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May 31, 2011

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ejh

I used to have the slightly smug feeling of someone who hasn’t read the books everyone else seems to have read.

I'm afraid your Humiliation score on this will be less than 100%, as I haven't either.

(I reckon this thread will get to at least a hundred comments as everybody chips in with their own entries.)

ajay

I read the first one. I have to say that it isn't very good and I don't think all of that's due to the clunky translation.
Martin Beck's a bit better but I find it very difficult telling the various non-Beck policemen apart - better characterisation required.

chris y

I was given all three as a present, so I forced myself to read the first one. I have no intention of cracking either of the others. They're worse than you think.

Cian

Yeah the Stieg thing is a bit baffling. Its the Dan Brown it's okay to like I think. Not that I've read more than a few pages of either, but sometimes that's enough.

Also not terribly good, that Danish crime thing everyone was going on about. Spiral (French cop drama also shown on BBC Four) was better.

jamie

Ajay: easy. Kollberg's the large, bad tempered ex-paratrooper who hates everybody except Beck. Larsson's the even larger, really bad tempered ex-sailor who hates everybody. Ronn's the Laplander who's too stupid to hate anybody and Melander's the plot device with the eidetic memory who spends as much time as possible either on the toilet or reading telephone directories. It does take a couple of re-reads for everybody to bed in

Barry Freed

Well as I'm American[1] I have no compunction in saying that I found the movies[2] to be pretty damn good.

[1]This means, of course, that I haven't read the books.

[2] Of course plenty of Americans have read the books, they’re bestsellers here it’s just that having seen the movies and not read the books yet entering into a discussion of the books on that basis seems like it’s pretty American to me. [3]

[3] Or maybe not, I’m no longer sure.[4]

[4] I think I’ve just channeled a poor man’s dsquared.[5]

[5] Why has he stopped using footnoting (and nesting) like that? Did he think the shtick grew tired? Too bad I thought they were very witty and always looked forward to those posts.

Cian

DSquared crashed, and they had to revert to an older version of the software.

JamesP

Danish crime thing the one that got adapted as "The Killing" on AMC? First few episodes of the US remake were good, then went downhill remarkably rapidly, but people seem to think the Danish one's better.

Seeds

Smug, but in a refreshingly different way: I guessed the ending of the first book as soon as the premise had been set out, as it was a very obvious option that wasn't being considered.

I didn't get any of the fuss over the first, but went on to read the second and third anyway (what can I say? I was stuck in another country with no money and nothing else to read). I can confirm that they are complete tosh.

It must be difficult to be a posthumous editor, in that you can't turn around and say "this is all bollocks, go back and write it again".

Richard J

The third one's plot is intriguingly odd on even a moment's thought. You have an Evil Deep State Conspiracy out to get the protagonists. Thing is, they don't exactly cover their tracks well, and every time a state official finds out about them, they're so shocked and appalled they willingly and unreservedly help out the heroes, without having interference run against them by the backers of the EDSC. It struck me as both strangely naive about politics and also temarkaby lacking in any kind of tension.

Richard J

Belated spoiler warning, but I reckon all of B&T's bibliovores who were going to have read it have done so by now.

Cian

That's the one James.

Incidentally anyone who likes Elmore Leonard should probably check out the US TV show Justified. Though given I watch very little TV, and hate most of what I do see, I may not be the best guide.

Seeds

If we're doing recommendations, I'd read the Inspector Barlach mysteries over Wallander. Somehow they seem to have a lot in common (beyond "old mope solves crime in country beginning with the letters SW").

Although then again, there's only two, and only the first one (The Judge and his Hangman) is any good.

jamie

Ah, Durrenmatt. Of course, having your hero in the last stages of cancer does tend to cut down on interminable sequels.

David

I didn't get very far with the article, but it seemed like a tremendous amount of plot recapitulation and clumsy writing, the kind of thing you wouldn't have expected from the NYRB ten years ago. Maybe? (I haven't read the books.)

Martin Wisse

Haven't read the books, but the Swedish television series that was made out of them was pretty good, in a "it's Saturday night and I'm waiting for the football to start" sort of way.

And I like Wallander, just because he's so mopey -- aged emo.

JamesP

TigerBeatDown is good on Larson - http://tigerbeatdown.com/2010/07/29/the-girl-with-the-lots-of-creepy-disturbing-torture-that-pissed-me-off-on-stieg-larsson/

Cian

yeah. I kind of suspected that might be the case given how cliched the central female character was.

chris y

There ought to be a term analogous to "Mary Sue" for a fictional character who is the author's fantasy girlfriend.

Richard J

I've always used 'wank fantasy' in such circumstances, e.g. Molly Millions.

Barry Freed

I like a girl with glasses but Molly's lens implants are going too far. Also Lisbeth doesn't strike me as being a typical male fantasy figure though she might well have been Larsson's - the Mary Sue point is a good one.

flyingrodent

In an altogether tamer way, I always suspected that Ida Arnold in Brighton Rock might be based on somebody the author knew and had a wee thing for. For a character who's supposed to be quite unremarkable, there's a hell of a lot of time spent detailing her physical attributes.

And though I've only seen two of the films and read nothing, I found the Larson films really distasteful. It's a bit too Rapey....Sexy! Rapey.....Sexy! for comfort; The sexual violence feels all-pervading and there's something unpleasant about setting up these unspeakably hateful characters so that we can really enjoy them being righteously and ultraviolently punished.

ajay

It's vicious, nasty stuff overall, to be honest, and it's almost worse because the characters are supposed to be so sympathetic. And yet it sells. As do all the other books in WH Smiths - written by women as well as men - about horrible things happening to women, and all the other books in the Misery Memoirs section about horrible things happening to children. Don't people like happy books any more? God it's depressing.

Cian

Barry - while I'm glad you've been spared, trust me when I say that Lisbeth is far too typical. Cast a glance at the videos and comics aimed at the hormonal male market. Its the goth/punk/industrial girl whose tough on the outside, preferably with a superpower (hacking/shooting), but you know so vulnerable and needy on the inside.

Mind you, cliches are all pervasive in the medium. I mean just for once could we have an ordinary, well balanced, cop? And its a bit weird that the best, least cliched, most realistic female characters in SF/Fantasy are written by Terry Pratchett.

jamie

"I mean just for once could we have an ordinary, well balanced, cop?"

That's the good thing about Beck as a character: he's a normal, sensible person. S & W were hard, doctrinaire Marxists and seemed to want to create the archetype of a thoughtful, conscientious workman progressively alienated from his labour (who just happens to be a chief inspector). It works remarkably well.

Cian

Yeah I like S&W's work a lot. I think Phil introduced them to me, for which I'm very grateful.

JamesP

Sometimes I long for a conservative Nordic crime writer, where the villains are all dirty hippies and environmentalists.

ajay

Sometimes I long for a conservative Nordic crime writer

That would be the Orkneyinga Saga.

Barry Freed

And though I've only seen two of the films and read nothing, I found the Larson films really distasteful. It's a bit too Rapey....Sexy! Rapey.....Sexy! for comfort; The sexual violence feels all-pervading and there's something unpleasant about setting up these unspeakably hateful characters so that we can really enjoy them being righteously and ultraviolently punished.

I liked them but I have to agree, it was more than uncomfortable. But I found the first one in particular to be a very good thriller and as I really likes me a good thriller and it had been a very long time since I’d seen one, well, I liked it.

ejh

Don't people like happy books any more?

Happy books are all alike.

Phil

I think Phil introduced them to me

Not me, although I will recommend Julian Rathbone's Brabant books to anyone who'll listen. (Decent unimaginative small-and-large-C-conservative cop sticks to the trail and ends up on the wrong side of multinational capital, three times; things get progressively worse each time.)

skidmarx

I used to like Gillian Slovo's short detective novels, with her dad modelling for the P.I.'s father. Her longer novels About Something just didn't appeal in the same way.
I have just been reading several of Qiu Xiaolong's Inspector Chen series. I've seen the style criticized elsewhere, my question is just whether is portrayal of China is accurate.
Sandi Toksvig mentioned that we might have to put up with the next series of "The Killing" with no subtitles if the Marmite War escalates.

jamie

I've not read any of the Qiu Xiaolong books. If I was doing a thriller in conmtemporary China, maybe I'd have the protagonist work for CDIC. Also, it would be interesting to read translations of the "official corruption" genre.

JamesP

I think THE RED AND THE BLACK is good and the others are weak, personally.

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