Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Growing Up is Hard to Do

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pia Kolvenbach is known as "the girl whose grandmother's head exploded" in a freak accident at the Advent Dinner table. Advent Candle met Aqua Net hairspray...the rest was "history", with which Pia has to live every day. When young girls start to disappear, Pia and her trusty sidekick, StinkStefan, are "on the case". Two pariahs, and the avuncular storyteller Herr Schiller, explore the history of their village, Bad Munstereifel, through folk tales and gossip. Eventually, the dark side of the town begins to show itself, and Pia begins to learn the hard lesson, that people are not always what they seem to be.

I thought this was more a novel of manners, customs, and small town life- not unlike The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. The Thriller/Mystery angle took a back seat to the Town itself...The missing/"vanished" girls were a vital part of the story, but more so as a part of Pia's coming-of-age. The pacing of the story was slow until the last 1/3 of the book. The ending seemed a bit rushed to me, but in hindsight i think it was right, since the leisurely pace of the first 2/3 was good preparation for an ending that wasn't lurid, yet still kept the pages turning.

Pia Kolvenbach was not a precocious child, by any means. She was witty, a bit of a smart aleck, but all told she was just a kid,trying to deal with a situation where even the adults seemed to be at a loss. Curious, selfish, petulant and persistant, she carried this tale on noble 10-year-old shoulders, and lived to tell it years later.

I enjoyed the book and gave it the rating I did , for being both a coming-of-age story..and a mystery about Life itself, as we grow into it. Recommended.

This is a review of an ARC.

3 Stars (***)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pulp Lovers Unite! There is Hope for the Future!

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril: A Novel The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril: A Novel by Paul Malmont

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A debut novel that casts the rivalry between two of pulp fiction's legendary writers...Walter Gibson (THE SHADOW) and Lester Dent (DOC SAVAGE)into an AMAZING STORY in its own right.

My own experience of the Pulps is limited to a collection of radio broadcasts of THE SHADOW from the 1930s and 1940s...on cassette tape. These tapes are rather fragile now (though I purchased them in the 1980s..i played them a lot) I still get a shiver when I hear that LAUGH..and the stories ain't half bad. I also recall seeing the Pulp Detective Magazines when I was a kid..the covers were a hoot...Scantily clad ladies a-languishing in "terror" whilst the square-jawed "dicks" let loose with their big "guns"...Jeesh ! Titillation sublime! And the stories were fun reading...

This story, as crafted by Mr Malmont has all the blood, cruelty, fear and vengeance of the old pulps..with a touch...just a touch...of Modern Day savvy. The courageous heroes, damsels in distress (with heaving bosoms and snappy repartee), evil villains, secret identities,are joined by global schemes, deadly superweapons (the Death Cloud of the title), and hideous deaths...which gives this tale a decidedly Modern twist (ouch!)..Full of outrageous lies that are all too true, this story also reminds one that these two fellows, Gibson and Dent, were writers working on deadline, even when they were facing the end of the world.

Where does real end and pulp begin? Maybe THE SHADOW is the only one to answer that. According to the end of this novel, he might just have more to say..another volume to add to his oeuvre....some day...

4 Stars (****)