I’ve made recent, tentative inroads into Nordic Noir, which has been a surprise. There is an economy of plot and craft and a willingness to go into some dark psychological areas which manage to make them long, but compelling stories.
Erik Axl Sund and Lars Keppler are two authors who have captured my interest. The former, are a writing partnership, which is something which fascinates me when I work so much alone. Their book, The Crow Girl, was a powerful, engine of story with deep, relentless plotting and some crisp, observations alongside a melancholic, beautiful sense of scene and character which kept me engaged throughout.
Keppler is a more commercial approach, but the books (The Hypnotist and The Nightmare) are irresistible. The murders are inventive and gross, the motivations are realistic but also have a grand, operatic madness to them and despite their page count, whip along at a rate of knots.
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent was raw, entrancing and beautiful work. It is one I will read again. It has a wounded muscular beauty to it which captures the struggle of adolescence in a depraved, exploitative yet tender perversion of parental responsibilities and individual struggles to find oneself.
I’ve never read much in the way of Russian literature. I came to him curious and nervous but I read them and was moved by the insights and powers on display.
The literature of wrestling with deep thoughts and issues, here isn’t ponderous or affected. There’s a masterful display of empathy, observations and human nature. Our brains and concerns haven’t evolved much since these were written so the insights remain fresh and compelling. Dense prose is essential not an affectation here and although there were points of mild endurance, I read four of his books with increasing awe and appreciation.
Crime and Punishment is genuinely haunting and wrenching. Notes From Underground speaks to a misanthropic envy and need which is discomfort itself. I recommend him to anyone.
Stephen King, in Sleeping Beauties, co written with his son Owen, and Elevation did solid work but the former felt like a greatest hits compilation and the latter was a vaguely patronising paean to acceptance and had a strange bigotry of low expectations attached to it. Shame, but he still captures the essence of human nature and how it is illuminated by the impersonal and bizarre forces around it.