Paradise, and faith, restored.

I had my faith in crime fiction restored by Lisa Marklund’s Paradise, which I read after the five books I posted about the other day.

Paradise features most of the elements I love the most about crime fiction: a female journalist heroine, and a subeditor to boot! (Hooray!) She is simply true to herself without artifice, knows no other way, and has great instincts for her work without being aware of this on a conscious level — and of course, this is why she tenaciously unravels the convoluted mystery rather than the more experienced types around her.

There are plenty of apparently disparate plot strands that caused me some initial concern, but I soon relaxed: this author is totally in control of pulling them all together and of doing so in a paced manner — full marks on both counts. Then there are politics: the book was written in 2000 but only translated into English from the Swedish last year and published (in England) in paperback this, so the then-contemporary setting of the impact of the break-up of Yugoslavia and associated mafia and military crime has an added perspective for the reader aware of the events of the past five years.

Not only are there European politics but also the politics of journalism and newspapers: the author is an ex-journalist and thoroughly understands the "men in suits" mentality, writing about it well and with insight. Not only are there European and publishing politics but sexual politics: the politically correct Swedish women bankers and TV shows (very funny), and the dilemma of the accountant who becomes, passively yet inevitably, the catalyst for the various snaking strands of the book.

Paradise is an organisation, or channel, by which people can disappear from official records and become "hidden". It was set up for abused women. But is there a more sinister aspect? This is the central dilemma which journalist Annika feels compelled to answer, as she’s not the kind of person who can take it as read. She’s not particularly sympathetic for the first few chapters, but she’s a real person, imperfections included, and certainly grows on you.

Just read the book — if you like crime fiction, you’ll love it. I was delighted to learn afterwards that there are two earlier novels featuring the same character, and a new one due out later this year (in translation, that is). What a find.

And as an addendum, Tribe has picked up on earlier comments about Winter’s Bone, also highly recommended by Sarah Weinman, and has posted his review of the book. It is on my "waiting for paperback" Amazon list.

Reading list update, anyone?

I have never been remotely tempted to read Terry Pratchett — any series of books based on a world carried around by elephants turns me right off before I’ve started — but this post by Mapletree7 at Book of the Day makes me wobble slightly in my resolve — or at least, so far as any teen readers in a house near you are concerned. Sounds just the thing for when you run out of Alex Rider books.

Kimbofo (Reading Matters) features "Take your imagination East", a series of books by Japanese and Chinese authors repackaged by Vintage with beautiful covers (featured at the link) and only £4.99 each. And what’s more, if you buy them at Foyles, and doubtless other bookshops, you can get them as a "3 for 2" offer. The list of titles is at the link: it includes The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima.

Everyman and the plot against America is the title of a thoughtful (as ever) post by James of New Tammany College, comparing the two Philip Roth titles of these names, and concluding the opposite of some recent opinions.

Associated Content features a Harry Potter quiz, if you can find it among the ads. There is a spoiler warning and no promise of a prize, but will help pass the time until number 7 is out.

Talking of competitions, Debra Hamel has issued a haiku challenge: the prize is a copy of Francine Prose’s new book, "Reading like a writer". Just so long as she doesn’t enter herself (she deservedly won the recent Superman haiku competition).

And some news from the Rap Sheet (groan) – – the August edition of the Bloodstained Bookshelf is out (sounds intriguing), with notes of at least five new novels that sound worth reading. (The Rap Sheet is a blog that used to be a monthly newsletter in January Magazine. These newsletters are archived via the link above.)

Polygon 10 August

Polygon puzzle
Using the given letters no more than once, make as many words as possible of four or more letters, always including the central letter. Capitalised words, plurals, conjugated verbs (past tense etc), adverbs ending in LY, comparatives and superlatives are disallowed.

How you rate: 10 words, average; 14, good; 17, very good; 21, excellent.

Click here for rules and tips on how to play Polygon

Source: the Times.

Answers on the continuation page.

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