26 01 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson

A young girl lies in a hospital room, her tattooed body very close to death — there is a bullet lodged in her brain. Several rooms away is the man who tried to kill her, his own body grievously wounded from axe blows inflicted by the girl he has tried to kill. She is Lisbeth Salander, computer hacker and investigator, and the man is her father, a murderous Russian gangster. If Salander recovers from her injuries, she is more than likely to be put on trial for three murders — the authorities regard her as a dangerous individual. But she won’t see the inside of a courtroom if her father manages to kill her first.

The final one in the excellent Millennium trilogy and it doesn’t disappoint. Whilst the concept of the secret unit within the Secret Service is not totally credible and the heroism of the journalists involved does stretch things a bit, nevertheless it remains an exciting ride from start to finish. The only weak element is the court room representation which is surprisingly flat, despite a number of improbable events.

Nevertheless, really good and the trilogy overall is great entertainment.

Foreign words: Approximation of a playlist §43

18 01 2010

Songs featuring or largely comprising foreign lingo

Hold On Tight – Electric Light Orchestra
Michelle – The Beatles
Tattva – Kula Shaker
Vertigo – U2
Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick – Ian Dury and the Blockheads
Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes – Paul Simon
Volare – Dean Martin
You Never Can Tell – Chuck Berry

Fade To Grey – Visage
C’est La Vie – B*Witched
Voulez-Vous – ABBA
Across The Universe – The Beatles
Rasputin – Boney M.
Chanson D’amour – The Manhattan Transfer
La Isla Bonita – Madonna
Mexican Radio – Wall Of Voodoo
Le Freak – Chic
My Cherie Amour – Stevie Wonder

Sounds of Silence

13 01 2010

Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason

Building work in an expanding Reykjavik uncovers a shallow grave. Years before, this part of the city was all open hills, and Erlendur and his team hope this is a typical Icelandic missing person scenario; perhaps someone once lost in the snow, who has lain peacefully buried for decades. Things are never that simple. Whilst Erlendur struggles to hold together the crumbling fragments of his own family, his case unearths many other tales of family pain. The hills have more than one tragic story to tell: tales of failed relationships and heartbreak; of anger, domestic violence and fear; of family loyalty and family shame. Few people are still alive who can tell the story, but even secrets taken to the grave cannot remain hidden forever.

First book I’ve read by Indridason and it’s pretty good really. Beyond Erlendur, whose family really is shattered, the characterisation is a bit thin but the narrative is well-paced and the flashbacks work well. A good read and looking forward to others in the series.


7 01 2010

Absolution by Olaf Olafsson

Expatriate businessman Peter Peterson left behind the trappings of a seemingly charmed life: a vast fortune, two children, and a stately Park Avenue address. But he also left behind another legacy: a secret from long ago that shadowed his accomplishments and estranged him from his loved ones—a crime of passion, committed in the throes of unrequited love, that became a lifetime’s burden. Yet when Peter is forced to confront the consequences of his actions, an unexpected turn of events shakes the very foundation of his past. Spanning a boyhood in Iceland to the Nazi occupation of Denmark to modern-day Manhattan, Absolution calls up Dostoevsky and Ibsen as it masterfully plumbs the darkest corners of a sinister mind and a wounded heart.

It’s not a bad yarn and really quite compelling in parts. Peterson is an entertaining curmudgeon of a narrator but the final outcome is not terribly surprising or convincing. It’s well worth a read although the comparisons with Dostoevsky and Ibsen are stretching it a bit.

Going downhill fast

4 01 2010

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Ian Fleming

When Bond saves a beautiful, reckless girl from self-destruction, he finds himself with a lead on Blofeld. In the snow-bound fastness of his Alpine base, Blofeld is conducting research that could threaten the safety of the world. To thwart the evil genius, Bond must get himself and the vital information he has gathered out of the base and keep away from SPECTRE’s agents. Which may require the help of the rescued maiden who can handle herself at high speed…

The usual heady mix of high octane chases, upper class hanging out and top secret fun and games. Despite the endemic sexism of the writing (“rescued maiden” indeed) and some dull casino passages and ski equipment descriptions it is still a pretty exciting and fast-paced yarn. Although the Blofeld plot for world domination is not terribly well articulated it does seem to anticipate more contemporary fears about bio-terrorism.

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