The Keeper of Lost Causes

Title: The Keeper of Lost Causes
Author: Jussi Adler-Olsen
Translator: Lisa Hartford
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin Group (USA), Inc.)

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One of the first book series I ever got hooked on was the Nancy Drew books. Since then, I’ve been a sucker for any mystery book. Part of the fun, of course, is trying to figure out how everything goes together before the main character does and who, ultimately, is the bad guy. I’m not the best at guessing–probably for the same reasons I always fall for the unreliable–but I will say that this book kept me guessing until the end.

Even if you are a better detective than I am, I think you’ll still enjoy this book. The main character, Carl, is a unique take on the typical hyper-competent detective. He’s just returned back to work at the police station following a brutal attack that killed one of his partners and maimed another. His struggle to deal with his actions (or lack thereof) during the attack and the resulting fall-out with his colleagues makes for a pretty good sub-plot. There’s also his new assistant, Assad, who has a mysterious past and some innovative research ideas.

I thought Jussi Adler-Olsen did a good job of giving us insight into Carl’s thoughts and motivations without dragging down the plot –the pacing was excellent. Although it was originally written in Danish, the English translation I read flowed really well and it didn’t feel like reading a translation. My only caveat is: if you’re squeamish about violence or don’t like adult themes generally, you probably won’t enjoy this story. But if you want a grown-up mystery that doesn’t lean heavily on a manufactured love interest, I would definitely recommend this book! Happy reading!

 

The Ghosts of Belfast

Title: The Ghosts of Belfast
Author: Stuart Neville
Publisher: Soho Press, Inc.

I first read this book almost two years ago on my honeymoon, curled up in a tiny airport chair (the wedding diet was good not only for the wedding photos but also for fitting into absurd plastic chairs. Airports are the worst). My husband slept most of the way through our six-hour flight, but despite the un-honeymoon-like-subject matter, I couldn’t put this one down.

Quick summary: Gerry Fegan, the protagonist, is a former paramilitary contract killer in Ireland who, after years spent in prison for his crime and as a tentative peace has been formed between the various warring factions, sees dead people. More specifically, his dead victims–the ghosts of the people he murdered. He spends the novel avenging their deaths, while unraveling his own complicated emotions towards his community, former bosses, and new love interest.

Fegan is a man of few words, but the way Neville writes him makes me feel like I’m a fly on a wall in his head. Fegan feels really believable and, even though he though he is undisputedly the bad guy, I really felt emotionally attached to this character all the way to the end. Neville makes you care about what happens to him and Marie and Ellen (the mother/daughter he befriends). I think he accomplishes that by acknowlding Gerry’s flaws, but also showing the circumstances that led him to make the decisions he did and the behaviors that indicate real regret now, and by keeping the ensemble cast manageable. Sometimes authors get so excited about their complicated plot and cast of characters that you feel like you constantly need to check a map or list of characters just to remember who is who. I didn’t have any problem keeping up with this book.

The only criticism I have for this book is the ending. It felt a little cheap, emotionally, and was pretty much the only thing the entire book that “took me out” of the world, i.e., made me feel like the book wasn’t real (the ghosts I had no problems with, so this could be a me problem).

Let me know what you think!! Happy reading!!