Sunday, March 29, 2015
P. D. James' “Innocent Blood” is about the series of events that are let loose when Philippa Palfrey, on her 18th birthday, applies for the right to see her birth certificate and learn the identity of her birth parents. Her discovery that her mother - who she thought had died - was in fact in jail, convicted of murder, and her decision to form a new life with her, lie at the heart of this story.
I really liked the idea of placing two narratives side by side - concurrently we get to see Philippa search for her mother, and then the two of them search for a new apartment and a new life - as well as Norman Scase, the father of a murdered girl, as he searches for the killer.
But, other than that, I really struggled with this story. A smaller issue I had was with the pace of storytelling. It started off really well, diving into the heart of the narrative very early on. Soon thereafter, it slowed down more and more, till detailed trips to the real estate agents or the farmers' market made this a very tiresome read.
The greater problem I had with this story was that I either just barely tolerated, or immensely disliked, all of the main characters. My biggest issue was with the central character Philippa - I never got why she was so horrible to her adoptive parents ... more shockingly, I really didn’t get why she was so keen to re-connect with her biological mother - knowing full well that she was the woman who had killed a child that had just been raped by her husband. Also, a lot of things that were said by people got me quite angry. Mary Ducton (Philippa's mother) says that the rape of a child wasn’t as bad as one pictures it - and at one point even justifies the murder by saying, "I saved her a life of sadness that comes to a child of early sexual assault". Here’s another gem: Philippa at one point wishes her father had met someone else, for he would then still have been alive - she explains, "It was his bad luck to have met instead Julie Scase, that dangerous mixture of innocence and stupidity". His bad luck?? his Bad Luck?? … At one point when her stepfather tries to dissuade her from going back to her killer mother, she yells at him, saying he never bothered to find out the pressures under which she had had to kill the child. The book ended with a convenient suicide and Philippa's easy return to the home - and also the bed - of her stepfather.
This book was such a letdown; “Death of an Expert Witness” by this author had placed P. D. James in such high esteem in my mind.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
“Red Dragon” by Thomas Harris is the first book in the Hannibal Lecter series, and follows FBI instructor Will Graham whose unique capability of entering criminals' minds makes him the perfect choice to track down the elusive killer, the Tooth Fairy. (Yes, now I see where shows like “Criminal Minds” got their inspiration from!)
Perceptive to the point of being an empath, Will's thinking is what sets the tone for this story, and sets it apart from regular crime stories. Inspired by one of “The Great Red Dragon” paintings by William Blake, a delusional loner aspires to the great Becoming. Driven by ambition, yet snubbed for years to a point beyond humiliation, a sleazy tabloid reporter becomes a focal point in a massive manhunt. Bound and behind bars, a famous killer still manages to dramatically turn the ordinary course of an investigation.
This was more than a search for a killer. This was profiling a person's entire life from a sordid past to a brutal present. And that was what made this such a fantastic read - unique and credible all at once. Every character had shades of hero and villain in them, every incident was fraught with gruesome horror and tragic tones. And that is why I was truly fascinated by the story of the red dragon, as it travelled from mystery to terror to its final denouement.
Sunday, March 01, 2015
“Horns”, a crime / fantasy novel by Joe Hill, is the story of Ignatius Perrish, who - after a drunken night in the forest at the spot where his girlfriend's body was found - wakes up one morning to find horns growing from his head. Frightening as the discovery is, Ig soon learns the power of his horns as he delves into the deepest secrets of everyone from family and close friends to random strangers, and is even able to manipulate people to do his silent bidding.
I really liked that the book jumps into the story with no unnecessary preamble. A drunken night of desecration, turning into an inhuman being, and learning to wield an evil power - all of this happens at the very beginning - and that drew me in very quickly. The story basically follows the lives of Ignatius Perrish, his girlfriend Merrin Williams, his brother Terry Perrish, and their common friend Lee Tourneau. Tourneau was for me, the most powerful character - wrought out of endless twists and turns and a very disturbing past. Narrated through flashbacks dating back to their early childhood, we see how these friends met, forged relationships, and undertook a horrifying journey.
The book raised some very interesting points about Good and Evil (the title was not arbitrarily chosen!) - one scene that stands out in particular is when Ig gives a sermon to a cave full of snakes about god versus the devil. That whole discourse brought out so powerfully the raw pain and anger that Ig felt at - what he perceived to be - a less than omnipresent god. Not just for a glimpse into his heart, but also for the very interesting points it presented on the concept of God and Satan, this was a fascinating scene.
I was also greatly moved by the Treehouse of the Mind, a mystical tree house that magically appeared in the woods. While it is never fully explained what or where this structure was, it was the very beautiful, very private world of Ig and Merrin which transformed from a safe haven to an ominous foreshadowing of the future, as needed.
I'll end with this awesome quote from the book - “If you were going to live in hell on earth, there was something to be said for being one of the devils.”