Review: Bad Intentions (Inspector Konrad Sejer #9)

Bad Intentions by Karin FossumIn Bad Intentions, the newest installment in the Inspector Sejer series since The Water’s Edge in 2009, Konrad Sejer must face down his memories and fears as he struggles to determine why the corpses of troubled young men keep surfacing in local lakes.

The first victim, Jon Moreno, was getting better. His psychiatrist said so, and so did his new friend at the hospital, Molly Gram, with her little-girl-lost looks. He was racked by a mysterious guilt that had driven him to a nervous breakdown one year earlier. But when he drowns in Dead Water Lake, Sejer hesitates to call it a suicide.

Then another corpse is found in a lake, a Vietnamese immigrant. And Sejer begins to feel his age weigh on him. Does he still have the strength to pursue the elusive explanations for human evil?

Karin Fossum has been on my radar for a while. I love a good Scandinavian crime novel. Unfortunately, Bad Intentions left me with a ho-hum feeling.

Let me say right away that there is graphic violence towards an animal near the end of the book. I understand that the point is to show that one of the characters is evil and unfeeling. However, after reading that portion of the book, I had to put the book down for a few minutes and think about whether I wanted to finish reading. It is rare that I do not finish a book, but this portion of the story really bothered me.

The premise of Bad Intentions is that three friends are harboring a dark secret. During a camping trip, one of the friends drowns in Dead Water Lake. Prior to the camping trip, the drowning victim, Jon Moreno, had been staying at an institution where he was receiving counseling for depression and anxiety. The remainder of the novel is spent revealing the secret and how the three friends are connected to the second drowning victim.

The book is narrated by several different characters; including Jon Moreno, Moreno’s mother, Konrad Sejer and Moreno’s friend Reilly. Konrad Sejer plays only a minor role in Bad Intentions. I was not sure if this is normal for the series, but other reviews indicate that he normally plays a larger role.

The plot of Bad Intentions seemed pretty average. On a positive note, the book is a quick read. The character of Reilly is complex and proved to be one of my favorite parts of the novel.

Book: Bad Intentions | Author: Karin Fossum | Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; August 9, 2011 | Format: e-Galley | Source: NetGalley | Rating: 3 out of 5

Review: Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day

Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben LooryLoory’s collection of wry and witty, dark and perilous contemporary fables is populated by people–and monsters and trees and jocular octopi–who are united by twin motivations: fear and desire. In his singular universe, televisions talk (and sometimes sing), animals live in small apartments where their nephews visit from the sea, and men and women and boys and girls fall down wells and fly through space and find love on Ferris wheels. In a voice full of fable, myth, and dream, Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day draws us into a world of delightfully wicked recognitions, and introduces us to a writer of uncommon talent and imagination.

I really enjoy a good short story collection. I am not a particularly fast reader, so short stories provide the opportunity for me to finish a story or two (or three) in one evening. When I saw the description of Ben Loory’s Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, I knew I had to read the book. Just look at that fantastic cover. The design inside the book is equally nice.

As I read the first couple of stories, I began to sense Loory’s style, which I might sum up as short and abrupt. Many of the stories finish out at 3-5 pages. I would finish a story and think, That’s it? But what happened? Readers will often have to figure out what the ending of each story means to them. I don’t always do so well with this writing style because I like closure. I am still pondering the ending of The Man Who Went to China as I write this review.

With that said, there are quite a few gems in the collection. My favorites include: The Swimming Pool, The Octopus, The Duck, UFO: A Love Story, The Little Girl and the Balloon, The Afterlife is What You Leave Behind, The Tree, The House on the Cliff and The Sea and The Woman and the Basement.

The Octopus is my favorite story in the collection. This is the story of an octopus who has moved to the city. His nephews, who live in the sea, come to visit him. They want to see the city, but the octopus realizes that he doesn’t leave his apartment very often so he’s not sure what to show them. When he drops his nephews off at the sea after their visit, he considers his current life in the city compared to his former life in the sea.

As I mentioned, the reader has to figure out what each story means to them. At first this bothered me a bit. However, with a week away from the stories, I can appreciate the style a bit more. The beauty of a short story collection is that you can pick it up from time to time just to take in a quick nugget of work.

Many thanks to the publisher, Penguin Books, for providing me with an e-Galley for review, via NetGalley.

P.S. There is currently a giveaway for the book happening at Goodreads.

Book: Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day | Author: Ben Loory | Published: Penguin Books; July 26, 2011 | Format: e-Galley
Source: NetGalley | Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: Turn of Mind

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante Over the past month, I have read three books with memory loss as a central theme – The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes (review), Before I Go To Sleep (review), and now, Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante.

Turn of Mind depicts the mind of 64-year-old Dr. Jennifer White, who worked as an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand surgery until she received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Dr. White’s close friend and neighbor, Amanda, is found murdered in her home and missing four of her fingers, which were removed with surgical precision. Dr. White is, of course, the prime suspect in the murder.

The novel is written from Dr. White’s point of view and chronicles her rapid memory deterioration over just a few months. We learn about her family and her life through her disjointed, fuzzy remembrances. As the book goes on, the narration becomes more and more incoherent. The beginning of the story is fairly easy to follow, but by the end, Dr. White’s mind is taking you all over the place, from fantasy to truth via brief moments of clarity.

Turn of Mind was a bit depressing, and I thought the ending was fairly predictable. LaPlante successfully portrays a mind suffering from Alzheimer’s. While you feel for Dr. White, through her confusion and her children’s reactions to her memory loss, you do not get the sense that she and her friends were especially likable people even in their prime. The primary characters are all flawed, and unfortunately, they are not flawed in an endearing manner.

Overall, I felt torn by my feelings toward the book. The Alzheimer’s depicted through the narrative brings to the forefront how terrible it must be to suffer this disease, either in yourself or a loved one. When I consider the fairly unlikable characters, I feel somewhat indifferent to the story as a whole. The murder and the why behind the murder are insignificant to the depiction of a mind suffering Alzheimer’s.

Many thanks to the publisher, Grove/Atlantic, for providing me with a free e-Galley for review, via NetGalley.

Book: Turn of Mind | Author: Alice LaPlante | Published: Grove/Atlantic; July 5, 2011 | Format: e-Galley | Source: NetGalley | Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. WatsonBefore I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson definitely goes down as one of my favorite books this year. The story is incredibly suspenseful. It was so gripping that I read the majority of the book in one day. There is an intensity and uniqueness to the novel that will keep me praising this one for a while.

The book begins with Christine waking up one morning thinking that she is 20-something and not remembering how she ended up in bed with an older married man. She tumbles into the bathroom, only to find her hands appear older than she feels. When she looks in the mirror, she does not recognize herself. She is not 20-something but instead 47. Soon she finds photos of herself and the married man from the bedroom. There are notes on the photos identifying the man as her husband, Ben. Christine is soon advised by Ben that this scene happens every day. Christine has a rare form of amnesia that prevents her from remembering the last 20 years. She only retains memories for a 24-hour period. After a full night’s sleep, she wakes confused and thinks she is still a young woman.

Christine receives a phone call from a man identifying himself as her doctor, a psychoneurologist named Dr. Nash. Christine does not remember Dr. Nash, but he alerts her to a journal that she has been keeping. The story then switches to journal format, where Christine spends each day learning about her life anew, primarily by reading her journal. As time goes on, the journal allows her to form a more complete picture of the last 20 years. She is able to build on the things she learned and wrote down on previous days.

Before I Go To Sleep is the story of a woman who spends each day confused and scared, not knowing who she is or who she can trust. The reader becomes engrossed in the story, wondering themselves who is trustworthy – Ben? Dr. Nash? Who is telling her the truth about her past? S.J. Watson finds ways to keep the daily memory loss interesting and fresh, rather than repetitive and boring. The ending of the novel felt a bit rushed and trite, but it did not change my opinion of the novel as a whole. This is S.J. Watson’s debut novel, which is hard to believe. I will certainly be in line for whatever comes next.

I know I am gushing here, but if you are a fan of suspense novels, you absolutely must read Before I Go To Sleep.

Many thanks to the publisher, HarperCollins, for providing me with a free e-Galley for review, via NetGalley.

Book: Before I Go To Sleep | Author: S.J. Watson | Published: HarperCollins; June 14, 2011 | Format: e-Galley | Source: NetGalley | Rating: 5 out of 5

Review: Long Gone

Long Gone by Alafair Burke Long Gone was my first experience reading Alafair Burke, but it definitely will not be my last. I can now include Alafair Burke on my list of favorite female mystery authors. The list includes Lisa Unger, Karin Slaughter and Laura Lippman.

In Long Gone, unemployed Alice Humphrey meets mysterious Drew Campbell during an art opening. Drew represents an undisclosed wealthy man who plans to open an art gallery featuring his lover’s work in its first exhibition. Drew offers Alice the position of gallery manager. Even though the job seems too good to be true, Alice jumps into the position with gusto. Unfortunately, she quickly finds out that her dream job is not so dreamy. First, a group of protesters show up to protest the first exhibition. Then Drew Campbell turns up dead on the floor of an empty gallery. It is as if the gallery never existed. The photographs and the furniture are gone. The space is empty.

Alice is the prime suspect in Drew’s death. The police even have photographic evidence of her kissing Drew, except that Alice knows she never kissed Drew. So who is the woman in the photo? Is it a really good Photoshop job or does Alice have a doppelganger? Alice realizes that someone is trying to set her up. Alice happens to be a former child actress and the daughter of an award-winning director. With her name connected to the crime, her whole family is dragged into the tabloids.

Long Gone provides a perfect mix of family secrets, drama and suspense. There are side stories about a missing high school girl and religious protesters that strongly resemble Fred Phelps and his creepy crew. This book is a completely engrossing read. Long Gone is out today, and I encourage you to grab yourself a copy.

I recently began following Alafair Burke’s blog, which is hosting the Duffer Awards this summer. Duffer is her dog, which was enough to hook me before I even read Long Gone.

Many thanks to the publisher, HarperCollins, for providing me with an e-Galley for review, via NetGalley.

Book: Long Gone | Author: Alafair Burke | Published: HarperCollins; June 21, 2011 | Format: e-Galley | Source: NetGalley | Rating: 5 out of 5