I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Walter Mosely’s When the Thrill is Gone, the third book in his Leonid McGill series, at the library. This time, private detective Leonid McGill is approached by a local millionaire’s wife, Chrystal Tyler. She claims that her husband is trying to kill her and hires Leonid to protect her. Only the rough and tough Leonid does some digging and discovers she’s not the millionaire’s wife at all.
Similar to Known to Evil, the book before this one, Leonid plays detective without knowing all the details. He’s not sure who his client is. He doesn’t know who to protect and who to go after. He’s not sure who’s his friend and who’s his enemy. Compared to Known to Evil, the details of the case are even blurrier with When the Thrill is Gone. In other words, 90 per cent of the mystery is figuring out what the case is.
There’s also a lot more mention of Leonid’s father, a socialist revolutionary named Tolstoy. Leonid spends a lot of time remembering his father’s words during troublesome times. But Tolstoy becomes a much more central character in this book despite being long dead. Mosely continues to write comfortably while alternating between soft, heart-touching moments and bloody murder scenes.
While Leonid spends too much time thinking he’s rough and tough, you still route for him every step of the way. When the Thrill is gone is like a Rubik’s cube whereby you spend days twisting and turning but it’s not until the last few minutes that everything comes together.
I found myself re-reading the last couple pages because the everything unfolds so quickly and involves so many characters. But like a good detective novel, it’s not so much about solving the case than it is about how the case is solved.
I didn’t expect much of Dead Simple. I had never heard of it but it was part of the goody bag I received at the book blogger event that I attended recently. The author, Peter James, is also the director of the movie Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Ralph Fiennes. His Roy Grace series stars a detective by the same name who dabbles in the paranormal by regularly consulting psychics to help with unsolved murder cases.
Which may be a reason why his books are named Dead Simple, Look Good Dead, Not Dead Enough and Too-Dead-Easy-To-Make-Up-These-Unoriginal-Titles. But don’t let the cheesy titles fool you, Dead Simple was a page turner. It’s a fast read and I was dying to get to the end of it.
The story is about a bachelor party gone wrong where the groom ends up trapped in a coffin and buried alive. His prankster friends have all died in a car accident after burying him. If that doesn’t make you want to keep reading, nothing will! Add a beautiful fiancee and a business partner that mysteriously didn’t make it to the bachelor party and you have yourself a good story.
Roy Grace is a Brighton detective with a soft spot for a lot of things – psychics, children and women. If you’ve ever seen the British cop love interest from Bridesmaids, you’ve met Roy Grace. He’s just not very macho but he is very loveable. His British slang confused me in the beginning but you get used to it pretty quickly. The book also ends with a car chase which would have been great on screen but in my opinion, car chases suck in a book.
Especially when you’re dying to figure out if Grace will find the missing groom alive.
Walter Mosely is is highly praised for a number of things: 1) for being a bad-ass black writer, 2) for writing about horrific crimes and 3) for being one of the best American writers of all time.
I can confirm that all three of these praises are true! Known to Darkness features a black detective named Leonid McGill who straddles the line of legality dangerously. Involved with the deepest, darkest (I’m not referring to skin colour) criminals, Leonid also has friends in the police and enemies everywhere.
Mosely goes where no one dares go by actually talking about being black. Leonid plays into the stereotypes where it’s convenient because people love when their expectations are reconfirmed. Only Leonid uses all his criminal skills (lying, beating and smiling) to save a girl that a mob boss has asked him to protect at all costs. The twist is that Leonid has no idea how this mob boss knows this girl or if he will hurt her. Oh, and he’s also not allowed to speak to the girl.
What makes Mosely an amazing writer is that he can write well about horrific murders, underworld criminals and the every day nuances of life. From describing a mutilated body to how his cheating wife’s lipstick is smudged, Mosely does it with such care and flair. I will definitely read another book in the Leonid McGill series.
I decided to read Jar City – the first of series of mysteries by Arnoldur Iridridason starring a detective in Reykjavik, Iceland named Erlendur. I started the novel a few days before my trip to Iceland and my friend thought it’d be a terrible idea to read a murder mystery that took place at our destination.
But I did it just to spite her.
And I wasn’t scared at all. Because Iceland is probably the safest place in terms of murders or even muggings. I was far more scared of falling into a waterfall or between the tectonic plates because Icelanders don’t believe in barricades (or enjoy watching tourists plunge to their deaths).
Jar City, however, was a very creepy novel with rapists, dead children and stolen brains. And some parts of the story made a lot more sense after my visit to Iceland. The part where Erlendur manages to track down a potential rape victim who never told anyone about her assault almost 40 years ago seems downright impossible until you realize Iceland’s population is just over 300,000 people. But even then, it’s only a little believable.
Jar City is a quick read and the translation makes it almost sound charming. Some of the investigative directions seem dubious. Had this been CSI, the higher-ups would have been all over Erlendur. My criminology degree had me saying “He can’t do that!”. It definitely lacks the grittiness of a good old American murder mystery but makes up for it for being creepy and for developing so many deeply lonely characters.
Oh and my trip was awesome. I’m ready to go again.