Friday, April 9, 2010

Dublin Murder Squad

Hordes of people, Guinness, millions of cabs, a university where the tour guides are plucky intellectuals with a keen, if somewhat hokey sense of humor, Guinness, and music, oh, so much music (though predominantly Johnny Cash), so much that you can feel the vibrations from the Temple Bar as you stumble by; this is how I remember Dublin. Did I mention Guinness?

Dark corners, edgy women peering out slyly from behind their shutters, closed doors hiding the thinly veiled secrets of the inhabitants. Man against man, families against themselves, cop against everyone. Streets empty with the vastness of failure, and dysfunction that seeps and crawls its way between homes and through the lips of anyone who speaks. This is the image of Dublin that Tana French creates.

French, the author of In the Woods, which won the 2008 Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author, will be releasing her third novel revolving around the members of the Dublin Murder Squad in July. French is an amazingly talented writer with the unique aptitude of producing intense character studies within well-plotted, emotionally moving, novels of psychological suspense. As readers wait for the July 13th release of Faithful Place, I feel it necessary to bring her talent for writing to the attention of those who have not yet had the fortune of delving into her murky world.

In the Woods is the first of the novels detailing the emotionally wrecking and highly personal cases of Dublin’s finest. It brings to mind the blurred lines and gray areas of right and wrong that pepper the works of notable authors like Dennis Lehane. Following Detectives Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox as they delve into the murder of a 12-year-old girl, a case eerily similar to events from Ryan’s shadowed past; In the Woods is a thrilling mystery that absolutely sucks you into it’s depths. The Likeness takes place six months later and details the psychological fallout and resulting career challenges of Detective Cassie Maddox. My favorite of the two, The Likeness is gripping in its intensity as the readers follow Cassie into an undercover assignment that’s cult-like atmosphere begins to deconstruct Cassie’s thinly veiled mental composure. Both are written with beautiful, often-poetic prose interposed with a jagged, seeping edge of violence that slices through the texts brilliantly.

So, Faithful Place, does it live up to these two bestselling thrillers? Yes! By far the most complex, as it deals with the murky and constantly unstable world or families, Faithful Place follows Detective Frank Mackey, leader of Dublin’s undercover unit, as he investigates a decades old murder that had long-lasting repercussions for both Frank and his family. True to form (as presented by French), Mackey lives on the edge of right and wrong, leaping through various shades of gray as he stealthily moves through the Dublin slums picking apart all of the inhabitants in his search, even if the answers lead him closer to the damaged home and family he escaped twenty years before. According to many of my co-workers, this is it, French’s best work to date and I have to agree, she just keeps getting better.

Now, if you haven’t done so yet, read In the Woods and The Likeness. You have time, until July to be exact. Then, once you’ve reveled in the complex world of Tana French for a while you will be fully prepared for the brilliance that is Faithful Place.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Out of this World Spring and Summer Reads

Zombies, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, fairies and dystopic societies, they have all been markedly present in my reading material as of late. Perhaps it’s because these topics seem to be so prevalent in current popular culture or maybe it’s just that I have been making an effort to catch up on my paranormal reading because my desk was starting to overflow with reading copies. I’ve read countless paranormal novels over the last several months, some that are currently out and others, which will be released between now and this summer. As I’ve waded my way the through lackluster, uninspired ridiculousness I greatly feared that I would never come across a recommend worthy new novel. Who knew there could be that many horrid writers being published? Fortunately, after much toil, boredom, and hair pulling, I finally came across a few notable new novels in the genre.

Soulless by Gail Carriger, has been out since October, but since it’s sequel, Changeless just came out this month, it would be remiss of me not to mention it. This is that book that you pick-up, start to read, and then just can’t put down. It’s that novel that causes a smirk to cross your lips and your chest to tighten with a mixture of anticipation and downright enjoyment. Soulless, the first in a new series by Gail Carriger is that book. The perfect blend of paranormal, romance, comedy, alternative history, and steam punk, Soulless manages to reach beyond the genres with it’s wonderful prose, witty dialogue, and unforgettable characters.

Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien, which will be released at the end this month, is a tremendously dystopic novel that faintly echoes themes from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. This is a teen novel, but one that’s premise will be appreciated by adults. The writer, a high school English teacher, does an incredible job of creating characters full of complexities and an environment that is both fantastic and harshly real in its depiction.

The Passage by Justin Cronin is a highly anticipated and much touted new novel out of Random House. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen so much hype for a science fiction novel. Usually, I’m turned off by excessive amounts of plugging because the novels rarely live up to the praise, but this is one book that paid off. The Passage is one of those books that is completely intimidating at first sight because of it's immense size, but once you've read the first few pages you discover an immersing story that sucks you in and refuses to let go. A perfect mixture of classic Michael Crichton meets Resident Evil, this is a novel capable of appealing to science fiction and more mainstream fiction readers, while still maintaining a uniqueness of it’s own. A perfect summer blockbuster that frustrated me to no ends because after nearly 1,000 pages I was loathe to see the end, and am now yearning for a sequel, even though this first book has yet to be released (June 8, 2010).

I would like to end this by taking the time to acknowledge a few of the sequels that are currently or about to be released. Darklight by Lesley Livingston (Wondrous Strange) and Hourglass by Claudia Gray (Evernight) are available now. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver); The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan (The Forest of Hands and Teeth), and Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink (Prophecy of the Sisters) are all out this summer. I have read each of these titles and they are all fantastic, but pay close attention to Guardian of the Gate, which is by far the best of the group.