K. (infinitemonkeys) wrote,

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(1) mandysbitch declared yesterday Post A Happy Song To Your LJ Day today. Thus:
Us Amazonians Kirsty MacColl, which is not only joyful but miraculously funny.

(2) I've been watching season seven of The West Wing. Words cannot express how little I care about Kazakhstan. Also the only way that Santos could have won that election was through a giant deus ex nuclear kaboom - evil Melissa Scully or no evil Melissa Scully

(3) Another great book this week, Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indri∂ason, translated from the Icelandic. It's a very compact book, scarcely a word wasted and I spent the final quarter swearing at the author because he kept the answer to the riddle dancing just out of reach. I can't remember the last time I read a book which so skilfully maintained the tension to the last page.

Appropriately for Iceland, home of the sagas and a giant DNA database of every inhabitant, this is a thriller about family, history and the stories we tell. It begins with a single horrible scene -- a seven-year-old boy's birthday party in a house on an estate in Reykjavik's growing suburban sprawl and the baby of the family is found gnawing on an old human rib bone.

Indri∂ason's morose detective Erlendur (everyone is known by their first name) is called in to investigate the body buried by the recurrant bushes and uncovered by meltwater and progress.

Erlendur has troubles of his own -- a bitter ex-wife has ensured he is estranged from his children, and though his daughter is in contact again, she is a drifter and drug addict.

Interleaved with the present day investigation is the story of a woman who became pregnant by a fisherman who drowned. Left with a daughter who had become disabled by illness, she marries a man who promises to take care of her but slowly he is revealed as a violent monster, who terrorises her, his stepdaughter, and eventually his own sons.

There's also the story the detectives Erlendur, Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli uncover of Benjamin and the fiancee he adored who supposedly walked into the sea to kill herself -- yet the bones were discovered on land which once belonged to Benjamin.

Indri∂ason is very stingy with his information. Part of this is done through the plot device of having an archaeological team retrieve the bones and the soil whole, so that we are not able to find out whether the skeleton is male or female until the last third of the book. Part of me thinks this is something of a cheat, but I forgive him for it because keeping that information hidden until the end really ratchets up the tension.

He also withholds the names of the characters in the part of the book that's set in the past. The central character of one of the tales is named only in the last few pages of the book, by her last living relative. The abusive husband is only named half way through. This not only helps us see the story through the eyes of the woman's eldest son, Símon, it also makes the narration more like a fable.

It's not a perfect read because of external and internal factors. This is the fourth book in the series but only the second to be translated into English, and there's a huge piece of backstory for Erlendur which feels tacked on and shallow. If I had been able to read the previous volumes that might have worked better for me.

In this backstory is also the only false, overly dramatic note in the book, and it also involves the withholding of a vital piece of information from the reader -- this time in a way which does feel like a cheat.

There are also a couple of whopping hanging threads which should have been tied up. In life mysteries do not resolve neatly, and I would have been content to leave this one hanging if only the detectives had not said explicitly that the person from whom they could elicit this information was alive.

I am pretty sure that cofax7 would love this book were it not for the kind of head-hopping that she so detests. Since it never bothered me until people started pointing it out as a bad thing in fanfiction, I have made a policy decision not to give a bugger so long as I am interested in the perspective.

I think this might appeal to people who like the Dalziel and Pascoe novels, though it does not have that series' leavening wit. Or a Wieldy. Still, I liked it very much and will be getting hold of as many of Indri∂ason's other books as I can.

(4) Importantly, a happy belated birthday to corianderstem and sheaclaire

(5) If anyone is still interested in that five things list meme dooberry I'd like to give it a try, as I loved minim_calibre and snacky's answers. Small print: You post a topic, list, category, whatever, in my comments section. (examples: "Five Phrases Batman Will Never Say", or "Five Jobs House Wishes He Had" or "Five Things Dean Will Never, Ever Tell Sam"). Then, in a separate post, I'll post the answers to your Top 5 ideas, according to me. Serious or fun!

I don't watch House or read Batman, but feel free to give me other stuff. If I don't know the fandom I can always make up absurd nonsense.

(6) Has anyone read The Kite Runner?
Tags: books, meme, music
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