Thursday, March 07, 2013


Without too much thought, what are three or four important characteristics of a book you have recently enjoyed. This list applies to this book but also to many of the books I enjoy most.

I am going to talk about THE BLACKHOUSE by Peter May. I am taking for granted that the writing is great first of all.I can never finish a book that doesn't have pretty good if not great writing.

One-Great atmosphere-it is set in the Outer Hebrides in the north of Scotland. We learn a lot about the topography of this area-it is almost a character in the book.

Two- characters that seem to have both good and bad traits. Nothing is black and white. The main character is especially compelling. But many others are too.

Three-the violence is never pasted on top. It is never gratuitous. It is not filler. It is organic and arises from character and circumstance.

Four-Secrets from the past affect the presence. I love backstory. I could read a book that is all back story in fact.

What about you? Tell me some of the best traits of a recently enjoyed book. 


Ron Scheer said...

Book: Oakley Hall's WARLOCK. This is a western, not a horror novel. I liked the total immersion in another time and place, the love of perfectly ordinary men and women trying to rise above their circumstances, the levels of irony, the sharp dialogue.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I want to read that book! Thanks!

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds good. I'm interested in your interpretation of violence that is "pasted on top." Perhaps some day you'll do a post about that?

George said...

Charlie LeDuff's DETROIT: AN AMERICAN AUTOPSY features a quirky reporter (LeDuff) and dozens of unique characters. At times, I thought I was reading Hunter Thompson.

Anonymous said...

I've never read May but he does sound interesting.

Andrea Camilleri, THE AGE OF DOUBT. This is the 14th book in his Sicilian-set Insp. Salvo Montalbano series.

1. The characters are old friends, especially the aging gourmand Montalbano, plus his team, his adversaries (the Commissioner) and several newcomers.

2. The setting of Vigata (based on Camilleri's home town of Porte Empedocle) and the surrounding area in Sicily is exotic yet - by now - familiar to the reader.

3. As always there is an intriguing mystery for the irascible but clever Salvo to solve, and this one even uses a Simenon book as one of his clues.

Start from the first book and see if you like them. If you do you'll gobble the whole series down like candy.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

(Still having a problem commenting under my name--possibly something to do with updating my phone?)

I recently finished Tana French's Broken Harbor. Although not as good as The Likeness (my favorite of her books), it still fulfilled my requirements for an entertaining read. To wit--

1. Police procedures that feel authentic (even if not completely accurate in the "real world").

2. Intelligent characters with believable motivations.

3. Exposure to a subject I know little or nothing about--in this case, the Irish economic miracle and what happened when it all came tumbling down.

4. The slowly-revealed secret from the past that has a bearing on present action.

All-in-all, a good book.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I liked the one Camilleri I read. And I also liked French's first book but not THE LIKENESS. I could never get past the idea that intimate friends wouldn't know she was an imposter. Funny how a detail like that can ruin a book if you let it. I have her third on my shelf.

Anonymous said...

Re The Likeness: I think it goes back to making something plausible (feeling authentic while not necessarily accurate). I agree that it would be highly unlikely in the real world for an imposter to pass herself off as someone else--especially to close friends--but I think French did a good job of making it seem possible, so I had no trouble suspending disbelief.


Anonymous said...

Without having read the book in question (THE LIKENESS) Patti's comment struck a chord with me. I have always found that a plot twist I cannot accept, no matter how I feel about the book, movie or television show in question.

Example? ALIAS. We're supposed to believe Sydney's best friend and roommate is replaced with a doppelganger (don't ask how) and she never notices. Yes, the woman looks exactly like the friend but SHE DOESN'T KNOW ANYTHING. Not what they've done together, favorite movies or restaurants, catch phrases, you name it - anything.

There was a Christmas special episode of the very good British crime show JONATHAN CREEK where (POSSIBLE SPOILER) an identical twin took her dead sister's place and you were supposed to accept that her husband and daughter didn't have a clue.

Sorry, cannot accept it. Can you picture a situation where your spouse was replaced by a double and you wouldn't know?

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Well, if the double we're George Clooney, I might not let on that I knew the difference!


Bernadette said...

Book: Arnaldur Indridason's BLACK SKIES


1. main character is NOT a misunderstood genius or loner alcoholic or any of the other well-worn tropes for a lead detective - he's just a guy who's doing a job - but he's still compelling

2. There's some small p politics / social commentary - about Iceland's role in the global financial meltdown - but it's part of the story and not a lecture - I like being informed just enough by my fiction to want to go and read some non fiction or do some other kind of research

3. The plot surprised me. More than once. I read A LOT of crime fiction and simply don't get surprised all that much any more (which is OK as there are other things to keep me reading) but when I am I really enjoy it

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have read at least three of his books, Bernadette, and liked all of them. This looks especially promising. I love reading about Iceland. And I bet you would like THE BLACK HOUSE.