with style and intelligence but the story is merely OK. Would've been better as either a short story or a full novel because we don’t learn much about her after the initial introduction and yet it seems so much more could've been said.
Another wonderful entry in McDermid's series about psychological profiler Tony Hill, who is hospitalized throughout much of the book after being hit with an ax by a patient, and detective chief inspector Carol Jordan, who is faced with the case of a star soccer player being poisoned and evidence suggesting there might be a terrorism angle. This one isn't as gruesome as some of the other books because it's not about a sexual sociopath. But if the plot sounds boring — and it does to me — it's interesting in its look at terrorism security, poisonous plants and soccer fandom. It does discuss the endings of the first and fourth books but not so explicitly that it would ruin reading them after this, but the characters will resonate more if you start earlier. Bechdel test: A+.
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