Travels of August

Since the Run for Nancy was only a few days ago I am still on a high from not only running four miles, but running four miles without pain. No pain whatsoever. The pain is so gone it’s as if I imagined the whole thing. Weird. Weird. Weird. As for books, since I don’t have any other running plans in the near future:

Fiction:

  • The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe – in honor of August being Chick Lit month.
  • The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – in honor of Courtenay’s birth month being in August.
  • Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts – in honor of August being Dream Month (hey, I read it somewhere).
  • Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett – in honor of Dunnett’s birth month being in August.
  • The Case of the Missing Servant¬†by Tarquin Hall – in honor of Rajir Ratna Gandhi’s birth in August.

Nonfiction:

  • A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird – in honor of Colorado becoming a state in August.
  • Eurydice Street: a Place in Athens by Sofka Zinovieff – in honor of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin.
  • A Season in Red by Kirsty Needham – in honor of the Double Seven festival in China.

Series continuations:

  • The Big Bad City by Ed McBain – to continue the series started in July.

If there is time:

Fiction:

  • Under the Snow by Kerstin Ekman – in honor of Ekman’s birth month.
  • Crazy Jack by Donna Jo Napoli – in honor of Fairy Tale Month.

 


August Ahead

My obsession with moving rocks has come to an end now that the big boys are playing in the backyard. This hopefully means I’ll scale back to just two fanatical activities: running and reading. Or reading and running. I wonder who will win out? I am in the last month of training before the half marathon, but here are the books planned for August:

  • Anarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day. I have been able to read other books in the series in one to two days.
  • Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell – in honor of July being one of the best times to visit Sweden (listening as an audio book).
  • Lost City of Z: a tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon by David Grann in honor of August being the driest month in the Amazon.
  • The High and the Mighty by Ernest Gann in honor of August being Aviation month.
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin in honor of Baldwin’s birth month (print & AB).
  • Children in the Woods by Frederick Busch in honor of Busch’s birth month (short stories).
  • Flora’s Suitcase by Dalia Rabinovich in honor of Columbia’s independence.

PS – on the eve of posting this I ran 7.93 miles. Why the .93? My calf/Achilles started to give me grief so I had to stop. Now I wonder if the running has a chance to catch the books?


Return of the Dancing Master

Mankell, Henning. The Return of the Dancing Master. Read by Grover Gardner. Blackstone Audio, 2008.

I love the way Henning Mankell writes. There is something so dramatic about each and every word. A warning though, his scenes of violence are not for the faint of heart. Even if you have never been victim or even witness to a violent crime Mankell makes you feel right there in the moment. It’s as if the violence is happening to you. Very cringe-worthy material. Case in point – the brutal torture and murder of retired policeman Herbert Molin sets the stage for the Return of the Dancing Master. Stefan Lindman takes a medical leave of absence from his job as a police officer in order to battle mouth cancer. While in the waiting room of his doctor he reads about the murder of Molin. As a way to keep his mind off his illness Lindman decides to investigate Molin’s murder as Molin was once a colleague of sorts back in the day. Lindman finds himself getting deeper and deeper into the investigation when another man is murdered. As he comes to realize Molin was not the man he thought he knew, Lindman starts to question his own relationships.

Small disappointment – the crime scene of Molin’s murder is his house. Lindman breaks into the house after the real police assigned to the case have left. He is able to discover Molin’s diary wrapped in a raincoat which proves to be a vital clue. How did the real investigators miss that? There are other pieces of evidence that Lindman uncovers before anyone else, like the camping site of the killer. Again, how did the police miss that?

Postscript ~ the audio version is amazing. For starters, there is a whole cast of people reading the parts so women actually play women and so on. Also, at the end is a small piece of music so one can picture the dancing master taking a spin on the floor with a student. It’s a little eerie.

Reason read: July is the best time to visit Sweden.

Author fact: To learn more about Mankell go here.

Book trivia: Most of Mankell’s books include a character named Kurt Wallander. Mr. Wallander doesn’t make an appearance in The Return of the Dancing Master.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 232).


Man From Beijing

Mankell, Henning. The Man From Beijing. Read by Rosalyn Landor. New York: Random House Audio, 2010.

The opening scene to The Man From Beijing (aside from the judicial oath) is stunning. Mankell describes in haunting detail the travels of a lone wolf as it hungrily searches for prey. I won’t spoil it by saying anything more. Suffice it to say this scene sets the tome for an ominous story. After visiting a wolf and wilderness center in Colorado my mind’s eye can see this solitary wolf (and it’s ever present hunger) with detailed clarity which makes Mankell’s opening scene even more chilling.

Henning Mankell is a master at writing mysteries. The Man From Beijing is no exception. The story starts with nineteen people, concentrated in one tiny Swedish village, brutally murdered. Most of the victims are elderly and the level of violence inflicted on them is unprecedented. Even their pets have been viciously attacked and killed. As the details of the massacre unfold the plot becomes multi-generational, spanning 150 years; and international, taking place in China, Zimbabwe, the United States and, of course, Sweden.

Reason read: I needed a “wild card” story for the fun of it. I chose The Man From Beijing because it isn’t attached to any other story (Mankell writes mostly series).

Author Fact: Mankell was the first winner of the Ripper Award.

Book Trivia: The Man From Beijing is an international best seller. According to IMDB it was made into a television movie in 2010.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 223).


Firewall

Mankell, Henning. Firewall. Trans. Ebba Segerberg. New York: The New Press, 1998.

I have to say it again. I think something got lost in the translation of this book.

Kurt Wallander is a Swedish detective trying to solve a series of mysterious deaths. At first the only common factor is the time frame in which these people died. A man falls dead after using an ATM, a cab driver is beaten to death, and someone has apparently committed suicide at a power station all within a matter of days. But, as the investigation continues pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Somehow the picture reveals an absurd terrorist plot.

What makes Firewall so entertaining is Kurt Wallander’s personality. He is a short tempered detective, good at what he does but not as great at being a divorced dad to his near-adult daughter. She finds him overbearing and lonely. I found Wallander and his Swedish police work very strange. For starters, Wallander is accused of not doing things by the book and for the most part those accusations hold true. Over and over he considers sharing information about the various investigations with his colleagues but over and over again he finds reasons not to. Also, computers connected to the crimes aren’t confiscated, potential witnesses and suspects aren’t detained for questioning, and despite rooms being searched several times, key evidence is not discovered right away. Case in point: an office was searched several times and yet Wallander finds a postcard under a computer keyboard days later.
I found some parts of Firewall predictable. Wallander is single. At his daughter’s urging he joins a dating service. Within days he gets a letter from a potential match. Right away I knew this “response” was trouble, for the letter is slid under his door – no return address or postmark. Wouldn’t Wallander have read how the service works and wouldn’t he have found a nondescript letter without a postmark a little suspect?
All in all Firewallwas a good vacation read. It was fast paced and highly entertaining.

Favorite line: “A person who died eventually became a person who had never existed” (p 7).

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Crime is a Globetrotter: Sweden” (p 59).


Blackwater

Ekman, Kerstin. Blackwater. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

Ekman’s Blackwater is possessive. It grabs you and you can’t put it down. It’s dark and gritty – peppered with angry scenes of violence and meaningless, lust driven sex. Like a maze with many twisting passages Blackwater has a community of dark stories to tell. Each tale is tangled with another and at the center, common to all, is a double murder. While everyone knows about it and is touched by it, no one can solve it for twenty years.
In the beginning Annie Raft follows a lover to Blackwater to his out-of-the-way commune. On her first day in town Annie stumbles across the murdered bodies of two tourists camping in the backwoods of Blackwater. For twenty years she is haunted by the face of the man she thinks did it until one day that face comes back in the form of her daughter’s newest boyfriend. The mystery, along with a whole host of secrets, start to unravel.
The landscape is such an important element in the novel I would have enjoyed a map, something that illustrates Annie getting lost in the forest, how far away from town the commune was, where the well was that Johan was tossed into in relation to where the murders took place, etc.

These are the really great lines: “The silence was violent after the noise of the cars” (p 10).
“He felt strangely empty inside, a green jumble of oblivion, and his skin felt licked by eyes” (p 136).
“You cannot live in the world without living off it” (p 177).
“She had lived a cautious and parched life” (p255).
“It had been an open question between them, whether you can see into your own darkness and whether it actually is your responsibility to do so. Or whether you evoke the darkness and make it into your own by toying with it” (p 422).

 

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “Crime is a Globetrotter: Sweden” (p 59).