The Narrowest Margin

27th December 2020 (22:35)

“I know that my life’s mission would always take me to places where the truth that I might find would be an ugly and horrible thing.” Harry Bosch

The return of ‘The Poet’ (former FBI agent and serial killer, Robert Bachus) is a potential embarrassment for the bureau, having presumed his demise and demands the recall of Agent Rachel Walling from her four year exile in Dakota. The killer’s calling card is unmistakable, however, another trail of victims may also offer his former colleague a means of redemption.

Meanwhile, another former Special Agent has died. Terry McCaleb (key character in “Blood Work” and “A Darkness More Than Night”), he of the heart transplant, passed away on his boat, while out on a charter. But, based on her husband’s recognition of an investigator that never gives up, McCaleb’s widow (Graciela) engages Harry Bosch to look into the circumstances of his death. Thus, the hares are set running on another thrilling, trademark plot, teeming with intrigue, suspense and dark threat. Walling also recognizes Bosch’s worth to the investigation, but will need to get over their personal history and the FBI’s mistrust of outsiders, if she is to harness the private investigator’s know-how. Even in death, Terry McCaleb is the bridge.

What I relish about the author’s ongoing exposition of Harry Bosch is the multi-faceted nature of the character. Notwithstanding his maverick tendencies, and the prominence of his self-imposed ‘mission’, the detective continues to be buffeted by life outside of his dark bubble, presenting choices to challenge his resolve. For example, his burgeoning role as a belated father and his complicated relationship with estranged wife, Eleanor Wish (also a former FBI agent) are clearly important to Bosch, made easier by his current ‘free agent’ status. A permanent move to Las Vegas to be near them is a prospect. Yet, his identity has suffered since leaving the LAPD and when former partner (Kiz Rider) signposts the recruitment of recent retirees back onto the force, the reader just knows the temptation will be great. Once a cop…

Rachel Walling also possesses ingrained instincts and has a hunch Bosch may just get to their quarry first, but with her career already in tatters, to collaborate with Bosch is a serious gamble.

The titular ‘narrows’ refer to man-made protective channels designed to sluice flood water to the sea, preventing damage and helping manage the risk. They also provide an interesting metaphor for the bulwarks of criminal justice and public protection and the solidity that is Harry Bosch. Book 10 in the series is another masterful display of Michael Connelly’s skill as a writer and bears testament to the enduring appeal of the author’s storytelling in this very popular genre. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Modern charades….is it a book? Is it a film?

10:27 AM 26 NOVEMBER 2017

I generally get a sense of foreboding when I read on a book’s cover, “NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE”, even more so when I have seen said movie. “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is a good example, in that it is a glorious ‘feel good’ film, with a host of wonderful actors, setting the bar high for the preceding novel, which I notice was previously entitled, “These Foolish Things”. But, notwithstanding this book has apparently inspired a successful cinema formulation, would it be any good?

The answer is ‘yes’, Deborah Moggach’s original novel is really well conceived and the interplay between the cast of characters is comical, poignant and even touching at times. However, the downside to seeing the movie first is a sense of disappointment that the book has not been faithfully reproduced on the screen. Some parts that have been ‘bigged up’ for the cinema-going public proved to be relatively modest on reading the book. Unsurprising perhaps, when the talents of Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith et al are at hand, but the young charismatic Indian entrepreneur (played by Dev Patel) shown on the book’s cover with his beautiful girlfriend, doesn’t actually exist in the intervening pages. Instead, Sonny is middle-aged, rather dull and a ‘bit part’, compared to his central role in the screen version.

In contrast to the Hollywood meets Bollywood makeover, the book is earthier and the characters’ back-stories more authentic, in turn making the plot lines more plausible. At a time when the UK’s National Health Service is creaking under the pressures of an ageing population and traditional family loyalties are equally stressed, the advantages of shipping out to a new retired life in a strange land is a tantalising prospect   The comparing and contrasting of cultures within the book was also arguably more nuanced and the author holds up an interesting mirror on what it is to grow old in modern societies. East and West both have their ‘hidden’ populations of the ‘uncared for’. But, perhaps the message of the book is that for those with an adventurous or courageous spirit and a willingness to share and create new social circles, life retains a wealth of possibilities.

The title is an interesting aside, but for me the book is much more explicitly about the characters and the dilapidated hotel merely a backdrop, albeit a useful metaphor, for which the original title may have better preserved the distinction. Still, despite the apparent temptation to ride the coat-tails of a successful movie, this book is, of itself, worth a read and perhaps for people of a certain age provides important fuel for thought.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

H.G Wells was never like this….

4:02 PM 10 SEPTEMBER 2016

A compelling read, the concept is an intriguing one, the consequences of which underpin an extraordinary connection between the main characters, Henry and Clare. To describe the novel as an “old-fashioned love story’ is to underplay the depth of the examination of attachment and loss, experienced by the main characters. The flitting between time and place and the respective ages of Henry and Clare may be distracting for some, but is deftly handled by Niffenegger. The author makes wonderful use of the latitude afforded by the device of time travel and her narrative is sparklingly inventive, excruciatingly tender and crushing in it’s portrayal of despair. Originally unsure whether this was aimed at female readers, I was blissfully swept up in the story and absolutely enjoyed the book for the quality of the writing and a very thought-provoking premise. Bravo!

SOURCE: HTTP://WWW.GOODREADS.COM/REVIEW/SHOW/1521145828

Rating: 4 out of 5.