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Profil de Alfred J. Kwak > Commentaires

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Contenu rédigé par Alfred J. Kwak
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Commentaires écrits par
Alfred J. Kwak

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par Samuel Hazo
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 15,83

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Early warning about suicide bombing, 8 octobre 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Stills (Broché)
This short and prophetic 1989 novel has never been reviewed on this site. At the time, “Publishing Weekly” savaged it, but “Library Journal” responded warmer. I cannot help repeat another author’s quote about awaiting the outcome of a new book: “It’s like seeing your small kid run across a busy highway”. “Stills” did not survive the crossing and its author must have felt sad his message was ignored. Which is a shame, 25 years later.
Star press photographer Baxter has one aim in life, shooting the ultimate still to stop all senseless violence in the world. His inspiration is Robert Capra’s iconic Spanish civil war photo of a soldier hit from far away at the right moment. In 1982 Baxter lost his beloved wife Mercedes in Lebanon in similar fashion. Stunned by her loss he keeps searching for the ultimate still. In 1995 he is declared missing, again in Lebanon, presumed dead. But he is not. After 5 months he returns to the US with only his cameras and rolls of film. Entering his home he finds Louise. She was hired by Mercedes’ brother to prepare a documentary about his life and works…
What Baxter saw and photographed in Lebanon was senseless, unskilled violence applied to people who were only a little different re their faith, with neighboring states (Israel and Syria) taking advantage. Samuel Hazo finds the devastating suicide attack on a USMC base in Beirut a game changer. “What kind of a defense can be mounted against a single man who is willing to give up his life to make sure that he hits the target, particularly if you don’t know who he is or who the target is or when he’s going to make his move? There’s none. Remember that truck driver who killed all those Marines at Khalde? There’s a perfect example. Take that kind of mentality and export it, and you can have Lebanon all over the place.”
Hazo’s book is far richer than this review. Born as a Lebanese American in 1928 and former USMC fighter rising to captain (1950-57), poet and university professor teaching English literature Samuel Hazo deserves praise for “Stills”. Strong ending. Full marks for content, 3.5 for form.

Saints of the Shadow Bible
Saints of the Shadow Bible
par Ian Rankin
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 9,34

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Tense, authentic and deep police procedural, 3 octobre 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Saints of the Shadow Bible (Broché)
Policemen serving in Internal Affairs units are hated by their colleagues worldwide and their return to normal duty is problematic. Ian Rankin (IR) wrote 2 riveting books about Malcolm Fox (MF), an ambitious and scrupulous employee of such a ‘complaints’ unit. Here MF locks horns with John Rebus (JR) in a strange, complicated and exhausting duel lasting 14 intense days investigating a number of killings.
Early in his career in the early 1980s, young Rebus was posted to a corrupt, law-breaking and vicious detective police detail, whose own nickname is this book’s title. Thirty+ years later, its surviving members meet, following a recent change on double jeopardy under Scottish law: cases once dismissed by jury and judge, can be re-opened. This threatens some ex-Saints more than others: one is dead, another dying, leaving three members, including Rebus.
This very tense novel written in 14 numbered chapters with lots of sub-sections, describes their unfurling crisis during the early run-up to the September 2014 Scottish referendum vote on independence. It sees another return of John Rebus to police duties, albeit as a lowly DCS on probation with his former trainee and lover, DCI Siobhan Clark as his boss.
Once again, spot-on dialogues and characterization and full of urgency and atmosphere. Young Darryl Christie, first introduced in “Standing in another Man’s Grave”, comes across as a worthy successor to earlier Edinburgh gangster bosses. Hope the series continues, but this police procedural underlines on many of its pages that creative crime fighters like John Rebus are a dying species, unloved by colleagues, not only in Scotland.

The Human Body
The Human Body
par Paolo Giordano
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 27,02

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Superb novel about serving in Afghanistan, 2 octobre 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Human Body (Relié)
Paolo Giordano (PG)’s 2009 debut “The Solitude of Prime Numbers” sold over a million copies in Italy alone and has been translated in over 30 languages. In a recent interview he said the constant media attention and book signing tours in Italy and abroad seriously delayed his PhD dissertation in particle physics. When the storm died down and with his PhD finalized, he wrote for an entire year with his head only, not his heart, ending up with a few short stories he considered fit for human consumption. So, when offered the chance to go to Afghanistan as a journalist embedded in an Italian Alpine unit, he seized it with both hands. In the interview PG said it was his cure and salvation.
This second novel has several layers and reads like a thriller. It is about the boredom of some 200 Italian troops serving in Afghanistan in a remote, hilltop FOB near Helmand province: poor food, bench-pressing, posturing and pestering, gaming, phoning home and making rare inspections of the village below, heavily armed but with plenty of sweets for the dirty, fly-ridden children. There is nothing to enjoy and no sense to what they are doing, pacifying Afghanistan from a hilltop.
When Lt. Egitto, the unit’s medic and due to go on leave after six months, is phoned by his sister Marianna , their exchange of words and feelings prompts him to forego his leave. Another six months of duty lie ahead, which he is quite prepared to suffer with the secret supply of anti-depressants he has brought along. Why? For readers to find out.
This reader is stunned by how brilliantly PG has composed and written this book. His characters are superbly drawn and cast during and after Lt. Egitto’s fateful second tour: naïve and gullible Ietri, Torsu and his dubious online girlfriend, Lt. Egitto’s vengeful ex-girlfriend or macho soldier Cederna, who added 2.000 euro worth of internet-procured extras to his basic gear, and so on, all lost souls, right up to the ebullient, balls-scratching colonel in charge.
CNN is reporting high suicide rates among US veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 20 per day, perhaps 8.000 a year. This novel ‘s cast of characters feels that the Taliban follow their every move and inevitably, it comes to a dramatically described engagement. In the novel’s final part, PG sketches the psychological impact of the mission on some of them , also back in Italy.
Veterans from many countries who fought in Afghanistan and survived their tour(s) of duty intact in terms of body and mind, will probably enjoy this book about this hapless unit. Written with so much empathy and black humor, this novel may have therapeutic value too. Instantly re-readable and highly recommended.

par M.G. Vassanji
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 16,25

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Going West, 27 septembre 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Amriika (Broché)
This sprawling, ambitious novel is about the challenges immigrants with a deeply traditional background face in the US. It is about tall Ramji, born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania whose grandma raised him. He is part of the Shamsi community who follow an old Indian syncretistic mix of Hinduism and Islam. Feeling insecure in India, many Shamsis followed an ancient prophecy and began moving West, first to East Africa in the late 19th century.
In the late 1960s, Ramji excels in school and wins a scholarships to MIT at a time of massive students protests against the Vietnam war and the military-industrial complex. The plethora of good causes sometimes baffles him, but he becomes a fringe activist too.
Still in Dar, Ramji was shocked by Robert Kennedy’s murder and scared of going to the US. But fellow Shamsi and newspaper editor Darcy and his grandma both firmly pointed their index fingers westward. What follows is an account of 27 more years of Ramji’s life and his Shamsi community’s movement westwards. Ramji ‘s early, marginal involvement with student radicals will come back to haunt him decades in LA, where he moved after years in Chicago.
As a book character Ramji comes across as bereft of his early brilliance. No word about what he studied or why he flunked out. He is skeptical and ambivalent about religion and his own community’s faith, his radical student friends’ beliefs and later, the contents of the magazines and books he markets or distributes, radical or ‘alternative’. He does not fully embrace pure reason either. He is loyal to close friends, soft mannered, simply not born to die and leaving a large footprint behind.
The novel has strong and weak parts. A stern editor would have slashed a lot of superfluous text. In all, this is an intelligent and emphatic novel with a sad ending. But also a construction of a phantom community without roots in fact or history.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers
The Solitude of Prime Numbers
par Paolo Giordano
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 8,92

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Awesome and immediately re-readable, 17 septembre 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Solitude of Prime Numbers (Broché)
Brilliant debut novel about childhood issues like having a suffocating father, a crippling skiing accident and life-long anorexia. That is Alice. She will find much later a measure of solace working as a photographer and marrying a kind, young medical doctor. But.... She and Mattia meet on a number of occasions and at different ages in this book spanning 24 years (1983-2007). Mattia is socially unfit from an early age. When his twin sister disappears through his fault, he spends the rest of his child years, teenage and adult life filled with remorse. But he scores top marks in school, then at university and soon after graduation in mathematics he is offered a teaching post at a foreign university. He is totally lucid and brilliant about math, unable to make small talk or discuss anything else.
Prime numbers can be divided by themselves and by one. They live in pairs like 11 and 13 or 41 and 43. They suggest incompatibility with normal numbers that can be divided easier. Such pairs become rarer in the upper numerical regions. Midway in the book, Mattia jots down a lengthy number, much larger than the earth’s population, whose final digits are 49 and 51. He has quick formulas at hand to find if they (Alice and himself) are such a stellar pair, but is afraid of the possible outcome, and desists.

Giordano’s finale is intriguing with so many possible choices. It is for readers to find out how he ended this tale. Otherwise, I have not read any reviews of this great book, but the novel also presents a quiz question to me: in which foreign, coastal university with a distinctive logo (a bird of prey) has Mattia worked for 9 years? Situated some 600 km NNW of Turin as the crow flies and facing the sea when the sun rises? And with salmon sandwiches for lunch? There is no such place. There is only solitude.

Never Go Back (with bonus novella High Heat): A Jack Reacher Novel
Never Go Back (with bonus novella High Heat): A Jack Reacher Novel
par Lee Child
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 6,35

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Not good, not bad, 8 septembre 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Never Go Back (with bonus novella High Heat): A Jack Reacher Novel (Broché)
The title is all about Jack Reacher (JR) ‘s fateful return to the 110th MP base he commanded long ago in the state of Virginia, near Washington DC. During a recent adventure in South Dakota, he phoned its present commander. He liked her voice and hitchhiked his way East. Once he arrives near the object of his curiosity, things change rapidly: she is quickly arrested for corruption, JR is arrested for two historical offences.
What follows is plot-wise totally silly, as usual and full of the usual stuff, like using the laws of averages and probability, breaking limbs and outsmarting the enemy. This reader grows a little tired of aging Reacher’s absolute prowess in mind and body matters after 18 books. But this one is a lot better than its two predecessors, which occurred only weeks before this one. Why? For once, he is operating in busy urban areas again, not in isolated locations. Also, author Lee Child (LC) paints a scary picture of the surveillance capacity of the Department of Homeland Security via internet and mobile phones, esp. when bad people within have free access and control.
LC plants two warnings in this tale: check what you once sent and now receive back when leaving a war zone and watch the military logistics companies closely. My copy contains an encore in the form of a long story about JR as a 16 year old strutting his stuff. Brr.

The Three Evangelists
The Three Evangelists
Prix : EUR 7,70

1 internaute sur 1 a trouvé ce commentaire utile :
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A New way to write and read about murder, 1 septembre 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Three Evangelists (Format Kindle)
The three evangelists’ real names are Marc, Lucien and Mathias. They are aged 35, unemployed historians and in deep shit financially and career-wise. They find and make a dilapidated 18th century house in Paris habitable in return for an ultra-low rent which they can just about raise between themselves. The trio occupies a floor each, with Marc’s uncle Armand, 68, a sacked police inspector moving into the attic. The ground floor is a monastery-like refectory. No TV, no telephone, which, being penniless historians, is perhaps no surprise. Only Lucien holds down a lowly teaching job. Marc’s last stint of paid work was ghostwriting romantic pulp novels; Mathias tried out being a car mechanic.
But why should a paleontologist like Mathias, expert in hunting and gathering and averse to shoes and clothing, be good with engines? Or a medieval scholar like Marc indulge in writing set pieces when so much mystery surrounds 11th century feudal relations and village markets? Lucien, the temp teacher, studies strangely neglected aspects of WW I and is perhaps best able to function in the here and now. At least, he owns a tie and wears it to work.
Shortly after their move into their new lodgings, a tree is planted in their neighbours’ garden, which worried the lady of the mansion, a former opera soprano. She disappears soon after. What follows is a warren of amateur and professional investigations, suspicions and accusations about real historic and emerging deaths, weird conversations and a surprise ending.
This reader has read almost all Fred Vargas (FV) crime novels in the wrong order. But they stand alone. No damage done. They should not be read as pure police procedurals. They are hard to summarize afterwards. They are fruits of the fertile and quirky imagination of a serious historian and archaeologist. Her plots are always challenging re plausibility. Police work, if any, is rarely decisive. Her books are eminently forgettable, except for their great, sometimes brilliant atmosphere and the obvious pleasure with which FV fabulates book after book about deep French fears.

The Man Who Smiled: Kurt Wallander
The Man Who Smiled: Kurt Wallander
Prix : EUR 6,50

3.0 étoiles sur 5 At times implausible, 28 août 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Man Who Smiled: Kurt Wallander (Format Kindle)
This slow 1994 thriller sees the return to work of chief inspector Kurt Wallanger (KW), 49, after a lengthy medical leave. He intended to sign his resignation into effect, but remorse about the recent murder of a man he used to know, makes him change his mind. Why remorse? Because he refused to help the man when he asked for it. Days later the man was murdered.
Throughout the thriller KW is tired, depressed and irritable. He lives on coffee and fast food and sleeps badly. One cause of his Nordic gloom are his feelings of futility regarding his job: fewer crimes are solved in Sweden than almost anywhere else in Europe. Ever fewer uniformed police on the streets and more administrative staff at the station are the result of endless reforms whose main outcome is to achieve budget cuts. The unsolved 1986 murder of prime minister Olof Palme also weighs heavily on the force and KW’s midlife crisis: how to carry on? Finally, there is the belief in Sweden, also in law enforcement, that business tycoons and their families to whom the country owes its wealth, are immune to committing crimes, and therefore sacrosanct, above the law.
Because one such a mover and shaker, Alfred Harderberg, is the only person who could possibly have ordered the first murder. After slow and painstaking investigations KW and his team uncover more, apparently unrelated killings, and KW becomes a target himself. He also faces trouble from within the force in his efforts to confront the iconic tycoon.
This thriller takes place in late 1993, not long before the internet and GSM revolution erupted. Google and countless other apps and devices key to police work today had not been invented or introduced yet. Still, Mankell predicts in this book that it is bound to become more dependent on electronics through keyboards, screens, CCTV, mobile phones and massive computing power. Mankell wrote this book in the age of the telephone booth when people still wrote letters to each other.
Also, today thrillers with chapters of 25+ pages are widely considered unreadable; 6-8 page chapters is the norm now. Finally, Stieg Larsson must have thought: this can be done better. And he did.

par Ferdinand von Schirach
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 27,67

4.0 étoiles sur 5 A humane take on criminal justice, 15 août 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Guilt (Relié)
The author, now 50, is one of Germany’s most prominent defence lawyers. It is likely the 15 cases described here are constructs rather than reconstructions of real crimes from among the 2.000 cases he has thus far been involved with. Von Schirach has a way with words that crosses borders. His books are hits among crime buffs and law students.
This collection of cases is stunning in its diversity and impact. None of the cases is typically German. They deal with various aspects of a key judicial term, guilt. The searing opening tale “Funfair” shows how powerless judges and prosecutors can be when the accused choose to remain silent. Its longest story “The Key”, the book’s most violent and most hilarious tale, focuses loosely on Lebanese criminal families in Berlin. Other cases include a trio of juvenile Satanists at a boarding school, a cold case solved via DNA, a sadistic husband and a case about a convicted paedophile.
Von Schirach expresses his admiration for Germany’s code of criminal law, which dates back to the 19th century and which clearly defines deadly crimes against persons. Every murder is also a manslaughter, but how many manslaughters are murders? In one spectacular case von Schirach realizes only after the judge acquits his client that the judge was smarter than he himself and knew all the time what really must have happened. A perceived weakness of German criminal justice is the size of its apparatus in large cities: in a case of mistaken identity a man is wrongly charged with a crime he could never have committed. In another case rural judges are shown to have more leeway than their colleagues operating from within massive institutions.
Best of all, von Schirach is a gifted stylist and a born storyteller.

Dog Will Have His Day
Dog Will Have His Day
par Fred Vargas
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 21,96

1 internaute sur 1 a trouvé ce commentaire utile :
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Weird and brilliant, 15 août 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Dog Will Have His Day (Relié)
Newcomers to Fred Vargas (FV)’ oeuvre gasp during the first 50 pp of any of her 10 crime novels, wondering what is happening and why, and why things are not explained step by step as other crime writers do. This confusion also affects aficionados like me. Her novels (FV is a female historian and archaeologist) defy the rules of the genre.
This second book in the Three Evangelists series finds Louis/Ludwig Kehlweiler (LK), 50, without a job but not without work. He was recently sacked as special investigator at the Ministry of the Interior, but his army of informers in Paris and every French province remains in place and with subscriptions to French regional newspapers he keeps his big private archive up to date. His archivist (2 hours per day) is Marc, one of the 3 evangelists: dirt-poor, underemployed historians living in a ramshackle house, with Marc’s uncle occupying the top floor: St Luke is obsessed by the Great War, St Mathew by prehistory and hunter-gatherers, St Marc is a medievalist. Marc’s uncle was dismissed from the Paris police for letting a murderer go.
LK finds a suspicious human bone in Paris. It prompts him, then Marc, then the paleontologist to travel to a Breton fishing village rife with secrets and intrigue. FVs crime novel breathe a unique atmosphere, often tackling primordial French fears and hosting a cast of eccentric characters. As police procedurals the main protagonists use rather quaint methods and techniques: LK his vast archive of newspaper cuttings and his spies, whilst Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg (hero of 7 books) relies primarily on his intuition. This book’s characters include a collector of rare typewriters, a 70-year old former prostitute, a war criminal, a former girlfriend and pit-bull Ringo. Full of what French people love, arguing and philosophy, plus a string of brilliant twists and turns, regularly punctuated by LK sighing ‘I could do with a beer’. Great translation, too.

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