Archive for the ‘dinosaurs’ Category

[continued from part one]

8] Favourite new authors discovered

A bit repetitive but those I have mentioned previously Jussi Adler-Olsen, Arne Dahl, and Tom Franklin. 

9] Most hilarious

Those who have been reading the blog will know that I found The Dinosaur’s Feather by Sisssel-Jo Gazan rather funny, and posted about it at Back story blues…..

I am still not convinced that the author was being entirely serious with this book, but if she was my apologies for making fun of her style.

10] Most thrilling unputdownable book

I think this was The Vault [Box 21 in the USA] by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom. I felt this was a far better book than Three Seconds which won the CWA International Dagger. The Vault left me shaking at the end as I realised over the last few pages that it was going to end with that dreadful twist. 

11] Book most anticipated

I had been looking forward to the new John Lawton Troy book A Lily of the Field, and it did not disappoint.

12] Favourite cover

I like the covers of books to be evocative of the story and not just a stock photo taken out of the archive.

Therefore my favourite cover was that of Death on a Galician Shore by Domingo Villar

And the book was very good as well.

13] Most meaningful character

I think Larry Ott in Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is someone I will remember for a long while. He is absolutely desperate for a friend, and loneliness is a dreadful problem in western countries where today close family ties are the exception rather than the rule.

14] Most beautifully written book

This is too difficult for me as I am not a judge of literary excellence, I just like a good story simply told. 

15] Book that had the most impact

At the time I read it The Vault [Roslund-Hellstrom] but I suspect that the book I just finished, and have not reviewed yet, The Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry about the assassination of President Kennedy will have a great impact.

16] Book you can’t believe you waited till 2011 to read

This was Missing by Karin Alvtegen. I have enjoyed all her books and Missing won the Nordic Glass Key back in 2001. Way before there was Lisbeth Salander there was Sibylla Forsenstrom. 

That’s it.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year.   

I have finally finished The Dinosaur Feather by Sissel-Jo Gazan translated by Charlotte Barslund. This book, which was kindly sent to me by Maxine of Petrona, who reviewed it so intelligently at Euro Crime, weighed in at a stunning 536 pages.  Firstly I did enjoy reading it and had a lot of fun with it as you can see from my previous posts, but perhaps I wasn’t meant to enjoy it in the way I did. Perhaps it was meant to be taken more seriously and not with its plethora of back stories and frequent information dumps be considered a pastiche of Scandinavian crime fiction. 

My previous posts at Back story blues… and The World’s Most Irritating Detective with freckles discuss some of the amusing and bemusing features of this novel. My copy came with a sticker conveying the message that “If you enjoyed The Killing You’ll love this!” I asked myself why?

Presumably on the simple geographic coincidence that most of the novel is set in Copenhagen.

The three main characters in the novel are, Soren Marhauge, a police detective, Anna Bella Nor, a PhD student at University of Copenhagen, and Clive Freeman, an obsessive biologist whose theory on the evolution of birds has brought him into conflict with the rest of research establishment. All three are fairly unsympathetic, possibly because they have had more than their fair share of life’s tragedies, and reacted by becoming incredibly self centered. For instance when Anna’s supervisor Professor Lars Helland is discovered dead in his study with his severed tongue lying on Anna’s dissertation in his lap, her first thought is for her bloodied PhD work and her approaching viva voce. 

The Dinosaur Feather comes with the accolade “Danish Crime Novel of the Decade”,  an award from the Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s crime book club that has 30,000 members. Surely 30,000 readers can’t be wrong, although I asked myself was that a decade in which Leif Davidsen and Jussi-Adler Olsen did not write any novels. I have to admit laughing out loud at the pages of back story provided for character after character, some of which turned out to be totally irrelevant, except to show why this or that character was so bad tempered and morose. These back stories, and the chunks of detailed information dumped on the reader about research, university grants, and the goth and fetish scene made the book seem rather formulaic, as if the author was trying to copy the style of other Scandinavian crime writers.

The reader is provided with a melange of human emotions and traumas . Do we really need the details of Freeman’s homo-erotic lust for Jack as a child to emphasise his distress when as an adult Jack becomes an editor of a scientific journal and rejects his theory? Do we need a bleak tale of post natal depression, and a  suspicious name change subplot inserted hundreds of pages into the main story? 

The use of back stories and sub-plots that hold up the development of the narrative is a technique that can produce a series of exciting cliffhangers or it can become an annoyance when it is overdone. In The Dinosaur Feather characters are reintroduced into the narrative hundreds of pages after we first come across them in a back story with the result that I frequently forgot who was who, and what was going on, and even who had been murdered. Younger brighter readers might not have this problem. 

I began to chuckle, when on page 490 I read this:

‘When did you last speak with him?’

‘Perhaps you could just let me tell you the whole story,’ she said.

Then I had to laugh out loud when as expected we were then given  20 pages of back story about a character who was only been briefly mentioned once in the previous 400 plus pages.

Sissel-Jo Gazan is undoubtedly a talented writer, and somewhere hidden among the chaff  of her 536 page novel is an excellent 300 page book featuring scientific controversy and gripping human interest stories. If a sequel is planned to follow her characters and tie up the loose ends I sincerely hope is is edited with more vigour, although perhaps that would mean it would have less laughs. 

During my current reading saga something very strange has happened, but nothing about reading The Dinosaur Feather by Sissel-Jo Gazan would really surprise me. 

This surprise concerns my satirical post Back story blues…. in which I tried to parody the style of The Dinosaur Feather. This was a difficult task because The Dinosaur Feather is itself a pastiche of Nordic crime fiction, and I wonder if it was meant to be taken seriously. I am ploughing on with reading it out of sheer stubbornness, and because the way that some of the common features of Scandinavian crime have been blended together is extremely funny and quite clever.

But I digress, something that happens quite a lot in The Dinosaur Feather. I had read only a couple of hundred pages [it seemed more] when I wrote Back story blues and used the phrase “pert pretty freckled nose” a mere six times. Imagine my surprise when I came upon this passage on page 306:

But now, while still on duty, he was playing at being a social Robin Hood, watching her, poor struggling Anna, with his dark brown eyes and his healthy freckles; he might have had the decency to leave his freckles in his locker when he arrived for work in the morning: his farm-boy freckles were an insult to criminals everywhere and Anna in particular. How she hated him!

How did I know that freckles would feature later on in this book, because I assure you I did not reach page 306 until late last night?  Well either I am a clairvoyant, or I had read something similar in another book. Or more likely in trying to parody the author’s distinctive narrative style I predicted the use of freckles, but on the wrong character!