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Commentaires écrits par
Alfred J. Kwak

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Passenger 23: An Audible Original Drama
Passenger 23: An Audible Original Drama
Proposé par Audible FR

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Scary and quasi-challenging an industry, 5 juillet 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Passenger 23: An Audible Original Drama (Téléchargement audio)
Fritzek’s scary novels deal with psychopaths long able to disguise their true nature. They are exceptionally well- plotted -paced, -researched and –written, and situated in Germany. This thriller starts in Berlin and quickly turns very international, to a mega cruise liner plying the oceans with many thousands of passengers and crew. With no law enforcement on board, but with lots of underpaid workers, carefully-operating thieves and other nasty guests, what other crimes can be perpetrated with impunity in international waters beyond the reach of mobile phones?
Read this and shiver.
This book’s hero is Martin Schwartz, a deeply-distressed Berlin undercover police detective whose wife and son disappeared five years earlier during a cruise on the ‘Sultan of the Seas’. Ever since, he is prepared to take risks well beyond standard German police protocols. When he receives an urgent call for help, he deserts his job without notice, flies out and books himself on board the very same mega cruise ship in Southampton, with New York as its destination.
Its relentless pace, constant (sub-)plot twists and brief chapters with cliff hangers will delight lovers of fear and horror, some quite disturbing indeed. Otherwise, I found the book’s characters unconvincing, alone or interacting; found it hard to bond with any of them. However, its background is superbly-realistic, based on websites following the cruise industry and law firms that thrive on its mistakes and mishaps. [Its content and fear of lawsuits may have scared EN language publishers from bringing out a paper version. I read it in book form in Dutch translation].
Fritzek’s imagination is boundless, his writing is inspired and rich, his discipline is iron and his helpers many, as always acknowledged and thanked in his trademark ebullient fashion.


The Fourth Deadly Sin
The Fourth Deadly Sin
Prix : EUR 5,90

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Totally convincing, 1 juillet 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Fourth Deadly Sin (Format Kindle)
One Friday afternoon, a New York psychiatrist tells his psychologist wife to drive ahead to their weekend home, having a late appointment and joining her later in his own car. He never arrives, never even sets off: instead he is found dead in his office, killed with a hammer.
With four or five homicides a day, New York in the mid-1980s was far more violent than today, with the NYPD short of funding, struggling to create a more diverse force. Constant internal political infighting and outside interference prompted Edward X Delaney (EXD) to take early retirement. He is LS’ best ever book character, methodical, compassionate and a judge of character, consuming his creative sandwiches bent over the sink. In this book he is recalled to the NYPD as a consultant to prop up this sensitive murder investigation that was poorly conducted from the start and career-threatening for some senior police grandees.
EXD assembles a task force of two men he trusts, then six more men and women detectives to investigate the six likeliest clients prone to violence, according to the widow. Here I stop and hope today’s new readers will enjoy thrillers written before the age of mobile phones and internet. Excellent plot, some amazing detection and surveillance techniques, believable characters, authentic background and lots and lots of donkeywork. How to do a jigsaw puzzle? First find the four corner pieces, then sort out all pieces with a straight side to make a frame. Use the rest to fill it up. Says Edward X Delaney.
Possibly Lawrence Sanders’ best police procedural.


The Eighth Commandment
The Eighth Commandment
Prix : EUR 5,90

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Great entertainment, 27 juin 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Eighth Commandment (Format Kindle)
Delightful hunt for an ancient Greek coin worth perhaps 350.000 USD in 1988. Due for auction, it vanishes. Who to blame? Mary Lou aka Dunk, because she signed for it when it arrived in its box at the Manhattan auction house where she is the numismatic expert. The box was empty and Dunk is suspended without pay... To clear her name she starts an investigation alongside NYPD detective Al and insurance fraud ace Jack.
Have never read chick lit novels, but if this is an example, the genre has a future. It is very well written from the self-deprecating perspective of a determined beanstalk (six-two) formerly of Des Moines, Iowa, who is keen on telling her story, incl. what she wore of ate at many occasions. So does Jack Reacher, so what? But unlike him, she is quite forthcoming with brandnames too. Well-paced with 9 page chapters, this entertaining crime story puts many people on edge, resulting in three murders. Some strong characterization but Dunk herself is the book’s principal asset.


Tales of the Wolf
Tales of the Wolf
par Lawrence Sanders
Edition : Relié

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Amusing tales about a dirty-minded investigator, 23 juin 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Tales of the Wolf (Relié)
This early (1968) work by Lawrence Sanders is a collection of insurance fraud cases investigated and solved by Wolf Lannihan, hard-drinking, smart and always armed. He works out of the Manhattan office of Triple I, a company headed by a retired USMC lt. general to which insurance companies turn when faced with large claims that do not appear entirely kosher, but cannot be invalidated by their own experts. Sanders had impressive forebears like Raymond Chandler, whose influence is clear, and unfortunately, Mickey Spillane, hugely popular in the 1950s, forgotten today.
Lawrence Sanders confirmed his writing talent again and again In later police procedurals and crime novels that sold tens of millions of copies. These stories/cases are well paced and expertly written. There is smart thinking, plenty of legwork, benefits gained from mainframe computers and statistics, lots of violence and intimations of sex. The tales of the wolf are perfect entertainment and good teaching material for aspirant claims investigators. Perfect early work? Perhaps. Why? Because in this day and age, one aspect of Wolfie back in 1968 is unacceptable: he leers at women and worse, touches them when possible and hello, they responded then and there as they never would today, in the office, homes, hotel rooms. Choose your own word for someone like him.
My paperback copy stems from 1988. Only a dumb publisher would reprint this book again without a cautioning foreword explaining that works of reflect reflect the age in which they were created.
PS: Lawrence Sanders (1920-98) has disowned this book later on. My 1986 copy of “The Fourth Deadly Sin” lists “The Anderson Tapes” (1968) as his debut. Wikipedia says it was published in 1970 and is silent about this book.


Chronicler Of The Winds
Chronicler Of The Winds
par Henning Mankell
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 6,11

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Living of the edge of the world, 21 juin 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Chronicler Of The Winds (Broché)
This novel was written well before Henning Mankell (HM) became a brandname, reaching worldwide fame with his Wallander police procedurals, later filmed and marketed by Swedish and British producers, sometimes based on scripts blessed rather than written by HM. The original ten or so Wallander novels are uneven re quality; what he published beyond the series was not always brilliant either. I disliked some of them, but love this book.
HM was long closely associated with the national theater of Maputo, Mozambique, whose roof, in this tale, is the deathbed of Nelio (10), shot in the chest twice. During his final nine days he tells his lifestory to the man who saved him, a baker since his sixth, who learned to read only at age 15. What Nelio tells him is this novel’s substance: the spirits of one’s ancestors are aware of one’s earthly crimes and failings, and are ready to punish you once you join them.
HM created Nelio to embody the terror of simple country folks fleeing from their so-their called liberators, who kill and maim, ordering children to kill their siblings or friends, to survive, who susvive as diplaced and street children in a chaotic post-colonial city. Very rich in evoking the spiritual world, the brutishly short lives of street children and their take on the secure and settled. Intriguing cast of characters and told in the best African story-telling tradition. Full of magic.


Vanishing Games
Vanishing Games
par Roger Hobbs
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 8,51

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Perfect beach-side thriller, 14 juin 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Vanishing Games (Broché)
Quite enjoyable page-turner and sequel to “Ghostman”, which I have not read. It is situated around Hong Kong and Macao with frequent flashbacks to other parts of the worls: Jack and Angela parted ways six years ago after a failed high-end criminal robbery in Kuala Lumpur. Both are/were ‘ghostmen’ with multiple identities, untraceable, using military-style electronic tools to communicate, detect and evade on behalf of rich and powerful clients. When Angela sends a distress signal, Jack rushes to Macao, where life has become rather hectic for Angela: she received the head of her team leader in a cardboard box along with a message with deadline...
Perfectly-paced and -researched, this is a mid-Atlantic thriller re euros and dollars, pounds and kilos, full of criminal tradecraft, thieves’ language and paranoia. This reader cannot assess how believable this novel’s copious background data are. Written better than others in this genre, with 10-page chapters full of cliffhangers, it is perfect holiday reading.


Tough Guys Don't Dance
Tough Guys Don't Dance
par Norman Mailer
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 7,74

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Timeless and impressive, 8 juin 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Tough Guys Don't Dance (Broché)
Martin Amis, in his 1987 collection of journalistic work “The Moronic Inferno”, held that by 1981-2 Norman Mailer needed an annual income of USD 400.000 to cover the costs of five failed marriages and eight or 9 children. Earlier, the IRS had impounded his holiday home, leaving him still with major debts. Amis described NMs early success at the age of 24, then a career of falling sales and constant tabloid notoriety, and interviewed him briefly. This 1984 novel was not mentioned in Amis’ 1985 postscript to his two earlier articles. That is a pity.
Owning the book since 1985 and having no memory of having read it before, I started reading.
Found it a fantastic comeback, a book to dispel Amis’ earlier judgements, carefully plotted and written with discipline, full of passion, in strong prose and plenty of spirituality.
It starts with ex-con, aspirant writer and narrator Tim Madden’s writer’s block of 24 days, spent boozing and what not, after his wife’s disappearance, which becomes a quest to fill big lacunae in his own short-term memory. Also, before waking up, he is often besieged by bad dreams and his hangovers are epic and incapacitating. In the first half, readers become gradually familiar with the checquered, opportunistic past lives of Tim and his missing wife, their associates and recent preoccupations, and the unique tourist resort they inhabit, Provincetown MA, near Cape Cod, crowded with tourists and gays in summer.
This is a complicated multiple murder tale, well told, situated in November, when its winter population of Portuguese fishermen-c**-room renters plus its weird, semi-criminal minority of outlaws and losers is down to <3.000, preparing for winter... Then s*** happens. Then more. What defines being a man is what Mailer tries to answer via the actions of Tim and his father. Timeless and brilliant.


The Moronic Inferno: And Other Visits to America
The Moronic Inferno: And Other Visits to America
par Martin Amis
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 12,02

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Rich 1980s essays on American writers, 6 juin 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Moronic Inferno: And Other Visits to America (Broché)
This 1987 selection of writings by a young Martin Amis (MA) about the USA has been kept in print, and rightly so. It is a delightful collection of his journalistic articles published between 1977 and 1985, corrected, rewritten and provided with afterwords when needed. Most articles concerned his favourite writers, many dead now. Only Philip Roth and Hugh Hefner (not a writer, founder of “Playboy”) are still among us. Its title comes from Nobel Prize-winner Saul Bellow. MA’s essays about his work and worldview bracket this collection like sturdy bookstands.
Few readers will read every piece about the US writers, iconic Americans (Presley, Reagan), weird venues (Palm Beach) or pressing issues (AIDS) presented. Some entries are 1.200 word reviews, others lengthier and better documented. MAs best portraits display deep research plus an interview with the main subject. His best pieces (on e.g. Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, Saul Bellow ) cannot be ignored by today’s students of literature. His piece on AIDS (1985) was courageous and hard-hitting, and was well received in gay and medical circles after publication. Highly recommended.


The Main
The Main
par Trevanian
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 7,00

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Emile Zola in Montreal, 3 juin 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Main (Broché)
Trevanian is the pen name of a professor of linguistics and communication science called Rodney Whitaker (RW; 1931-2005). His true identity was disclosed first when he allowed himself to be interviewed on the occasion of the publication of "Shibumi", his fourth or fifth book that sold > 1 million copies. His academic background and an extraordinary gift and ear for language endowed him with a singular talent: writing fresh books in exactly the style of famous authors, dead or alive.
Readers who love his parodies of Ian Fleming's James Bond in his first 2 bestsellers, or of the once popular Ninja novels, as in "Shibumi", and of Marcel Proust in "The Summer of Katya" should consult Wikipedia: RW has published many more books in many more genres under many other names. This reader's favorite of his amazing and partly-bestselling oeuvre as Trevanian is "The Main".
Claude La Pointe is a 30-year veteran of Montreal's police force. His precinct's streets, esp. the Main, are full of recent immigrants. He patrols his area closely and is known, trusted, respected. He also sadly lost his wife at a young age. Since then, when retiring from a day's work, he consoles himself with the collected works of Emile Zola. Upon finishing the last volume of the long row of books, he starts with the first again. Are they in French or English? We will never know. For La Pointe there is only the present, no time for past or future. Emile Zola wrote his novels in the present tense. So does Trevanian in "The Main".
Apart from the slow, methodical search for the perpetrator of a murder, little action takes place. This reader first read "The Main" shortly after its initial publication. It has left several indelible images: La Pointe's reading, re-reading Zola over and over again is one. Another unforgettable image concerns an alcoholic tramp who lives in a deep, tarp-covered hole in the ground with a very dangerous entry/exit: to protect himself from the urge to go out and score more booze, he designed his exit so steep that he can only climb out when completely sober. A warning about how low one can fall and still control oneself. Great writing!
"The Main" was first published in 1976, the year Montreal hosted the Olympic Games. Not a word about the event in this book. This book is more about how to write a story than what the story is about. And how to keep readers spellbound.


House of Meetings
House of Meetings
par Martin Amis
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 10,40

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Good on facts, confusing on feelings, 1 juin 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : House of Meetings (Broché)
This 2006 work is a companion volume to “The Zone of Interest” (2015). Had to read “The Zone...” twice to fully grasp the brilliance of Amis’ bizarre and deeply moving and compassionate portrayal of a thwarted love affair in the most infamous of Nazi extermination camps. Here, he provides a rather complicated account of the decades-long fraternal rivalry for Zoya by two siblings, within the context of their suffering in a Sovjet work camp in the late 1940s and early 1950s, through the eyes of a now 86-year old former inmate, the losing brother. His life story, incl. his WW II and polar camp experience is rich, and is written as a US citizen on a laptop during a Gulag cruise on the Jenisey river to Norilsk, and adressed to Venus, his adopted (?) daughter.
Found this novel at times brilliant, deep and moving, esp. on camp life itself, his comparing Soviet with Nazi philosophies underpinning their creation of such zones, and a feast to read thanks to MA’s formidable linguistic skills. Plenty of his comparisons, allusions, quotations, and other similes and word plays are original and spot-on, effective and relevant. But there were also patches this reader could not make sense of, whole paragraphs and stretches of dialogue where MA seems caught up in a flow of diversions of his own, making the old storyteller a hard act to follow. This was my second reading in ten years. A third is unlikely to give me more insight.
Finally, for once I spied on other reviewers to see if anyone else ever commented on one aspect of the story teller’s character: male-to-male jealousy, the intense curiosity of a male about his female lover’s former lovers, portrayed tragi-comically by Julian Barnes in 1982 in his “Before she met me”. Here, Amis terms such a condition as covert or latent homosexuality. Weren’t he and Barnes good old friends for a long time? When did it end? Before 2006 or after? Today there is revenge porn. Was this revenge prose?


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