Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Roseanna, Wireless, Angel's Flight

In the past week, I've listened to/read 3 mystery novels with somewhat different approaches (I guess it's more accurate to say that two have different approaches, and the third is in some wild place of its own).

Roseanna is a straightforward police procedural with no fireworks. Even the setting (a city in Sweden) barely impinges in the story -- one can imagine the story occurring in just about any city anywhere. The story is told in a very down-to-earth fashion: the victim isn't somebody special, there are no wider implications in her death, the investigation plods along in a very straightforward way. Unfortunately, it's easier to admire that sort of attention to quotidian details than to enjoy it. I found the story rather dull over-all; I think that any job is probably dull if it's described in enough detail.

Angel's Flight is an entry in Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series, and overall it felt like a reach that didn't really work for him. He's trying very hard to be politically relevant with references to the Rodney King case, but it feels very forced. In addition, the ending attempts to put an ironic spin on the whole story, but I found it very weak. I think irony and police procedurals don't really mix (with the exception of Michael Dibdin's novels, but he writes with a much lighter touch, and is very judicious in its application).

And then, as if to demonstrate the wide range of the mystery genre, there's Jack O'Connell's Wireless. Although it's technically a crime novel (a priest is killed at the beginning, and there's a police officer trying to solve the case), the crime gets very little space. O'Connell uses radio jammers (who disrupt legitimate radio broadcasts) to explore questions of anarchy and authoritarianism, and questions of ends and means.

I realize that I haven't done an Iliad update in a long time. I don't actually have much to say about what I'm reading, but, as a marker, I'm near the end of book 17 now. I think the most striking thing about the original that doesn't come through in translation is the driving sense of rhythm always pushing the reader forward. Homer varies the locations of the caesurae and diareses in a way that prevents the simple hexameter from growing stale.

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