March Madness has taken hold, so here are the last three books I’ve read in my quest to read 10 books this month. 4 to go, fingers crossed!
No 731 Camilla Lackberg The Ice Princess
Returning to her hometown after the funeral of her parents, writer Erica Falck finds her childhood community fractured. Her childhood friend, Alex, has apparently committed suicide, her wrists slashed, her body frozen in an ice cold bath. Erica decides to write a memoir about the beautiful but remote Alex, one that will answer questions about their lost friendship. At the same time, local detective Patrik Hedstrom is following his own theories about the case. As they come together both personally and professionally, the truth begins to emerge about the small town they all grew up in and its secrets surface.
With issues of child abuse, the sordidness of the wealthy and small town secrets, this is a readable but pretty formulaic crime novel. The mystery itself is compelling enough, giving up its secrets at a steady pace, with a decent enough ‘reveal’. The two lead characters are likeable, normal and ultimately believable, no alcoholic old codgers here.
BUT, I had a couple of issues with The Ice Princess. While Erica and Patrick are well drawn and appealing, the same can’t be said for, well, any other character in the book. The women are all beautiful creatures, existing mainly to be victims (the young characters), nags (the older women) or manipulators (the wealthy ones) while the men are universally nasty – abusers, bullies or drunkards. It makes you yearn for someone a little more complex to root for, a Harry Hole or a Lisbeth Salander.
The plotting of the novel is also problematic, mainly because Lackberg has a habit of having her characters uncover some dramatic evidence (which is generally lying around or exactly where they look for it) and then……not telling the reader anything about it for another 50 pages or so. If it happened once, I might forgive it, but it happens several times and is blatant and clumsy, throwing the pacing off and making nonsense of the plot in between. There are also several plot lines that are either fulfilled for no good reason (the caretaker who makes a midnight flit to Spain) or not fulfilled at all (the domestic abuse of Erica’s sister Anna). I realise though, that this is the first in a series of books, so these may well be examined in later books.
I won’t find out though as I have no more Lackberg in the 746.
Read On: Kindle for Android
Number Read: 16
Number Read March Madness: 4/10
Number Remaining: 730
No 730 This is Water by David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace gave this address to students passing out from of Kenyon College in Ohio in May 2005, three years before the author hanged himself at his home this September, aged 46. The title, This is Water, is taken from the speech, in which Wallace tells the anecdote of two young fish who meet an older fish, who asks them “how’s the water?” They swim on, and eventually one of them asks the other, “what the hell is water?”
This pointedly observant examination of everyday life does nothing more than ask us to take responsibility for our own reactions to what happens in our daily lives. How we perceive what we experience is essential to our happiness and our sense of worth and well being.
None of this is about morality, or religion, or dogma, or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness – awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: “This is water, this is water.”
If you have a spare 22mins and 44 secs, you can watch the speech here . It may have only taken me about a half hour to read, but I think it’s something I’ll come back to again and again, just to remind myself of why I’m here and what is important.
Read On: Book
Number Read: 17
Number Read March Madness: 5/10
Number Remaining: 729
No 729 The Seven Days of Peter Crumb by Jonny Glynn
Peter Crumb is a man whose life has been overturned by a single, devastating act of violence in his past. Now, in what he intends to be his last week on Earth, he is determined to leave his mark upon humanity – randomly, unjustly, with infinite attention to detail.
Billed as the British American Psycho, The Seven Days of Peter Crumb certainly echoes that book in its depiction of a disturbing, gruesome and repulsive psychopath, but it lacks the polish and distance of Bret Easton Ellis’s classic without lacking the emotional punch.
If you don’t like violence, don’t read this book. The first 50 pages contain a rape and three pretty descriptive murders and that’s just for starters, yet Glynn avoids the potential for mere sadistic gratuity by presenting an absorbing stream of consciousness where Peter and his alter ego battle for control in a mind that is utterly fractured.
Where Glynn succeeds is in giving us glimpses of a time when Peter Crumb was a normal, functioning member of society, a husband, a father. He is not simply a one-dimensional psycho killer but a damaged man. A nasty, frightening, deplorable man, but one all the same, who has his own moral code even when decapitating an unfortunate hotel receptionist.
I can understand readers hating this book. At several points I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep reading, but I was transfixed by this gruesome, but intriguing trip into a mind ravaged by mental illness.
Read On: Book
Number Read: 18
Number Read March Madness: 6/10
Number Remaining: 728