The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

One of the many reasons for reading literature in translation is the window it can provide onto experiences other than our own, sometimes experiences we never knew existed.  The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez provides a window on life among German nationals living in Columbia during the second world war.  Because of diplomatic pressure from the United States, the government of Columbia published a list … Continue reading The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

I can’t quite determine exactly where the narrative tension in Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall comes from, but it’s certainly there–I found the book very hard to put down, even when it was hard to figure out if anything was really happening. While there are multiple stories in Before the Fall, one back-story for each of the passengers on a small, private jet that crashes into the water … Continue reading Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

The fourth word in Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo is “corpse.” There will be no beating around the bush in this mystery novel.  A victim, a detective and a suspect.  What more do you need?  No quirky characters.  No digressions about dog show politics or the history of Irish pub goers.  Just a crime and a detective trying to solve it.  If you … Continue reading Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

Jealously by Alain Robbe-Grillet

A man suspects his wife is having an affair with his neighbor.  He searches  for proof, for clues, playing the same sequence of events over and over in his mind looking for signs.  When did it begin?  Do they suspect he knows?  How far will the affair go? Alain Robbe-Grillet’s short novel, Jealousy, covers familiar territory– a married woman’s indiscretion with her married neighbor.  But … Continue reading Jealously by Alain Robbe-Grillet

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon was listed as one of the top ten best bad books of 1959 by Time Magazine.  That’s a good way to describe the novel–it’s a very good bad book. Today, the story is known primarily from the two movie adaptations: the ill-fated 1962 version starring Frank Sinatra and Angela Landsbury and the  2004 version starring Denzel Washington and Meryl … Continue reading The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Submission by Michel Houellebecq

I’m not sure Submission is good enough to be so controversial. I don’t know enough about French politics in general to be someone’s whose opinion should be trusted here, but I found Submission to be both unbelievable and a bit dull.  People more familiar with the rise of Islam in France and its impact on the political situation there would be more qualified to judge just how plausible … Continue reading Submission by Michel Houellebecq

The Exception by Christian Jungersen

  A terrorist kidnapping in Kenya, a series of email death threats in Copenhagen– The Exception grabs the readers attention from the start.  We’re immediately focused on the suspense–familiar territory for readers of thrillers.  But then Mr. Jungersen does something completely unexpected.  Once he’s got our attention, he lets it go.  The story moves from international thriller to inter-office politics.  From the political to the very … Continue reading The Exception by Christian Jungersen

The Man Who Watched Trains Go By by Simenon

This is a roman durs, or hard novel.  Which is not to say that is is difficult reading, it’s not, rather that it is about a hard life.  Roman durs, at least the ones by Simenon that I have read, are about lives led on the wrong side of the tracks, typically criminal in some aspect.  They do not end happily. They are a dark sub-set … Continue reading The Man Who Watched Trains Go By by Simenon

The Mystery of the Black Tower by John Palmer

The Mystery of the Black Tower by John Palmer was first published through subscription in 1796.  The Gothic Classics edition published in 2005 by Valancourt Books features a complete list of all the original subscribers–an unusual legacy to leave posterity.  In the early days of the novel, before anyone was quite sure what a novel was, publishing by subscription was common place.  An author with … Continue reading The Mystery of the Black Tower by John Palmer

The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura

Three things make The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura, translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell, particularly Japanese.  The first is the overall sense of social isolation that the characters live in.   I can’t claim to be an expert in Japanese literature, but what I’ve read of it always features characters who face the world on their own, even when they have families.  Even when the … Continue reading The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura

Come Sweet Death by Wolf Haas

I enjoyed the first two Simon Brenner novels, I’m sure of it.  I remember loving the way they were narrated–a third person narrator who referred to himself in the first person, making little cracks about the characters as the plot went along. They were good books. The narrator was funny. So what happened this time around. Come Sweet Death has Simon Brenner still trying to get … Continue reading Come Sweet Death by Wolf Haas

Suspicion by Friedrich Durrnematt

Suspicion is the second of two novels featured in The Inspector Barlach Mysteries by Friedrich Durrenmatt published by The University of Chicago Press.  Getting your hands on a copy probably won’t be easy, but it will be worth the effort.  Both feature cynical, ailing Inspector Barlach, diagnosed with a terminal illness in The Judge and His Hangman, with just a few months left to live … Continue reading Suspicion by Friedrich Durrnematt