Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Other Side of Silence (Philip Kerr, 2016) and Even Dogs in the Wild (Ian Rankin, 2016)

Hello, dear blog. I am back! I have been gone for four months, working on my Master's thesis. As anyone who has done a thesis knows, the final three months of work are all encompassing. It was all-thesis-all-the-time (unfortunately, I have the extra kilos to prove it!). The thought of writing any more words than I actually had to - and for fun no less! - was just ridiculous, and so I did not. I also didn't read very much either during the thesis submission time or the period immediately following it, so I didn't really have much to write about either. But now I am back, I've read a ton of books and I have opinions to share. Let the blogging begin (again).

So far for me, 2016 has been the year of hanging out with old favourites. I just this weekend inhaled Philip Kerr's The Other Side of Silence. In his 11th outing, the intrepid Bernie Gunther (one of my favourite literary detectives and on my list of fictional men I would be allowed to cheat with if they were not fictional but real) is working as a concierge on the Riviera in the 1950s. Of course, there are beautiful dames and evil Nazis and Russians and betrayal and memories from Bernie's dark past. It was great! Kerr is so skilled at building a past that feels real (provided one suspends one's disbelief at the amount of life and loving that Bernie lived in his half-century on the planet) that these books are always a historical delight. I also love that it shows the war from the side of the Germans (albeit a "good" German), in particular in relation to the British. There is a scene in Silence where Bernie is dealing with former British soldiers who would have been fighting at the same time Bernie was. There is this incredibly sense underlying all of their communication that 30 years ago, any of these men might have killed Bernie and Bernie might have killed them and it would have been considered the right thing to do. Obviously, so far along in the series this is a book only for the fans, but it gets the job done.

Similarly, Ian Rankin's Even Dogs in the Wild recounts the adventures of Rebus and Fox. John Rebus is in retirement but doesn't like it, while Fox has some heavy stuff going on in his personal life. I know I said that Silence is only for the fans, but Even Dogs in the Wild is *really* only for the fans. In his 20th outing, Rebus' actions and relationships make sense only if you know what has happened before. It is a fun book - Rankin is a great writer and since I visited the Oxford Bar myself in 2014, I really feel present in the Edinburgh he writes about - but I would only recommend Dogs if you were already a Rebus fan, in which case you wouldn't need my recommendation because you'd already be there.

I'm pleased to be back on the blog and looking forward to sharing my thoughts on books and writing again!

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