“ Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me”
So begins this dark, suspenseful novel. From the beginning we are drawn through the iron gates of Manderley and down the drive towards this great house. We accompany the young heroine who is never given a name other than the second Mrs De Winter. Through her eyes we see the world of the first Mrs De Winter, the beautiful and accomplished Rebecca.
Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs. He is obsessed with a beautiful stranger, the art student Miranda. When he wins the pools he buys a remote Sussex house and calmly abducts Miranda, believing she will grow to love him in time. Alone and desperate, Miranda must struggle to overcome her own prejudices and contempt if she is understand her captor, and so gain her freedom.The Collector is a 1963 thriller novel by English author John Fowles, in his literary debut. Its plot follows a lonely, psychotic young man who kidnaps a female art student in London and holds her captive in the cellar of his rural farmhouse. Divided in two sections, the novel contains both the perspective of the captor, Frederick, as well as that of Miranda, the captive.A dozen different schools of thought in literary criticism are chloroformed and bundled into the back of a van. The van is driven to a remote cottage and the literary theories are put into a room in the cellar. They are told to argue the meaning of The Collector by John Fowles with the last man standing given their freedom whilst the other theories must stay captive.After a week the cellar door is opened, a fog of cigar smoke immediately cascades through the door; Freudian literary theory stands alone triumphant.‘Alles klar. The author’s hatred of his Mutti and Papa is well documented. Herr Fowles saw his parents as philistines, he voz disgusted by their lack of taste and horrified by zer suburban crassness.'‘The hatred for die Eltern manifests itself in the dull, dangerous and uncultured Frederick Clegg who is obsessed with possessing the beautiful, caring and cultivated Miranda. However, when he achieves this ambition he realises that he does not understand the subject of his obsession which leads to Fredrick’s anger, confusion and unhappiness.'Freudian literary theory leaves the cellar, walks up the stairs but when trying to open the front door finds that it is locked. He is told that whilst the other literary theories have been set free he must stay prisoner. He returns to the cellar room where eleven different literary theories are being held against their will. They are told to argue the meaning of The Collector by John Fowles with the last man standing given their freedom whilst the other theories must stay captive.Again, Freudian literary theory triumphs but as he tries to open the front door it is again locked. The other theories are set free whilst the Freudian literary theory returns to the cellar where another group of different literary theories are being kept. Freudian literary theory deduces that he must fail in his argument to be set free. Yet a week later he finds himself triumphant in his arguments and finds himself unable to open the front door. The other theories are set free whilst he returns to the cellar: ad infinitum, ad absurdum.The Collector by John Fowles is available to download on Borrowbox. Access eBooks/eAudiobooks on your phone, tablet or reader. Once you have installed the app, search for Dublin in the ‘Library’ field provided and then sign in using your library membership card number and PIN. Watch our how to video on Borrowbox. Members of other library authorities will need to log in using a different link.Submitted by Tom in Drumcondra Library.
The new and not so new in the title refers to the fact that two of the four authors I include in this post are new to me, in fact first time authors, but not so the other two. The not so new are Denmark's Jussi Adler-Olsen and Norway's big gun, Jo Nesbo. To them in a moment. But first the debutants, France's Bernard Minier and Norway's Thomas Enger.'The Frozen Dead' , a first novel from French thriller writer Bernard Minier, is a tale of murder and revenge set amidst the harshness of a Pyrenees winter. The wilderness, the snow, the bleakness of the landscape, all in fact contribute as much to the book's atmosphere as the events taking place. The decapitated body of a horse found hanging from a frozen cliff triggers the involvement of Toulouse police Commandant Martin Servaz, but it isn't long before human bodies start turning up. The killings are taking place in close proximity to a secure institution for the criminally insane where a Swiss psychologist taking up her new post is immediately faced with suspicious happenings. A link between the killings and the asylum soon becomes apparent when one inmate’s DNA shows up at a crime scene. Throw in the involvement of one of France’s wealthiest men and the suicide of several teenagers some years before and you have here a nicely formed and intricate plotline, to which can be added some interesting and complex characters who I think will attract your interest every bit as much as the storyline.I have to venture, mind you, that the antics of the young psychologist in satisfying her curiosity, and in so doing putting herself in harms-way, do beggar belief a little. The author does however make a good fist of building the suspense and creating an atmospheric novel. Without giving too much away, it is fitting that the harsh environment has a role to play right to the end. As to the ending, some good thrillers I find struggle to deliver an ending to match the rest of the book, and while the ending here is not a let-down, it is not the books strongest point.This book was published in France in 2011 (English translation 2013) where it proved to be a bestseller. Minier has since written a second novel featuring the same police commandant (not yet in translation), and based on this debut thriller I look forward to that in time.'Burned' is the debut novel of Norwegian Thomas Enger and the first in a series starring Oslo-based investigative journalist Henning Juul. Juul returns to work for an online newspaper two years after a fire took his young son's life, destroyed his apartment and left Henning himself physically and emotionally scarred. Upon his return he is immediately involved in the reporting of the murder of a young female film student who met her gruesome death in a tent in an Oslo park. It has all the hallmarks of a radical Islamic sharia-type killing, and the young woman's Muslim boyfriend quickly becomes the main police suspect, a development that Juul seems quite sceptical about. He proceeds to dig into the dead student's life and the lives of her Muslim boyfriend and her college friends in an effort to get to the truth.There are a number of different aspects to this book: Juul's personal life, the immigrant Muslim community in Oslo, the characters of certain police officers, and the crime itself. Juul has acquired some obsessive behaviours as a result of the fire that claimed his son's life: he constantly changes the batteries in the smoke detectors in his home and he is extra cautious as to where he sits in public places. His mother is a drunk and his ex-wife is now, awkwardly enough, the partner of a colleague he has to work closely with. Enger can be well applauded for giving the main character a background that makes him all the more interesting as a person. Regarding the Muslim angle, you never quite know one way or the other as to its purpose - is it integral to the crime, a sub-plot or a red herring? Is the Muslim angle merely there to portray a certain element of the Muslim community and how the community is perceived in Norway?This is a story with twists and turns and something of a surprise ending, which by and large works. Yet one or two aspects seem a little convoluted and call for a slight stretch of the imagination, case in point being the student film-making angle. The storyline around Juul's police contact and his infatuation with a female colleague seems underdeveloped to the point where you wonder about its inclusion at all. Of course the fact that 'Burned' is the first in a series does leave open the possibility of any unanswered questions or underdeveloped storylines that you might feel exist being addressed in the follow-up books.Overall, a promising enough first novel that I can well recommend, and I will certainly be reading the second in the series, 'Pierced', in due course.Having read and enjoyed two previous books by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Mercy, Disgrace) I looked forward to 'Redemption' with equal glee. This is the third novel in the Department Q series featuring cold case detective Carl Mørck. While Adler-Olsen's books tend to be on the long side (this one runs to 632 pages), I never felt this to be excessively long and I pretty much enjoyed it from start to finish. In fact it is one of those books that builds nicely, culminating in a tense race-against-time-type finish. He is a quality writer and a good storyteller who can comfortably mix suspense, mystery and humour, pleasing the reader on several fronts all at once. The plot here is well thought out and developed, and centres on the disappearance of a number of children over time, the investigation of which is triggered by a message in a bottle washed up on foreign shores. And while you the reader know that the killer is still active, the investigating team do not and for some time are not even sure if a crime has in fact taken place. Being privy to the present day activities of the killer, you wonder when and if the investigating team will ever make the necessary breakthrough and if they will in time to stop the killer adding to the number of his victims. You, meanwhile, will spend a lot of time in the company of the killer, and your fascination with him will grow accordingly, rest assured. Add to the story mix a troubled childhood and religious sects mindful of their privacy and you begin to see how a serial killer is born and can thrive while remaining largely anonymous. Some scenes border on harrowing, the subject matter of harm to children never being an easy one to digest, but the book is, thankfully, not overly graphic. As the story develops and builds, so does the action and the pace, and I felt it harder and harder to put the book down the further I progressed.The humour meanwhile, and indeed much of the mystery in the book, concerns the members of the Department Q investigating team, two of whom are civilians but who themselves are quite mysterious, quirky and colourful characters. Enough said, I can well recommend, so get reading!Having bagged my signed copy of 'Police' , Jo Nesbo’s latest in the Harry Hole series, back in mid-September when the author visited Dublin, I had to curb my eagerness to start it for a few days while I finished reading Adler-Olsen's 'Redemption'. But once into it, it was the old familiar Nesbo, if not quite the old familiar Hole. The old familiar Nesbo in that the story was as gripping as ever, the plot well-formed, the tension ever present and the outcome ever uncertain. But the Harry Hole of this story was less familiar, when he eventually appeared that is! This is the follow up to 'Phantom', and if you’ve read it you will be all the more interested in knowing what happened to Harry in the 'Phantom' and how is it he is still with us. As regards to what happened and the less familiar Harry, I can say no more, it begs your reading of it.The primary plot is based around the murders of police officers associated in one way or another with unsolved crimes they were investigating. Some familiar names from previous stories make a return here, forming as they do part of the investigating team. Also too there are sub-plots involving some less savoury members of the force, some of whom we first met in 'Phantom'. Nesbo is not adverse to throwing the odd red herring, or developing a storyline the purpose of which you are not at all certain. All to keep your attention no doubt, and rest assured your attention will not flag here. Aside from the question as to whether or not you will like the Harry of this story as much as the previous (my jury is still out), the one cause for trepidation you may have with this book I suspect will be the extent of the violence involved in some of the murders. Now Nesbo is not known for shirking the topic, as you will know if having read any one of his previous, but I am reminded of the views expressed by British crime writer Ann Cleeves that Nordic crime writers seem to want to outdo one another in graphically depicting violence. Be warned, but be certain you have to read this latest from Jo Nesbo!Enjoy your reading!
With the prospect of some added free time coming my way over the next couple of weeks, a chance to catch up on my reading beckons. So no better time than the present to have some good luck, with two recently (18 July) published crime novels landing on my desk just today! The two are: 'Redemption' (US title: A Conspiracy of Faith) by Denmark's Jussi Adler-Olsen and 'Light in a Dark House' by German-born but Finnish-based Jan Costin Wagner. Having read and enjoyed both authors before, I can now look forward to reading these two new titles in the near future.I have recently been reading a number of other Nordic crime fiction titles, the latest being 'The Healer' by Finland's Antti Tuomainen. This is a crime book with a difference: it is set in the not-too-distant future where climate change is wreaking havoc and society is breaking down, indeed already largely has. It is also set in a city not often featured in (crime) books I come across, namely Helsinki, a city I have visited, so my curiosity was raised somewhat. But if I had hoped for some sense of place, some sense of familiarity, then that hope was certain to be quashed a little, as by the very nature of the story the city and the society have been greatly altered by the climatic catastrophe (in Helsinki’s case, mostly in the form of torrential rain) that has engulfed the world. As much as I gleamed from it was familiarity with some place-names and locations I recognised as struggling poet Tapani travelled the city in search of his journalist wife Johanna who had gone missing. But that is where the familiarity largely ended. In his attempts to find Johanna, Tapani has to contend with vigilante-type local security groups who operate largely in the absence of law and order, and some shady and dangerous characters, none more so than the serial killer known as ‘The Healer’ with whom Johanna’s disappearance, while investigating a series of murders, seems to be inextricably tied up. In his search Tapani discovers things about Johanna, about her past life, that he was never aware of.Though the constant downpour ensures that the setting is gloomy, this book is far from so. The plot is conventional enough, but well constructed. This is not a fast-paced book, but it does build to a nice climactic ending. As another reviewer said, “nothing happens very fast”. It is well written (and translated), Antti Tuomainen’s largely simple prose style is a plus and adds much to the atmosphere. Indeed the atmosphere, and the vision of the future are probably its strongest aspects; a world ravaged by major climatic change, a city and society in decline, lawlessness, hunger, distrust, a constant gloom, a dystopia. It does tickle your imagination this. It has been well received since it was first published, winning the Best Finnish Crime Novel of the Year Award in 2011, and is the first of Tuomainen's novels to be translated into English. I think we can look forward to his next. Staying with the Nordic theme, previous to The Healer I had read 'I Remember You' by Iceland's Yrsa Sigurdardottir. In this story, three friends are renovating a derelict house in an isolated village in Iceland’s Westfjords, but their’s does not seem to be the only presence, a scary and seemingly sinister one lurks in the shadows, its ill-intent becoming clearer as the story develops. But maybe that is not the only source of the growing tension between the three? Meanwhile elsewhere a young doctor is ever troubled by the disappearance of his young son. That the two stories should converge and truths be revealed when they do seems inevitable, and converge they finally do amidst the harsh landscape that is the Westfjords.What I didn’t realise and was not quite prepared for in starting to read this book was that it is in essence a ghost story, and that aspect of it never appealed to me. It has plenty of those things that characterise a ghost story – the human figure that appears and then disappears just as quickly, unexplained occurrences and accidents, the horrible deathly smell, the eerie presence of someone or something unknown, and the inevitable loss of any means of communicating with the outside world. Best described as a supernatural thriller, not as a crime novel. I am also not overly fond of the author’s style and pre-occupation with details which add nothing to the story.'Another Time, Another Life: The Story of a Crime' was the second book by Sweden's Leif G. W. Persson that I read, and to my mind a big improvement on the first ('Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End'). This book takes us from the (factually real) bombing of the West German embassy in Stockholm in 1975 to a (fictional) murder investigation in 1989, and finally to a revisiting of that murder in 1999 when a link to the 1975 event suggests itself. The book, in making use of a real life event from 1975, and later documenting the establishment of the Swedish secret security service in order to contextualise to some degree the fictional story, blends the real with the fictional in a way that serves to emphasise (as I see it) Persson's desire to have his works act as a form of commentary on aspects of Swedish society. Therefore there is much more to his books than just the fictional storyline, and the reader needs to be aware of this in order to fully understand what is going on and what the author is attempting. It ought to be said too that the author's expertise as a criminologist, his advisory role to the Swedish Justice ministry and his standing in that respect, lends some weight and authenticity to the book. The book offers plenty of insight into police behaviour and into the various police characters involved in the different events and time frames, with the sexism and bigotry present to some degree in the previous book even more obvious in this. That said, there is a mix of sympathetic police characters and some less than so.This book is a mix of police procedural, political satire and psychological study, and of added interest maybe to the reader with an interest in the murkier side of politics and the establishment. It should be said too that the pace is slow, but that is Persson's style. The one place where I started to lose interest was towards the middle of the book when, after the 1989 murder investigation, the author goes about describing events around the fall of the Berlin wall, the rush to get hands on former East German intelligence and the establishment of the Swedish secret police. A second reading and I would be better prepared for this venture into documentary and away from the core storyline for an albeit brief time.My final mention is 'Silenced' by another Swede, Kristina Ohlsson. In this, the second translated novel from Ohlsson involving a team of Stockholm detectives ably assisted by civilian researcher Fredrika Bergman, a number of different (yet somehow related?) cases occupy the team. The death of a vicar and his wife shortly after a daughter is reported dead, the whereabouts of another daughter, plus the death of an unidentified man, all prove challenging for the team. Then too there is the horrific attack on a young girl years before which the book opens with and which the police are not aware of, but of course the reader is. The book also sheds considerable light on the lives of three of the main characters, their trials and tribulations. The story involves immigration and people smuggling, persons having their identity taken from them, and of course the age-old crime motivators of jealousy and revenge. In regards to the plot, I think it is more than just complex, it is I think overly elaborate. Without giving the ending away, it does beg the question as to how likely such an outcome.While in the first book (Unwanted) I thought the male-female divide overplayed, it's fair to say that it's not an issue here, largely because Fredrika has now been more or less accepted as part of the team. But wait, there was still something to irritate me here! I have never met so many instances in a book where so many characters have tears well up in their eyes, one more than the next! Otherwise the book is an ok read, but nothing to shout out loud about.But no matter what I think, good, bad or indifferent, enjoy your crime reads! I do mine, regardless!