Review of Too Close to the Edge by Pascal Garnier, Emily Boyce (Translation)

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About Too Close to the Edge

Recently widowed grandmother Éliette is returning to her house in the mountains when her car breaks down. A stranger offers help and Éliette gives him a lift, glad of the company and interruption to her routine.

A tale of retirement and calm domesticity, with a hint of menace about to explode.

My Review

With each turn of the page the story becomes darker and darker. Éliette certainly blossoms from mild mannered mature woman to a stealth bad girl before our very eyes. Her quiet, lonesome life dives headfirst into sheer mayhem. Lots of humor peppering the narrative with precision timing. Secondary characters along with subplots enhance the foreboding impending events. Another prize from Garnier. The ending was fantastic. Once again translation is excellent, kudos to Emily Boyce.

About Pascal Garnierimage

Pascal Garnier, who died in March 2010, was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit. Garnier’s work has been likened to the great thriller writer, Georges Simenon. Read an article by Pascal Garnier, describing his path to becoming a writer.

Published April 1st 2016 by Gallic Books (first published June 7th 2010)

Review of The Panda Theory by Pascal Garnier, Svein Clouston (Translator)

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About The Panda Theory

Gabriel is a stranger in a small Breton town. Nobody knows where he came from or why he’s here. Yet his small acts of kindness, and exceptional cooking, quickly earn him acceptance from the locals.

His new friends grow fond of Gabriel, who seems as reserved and benign as the toy panda he wins at the funfair.

But unlike Gabriel, the fluffy toy is not haunted by his past . . .

My Review

A huge Garnier fan I found this book satisfying but the ending left me ambivalent.

Gabriel isn’t as he seems as the story unfolds. His flashbacks are startling. Each revisit of his past is darker and darker. The story is somewhat predictable but the peppering of dark humor and its noir feel compensate for the obvious. I enjoyed the character development of Gabriel, his layers carefully unfold. The secondary characters were entertaining both in personality and issues.

What was leading to the end I somewhat expected but the actual ending caught me off guard – not unsatisfied or satisfied more indifferent.

Another enjoyable piece of literary noir from the talented Pascal Garnier.

About Pascal Garnierimage

Pascal Garnier, who died in March 2010, was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit. Garnier’s work has been likened to the great thriller writer, Georges Simenon. Read an article by Pascal Garnier, describing his path to becoming a writer.

Published March 26th 2012 by Gallic Books (first published February 4th 2008)

Review: How’s the Pain? by Pascal Garnier, Emily Boyce (Translator)

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About How’s the Pain?

Death is Simon’s business. And now the ageing vermin exterminator is preparing to die. But he still has one last job down on the coast and he needs a driver.

Bernard is twenty-one. He can drive and he’s never seen the sea. He can’t pass up the chance to chauffeur for Simon, whatever his mother may say.

As the unlikely pair set off on their journey, Bernard soon finds that Simon’s definition of vermin is broader than he’d expected…

Veering from the hilarious to the horrific, this offbeat story from master stylist, Pascal Garnier, is at heart an affecting study of human frailty.

My Review

More amusing than heavy noir. The adventure has a few misfires as plans derail. As with any road trip, plenty of amusing characters stumbled upon. Life changes for all parties involved including spectators. No ones life will be the same in the end.

Story has an overall balance with the scales leaning towards clever satire with a touch of gritty.

As always the translation is well done, great job by Emily Boyce.

About Pascal Garnierimage

Pascal Garnier, who died in March 2010, was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit. Garnier’s work has been likened to the great thriller writer, Georges Simenon. Read an article by Pascal Garnier, describing his path to becoming a writer.

Published June 11th 2012 by Gallic Books (first published January 1st 2006)

Review & Giveaway: The Defenceless (Anna Fekete #2) by Kati Hiekkapelto, David Hackston (Translation)

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About The Defenceless

When an old man is found dead on the road – seemingly run over by a Hungarian au pair – police investigator Anna Fekete is certain that there is more to the incident than meets the eye. As she begins to unravel an increasingly complicated case, she’s led on a deady trail where illegal immigration, drugs and ultimately murder threaten not only her beliefs, but her life. Anna’s partner Esko is entrenched in a similarly dangerous investigation. As the two cases come together, it becomes clear that having the law on their side may not be enough.

My Review

After completing this book I see how it was awarded the best Finnish Crime Novel of 2014. Wonderfully written, thought-provoking as the widely controversial issue of immigration is addressed. Hiekkapelto’s smart narrative with immigration weaved throughout will cause the reader to consider their thoughts on this highly contentious topic regardless of your geographical location.

Anne Fekete is somewhat of an enigma. We learn just enough of her to stir our curiosity. She’s a competent investigator, respects her position but she struggles with her private life. She’s a woman who has carved a career with numerous sacrifices, she’s lonely and fighting to find her place as an immigrant yet at times feels Finnish. Her battles take a toll as she contends with these ongoing issues and her quest for inner peace and balance.

Hiekkapelto delivers more than a crime thriller, she does an exceptional job sketching characters, their challenges and position perplexing her audience. She draws enough of both plot and character back story’s sans dramatics to pique readers interest and curiosity.

Fantastic crime thriller from an authoress not lacking boldness and freshness. Kati Hiekkapelto adds diversity and sophistication to already well crafted noir.

Fans of crime thrillers craving more from the narrative and cast in a foreign setting, this is a must add to your TBR. This is the second installment in a series and it read fine as a standalone. I will be reading previous and following books in this series, huge fan of both author and character.

About Kati HiekkapeltoKH3674-300x200

Kati Hiekkapelto is a bestselling author, punk singer, performance artist and special-needs teacher. She lives on an old farm on the island of Hailuoto in Northern Finland with her children and sizable menagerie. Hiekkapelto has taught immigrants and lived in the Hungarian region of Serbia, which inspired her to write her highly regarded debut crime novel, The Hummingbird.

Giveaway

Enter to win a digital copy of The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto.  Open internationally.  Ends 1/19/16.
ENTRY-FORM

Published December 1st 2015 by Orenda Book

Review: Boxes by Pascal Garnier, Melanie Florence (Translation)

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About Boxes

Brice and Emma had bought their new home in the countryside together. And then Emma disappeared. Now, as he awaits her return, Brice busies himself with DIY and walks around the village.

He gradually comes to know his new neighbours including Blanche, an enigmatic woman in white, who has lived on her own in the big house by the graveyard since the death of her father, to whom Brice bears a curious resemblance..

My Review

The language is beautiful only complimented by the stellar translation. The momentum of darkness purposefully unfolds as Brice precipices on the brink of depression to madness. You’re almost sucked into the darkness, the abyss of despair palpable. Intuition dismissed as Brice senses something isn’t quite right with Blanche. Mixed feelings regarding Blanche’s appearance, her confession came to quickly feeling untidy. No doubt her backstory was darker than I anticipated, nice touch to the overall plot and demented characterization. I enjoyed the suspense, however I felt the ending was abrupt, it left me wanting more. The journey was enjoyable more so than the destination, still well shaped.

About Pascal Garnierimage

Pascal Garnier, who died in March 2010, was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit. Garnier’s work has been likened to the great thriller writer, Georges Simenon. Read an article by Pascal Garnier, describing his path to becoming a writer.

Review: Sunday by Georges Simenon

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About Sunday

A Sunday in May—a Sunday like any other at the popular inn on the Riviera, except that this is the day Emile, the chef and proprietor, is preparing to murder his wife. He has rehearsed for a year. Ada, his mistress, is waiting on tables. His wife is ready for lunch before writing checks for the customers. Emile is in the kitchen. Everything is set.

My Review

Simenon has a talent for taking a fraudulent and dysfunctional marriage and turning it upside down in a sinisterly dark manner. He takes the reader on the emotional and mental rollercoaster of his dark characters. He has a gift for noir that’s psychologically taunting.

Emile’s character is fully developed, we learn of inner most feelings and thoughts, back story, whereas Berthe’s character development is subdued but her deeper layers are revealed in scattered pieces towards the very end. I like the ambiguity Simenon created with Berthe’s feelings of Emile – love, possession or merely saving face. Their agreement to carry on to save embarrassment is unilateral frustrating Emile further.

The ending demonstrates Berthe’s true colors, backing up Simenon’s decision to keep her character under wraps until she bursts through the finish line, her stealth move leaving Emile in the dust. Nice major twist closes the character gap, as always Simenon never fails to surprise and deliver an edge to his inscrutable cast and narrative, the ending always immensely gratifying.

About Georges Simenon9693

Simenon was one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century, capable of writing 60 to 80 pages per day. His oeuvre includes nearly 200 novels, over 150 novellas, several autobiographical works, numerous articles, and scores of pulp novels written under more than two dozen pseudonyms. Altogether, about 550 million copies of his works have been printed.

He is best known, however, for his 75 novels and 28 short stories featuring Commissaire Maigret. The first novel in the series, Pietr-le-Letton, appeared in 1931; the last one, Maigret et M. Charles, was published in 1972. The Maigret novels were translated into all major languages and several of them were turned into films and radio plays. Two television series (1960-63 and 1992-93) have been made in Great Britain.

During his “American” period, Simenon reached the height of his creative powers, and several novels of those years were inspired by the context in which they were written (Trois chambres à Manhattan (1946), Maigret à New York (1947), Maigret se fâche (1947)).

Simenon also wrote a large number of “psychological novels”, such as La neige était sale (1948) or Le fils (1957), as well as several autobiographical works, in particular Je me souviens (1945), Pedigree (1948), Mémoires intimes (1981).

In 1966, Simenon was given the MWA’s highest honor, the Grand Master Award.

In 2005 he was nominated for the title of De Grootste Belg (The Greatest Belgian). In the Flemish version he ended 77th place. In the Walloon version he ended 10th place.

The Strangers in the House by Georges Simenon

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Dirty, drunk, unloved, and unloving, Hector Loursat has been a bitter recluse for eighteen long years—ever since his wife abandoned him and their newborn child to run off with another man. Once a successful lawyer, Loursat now guzzles burgundy and buries himself in books, taking little notice of his teenage daughter or the odd things going on in his vast and ever-more-dilapidated mansion. But one night the sound of a gunshot penetrates the padded walls of Loursat’s study, and he is forced to investigate. What he stumbles on is a murder.

Simenon has a knack for noir, at least for this reader. I appreciate his emotionally cerebral approach and find all his stories appealing.

Loursat is a difficult character to warm up to. I found myself wanting to slap and embrace him. Just when you sense Loursat has finally emerged from his stupor he slips back into old habits while acknowledging his error, he’s apathetic and pathetic. He’s not just an absent parent, he’s absent from life. You have hope as he somewhat cleans up his act but you soon realize it’s only temporary although far from the recesses where he first started his decline. As all of Simenon’s characters, Loursat is heavily flawed, with few redeeming qualities. Forced into a self discovery journey his missteps continue without remorse or regret. Redemption unattainable as his relationship with his daughter is negatively cemented, the damage irrevocable.

The courtroom scene was rather sterile. Simenon’s writing pulls the reader through once again creating the edge solely relying on Loursat. His affecting characterization in tandem with solid writing conveys the atmosphere perfectly.

Loursat’s years of drinking should have killed him, his road to sobriety seems a miracle given his history and short time without drink, plausibility heavily questioned. Despite my dislikes it’s still a worthwhile read, writing alone makes the effort gratifying.


Paperback, 194 pages
Published October 24th 2006 by NYRB Classics (first published 1940)
ISBN13: 9781590171943