The perfect voice for a down and out in London and Iraq crime novel, with an entry quote by Orwell. Always a good sign, Orwell. Imagine a classic sting by a pretty girl and her boyfriend: girl alone at bar gets hit by her bruiser boyfriend. Retired police detective comes to the rescue, takes girl home. Girl slips him a mickey, empties his wallet, and splits.
But this is more than a crime novel; listen:
The old man blinks at him.
“You are not an Arab?
“What is your religion?”
“I don’t have one.”
“Who is your god?”
“I have no God.”
“What sort of man has no god? What does he believe in? Why does he live?”
“He lives because he is a man.”
“You are American?”
“I was born there. My mother is Iraqi.”
“I like George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenneger.”
He’d read up on noir and called it Nora.
Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me hard boils the story from the start: London as the small bad city with its own 87th precinct: Brant, who cuts a bit off the top of every drug bust, makes himself loved by women, plays laid back surfer dude cop but functions as the magus and manipulates everybody’s fate; Macdonald: the aged bully with the mean little soul and the overblown self-estimate; Porter Nash: the gay cop; W.P.C. Falls the bitch black psychopathic girlcop with the knuckle dusters in her purse; P.C. Lane: tall and lanky nerd cop who carries an umbrella and wears an “expression of friendliness, the very worst thing for a cop,”; Chief Inspector Roberts & more.
A silly accountant whose whore lives across the street decides to play Miss Manners with an edge, and finds he enjoys killing people who behave badly in public.
Slick with references that both emulate and parody the grittiest American fiction (Robert B. Parker, Karin Fossom, Ed McBain, Andrew Vachss, Elmore Leonard, Newton Thornberg, Mankell, Willeford, Joe Lansdale); this text is black with humor (“He’d read up on noir and called it Nora.”) and gorgeous with distemporal language (The drinks came and he hoped she wouldn’t say Bottoms Up. “Bottoms up” she said.”) Read it and smirk.
At St. Alban’s Church there is a stained glass window picturing a Roman soldier with a halo dressed as a Priest. The Roman soldier was Alban. When the Priest who converted him was sentenced to death, Alban switched clothes with him and died in his place.
A soldier disguised as a priest describes in some sense the Rector herself, an ex-army helicopter pilot, who turns up at crime scenes, and helps the Chief of Police solves crimes in a small snowy parish about 2 hours drive from Albany.
Matt Payne is back, attracting bullets and bad guys and the failed sons and daughters of old Philadelphian society, and WEB Griffin is in fine form in the digital age, as romantic and jolly as always. But instead of showing us into the salons and bedrooms and backbenches of a secret world, he tells us about a city disfigured by Mexican cruelty, flooded by illegal Hispanic labourers and monetized by Meth and underaged vaguely Central American sex slaves. Instead of histories lived out among captains and sailors and adventurers he reads the plaques of unread public monuments, walking through a live city but seeing a museum. WEB Griffin’s huge heroes are missing, as are his lovely, laughing women, and his young apprentices and hearty institutional bosses. I miss them all.
Quiet, patient, relentless intelligence spills over the pages of this story about a girl geek, a journalist, a news magazine devoted to the critique of corrupt Swedish institutions, and an odd assemblage of Stockholm’s thugs, bureaucrats, intellectuals, and cops. None are verbose. Men and women think. Thinking happens without talk, without sounds, without annunciation. It is sometimes signaled by cigarettes. Sometimes by a walk. Much goes unsaid, and unshared.
All the good guys use Macs. Some of them smoke. The geek uses a powerbook, the journalist a Mac ibook, the magazine editor an Airbook. The geekgirl (Salander) is skinny, occasionally violent, abnormally intelligent, obsessively private. She does not emote; she enjoys: mathematics, sex, hacking. She has lesbian girlfriends, bank accounts in the Canary Islands, lawyers in Gibraltar, and a local accountant. She buys a 2.5 million kroner flat with a view and decorates it in one day of shopping in Ikea, for a total of 97,000 kroner.
It is the story of a happy Captain of a sinking ship. It is the story of Chernobyl, afterwards. It is the story of provisional investigators, provisional policemen, provisional scientists who are provisionally accepted as the mad inhabitants of a zone officially uninhabited, in which no crime officially occurs. The mood is of a cocktail party on an asteroid hurtling toward earth. There we find Arkady, sullen, stubborn, singular, biting at radioactive pickles (“Crisp, tasty, and with a touch of strontium”) and asking questions.