I have an embarrassing admission…
I’ve never read anything by Carl Hiaasen before. I’ve never read Hoot or Skinny Dip or Native Tongue. And I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I picked up his newest novel, Bad Monkey. With reviewers calling the novel a “misadventure” and described Hiaasen as a “premier humorist”, my expectations were high. I was not disappointed.
Bad Monkey introduces Andrew Yancy, a former Miami Police detective and soon to be former Monroe County sheriff’s officer, who now spends his days counting the cockroaches in local restaurants as a restaurant inspector. Wanting to leave behind his “roach patrol” duties, Yancy believes he may have found his way back onto the force when a tourist fisherman pulls in a human arm and the scandal adverse county sheriff declares the arm’s loss an accident. Yancy believes that there is more going on than meets the eye, so he begins his own investigation.
There is a lot going on in this book, but it never feels weighted down or overly ambitious. The stories weave together in a way that feels natural, and Yancy is perfectly imperfect in the way of all the best anti-heroes. Employing a dark sense of humor, Bad Monkey is moralistic without ever coming off as preachy and weird without forgetting reality. Revenge fantasy at it’s best, Bad Monkey, is a seriously fun read. I feel kind of lucky that I have such a backlog of Hiaasen books to read until his next book is released.
Hillary Jordan’s novel When She Woke is often described as a new dystopian take on The Scarlet Letter. It is set in a future where an epidemic has left the majority of women sterile and abortion has been made illegal to prevent a declining population. Prisons are also wildly overcrowded, so to remedy this, criminals who aren’t considered dangerous to society are not locked up but are instead “melachromed”: their skin is dyed so that their crime is instantly recognizable to the population.
The novel’s main character, Hannah Payne, is a very religious young woman who broke the law by having an abortion in order to protect the baby’s father, world-famous Reverend Aidan Dale. Hannah is caught and tried, and she wakes up a the beginning of the novel with scarlet red skin. The book flashes back to how she ended up in this position and how she deals with entering society as a an outcast due to the color of her skin and the nature of her crime.
This book was very compelling, so much so that I found it a little painful to have to put it down at times. It’s a very interesting take on a futuristic society; it’s unique, but not so out-there that you can never imagine it happening. This might even be a fun pick for a book club because its controversial nature could bring up some very lively discussion!
Though the recent cold and snowy weather makes us all dream of warmer places, I still can’t stop reading more Scandinavian mysteries, where the cold climate plays a major role. The Preacher is the second mystery novel by Swedish author Camilla Lackberg – if you have recently enjoyed other Scandinavian crime fiction you may want to add her to your list. I blogged about her first novel, The Ice Princess, a few months ago and after I finished reading this book I couldn’t wait for the next book in the series to be translated into English.
In The Preacher, again we meet Erica and Patrik who are now expecting their first child. As a detective in Fjallbacka, a tiny fishing village in southwest Sweden, Patrik has been thrown in to a new investigation – the murder of a young tourist from Germany. With this new case, the 30 year old unsolved disappearance of two young women is also thrust into the spotlight – the young tourist’s body is found with the remains of these two young women.
The case takes an unexpected turn when a young girl, Jenny Moeller whose appearance is nearly identical to the murdered tourist, is kidnapped and Patrik and his fellow detectives know that time is running out to try and save her. With Jenny’s disappearance, clues come to light that focus the investigation on a local and radical family, the Hult’s, whose public feud only complicates the case further. The ending is completely unexpected and shocking – definitely well worth it!
Many readers are trying to get context for what’s going on in Jerusalem and Palestine. Novels can give social and cultural insight into ancient (and modern) disputes beyond the strife of war and conflict.
The Walls of Jericho by Jon Land
This is a thriller that proves that the stereotypical “strife in the Middle East” can be woven into highly entertaining crime fiction. The first in the series about a pair of detectives (one Israeli and one Palestinian American) who are assigned to work together to catch a serial killer. Danielle Barnea is an Israel Security Agency officer, and works with Ben Kamal to unravel the plot that may threaten the Arab-Israeli peace process.
The Samaritan’s Secret by Matt Beynon Rees
Rees keeps the “military maneuvers in the background and [focusses] on ordinary people struggling to live ordinary lives,” according to the New York Times. The hero is a Palestinian teacher, who helps with the investigation of the theft of a priceless scroll.
Damascus Gate by Robert Stone
This is a mystery that “transcends its genre” and is a “novel of place, securely grounded in the stones of Jerusalem.” Religious radicals (Christian and Jewish) plan to blow up Mosques in Jerusalem, for their own convoluted reasons. Stone ‘s “meditation on belief”….and “suspense all come together is a stunning finale that satisfies on all levels.” Booklist
Martyr’s Crossing by Amy Wilentz
An incident at a Jerusalem checkpoint sparks riots and the soldier and young Palestinian mother are reluctantly pulled into the ensuing chaos. The author is the Jerusalem correspondent for the New Yorker and is “masterful at turning the Israeli/Palestinian predicament like a prism to expose multifaceted viewpoints, leaving the reader with insight into the politics and an overwhelming empathetic vision of the human pain that is part of daily living in this region of the world,” according to Booklist.