Poor Dan Brown! No one has ever commended his writing style, and now with his fifth Robert Langdon thriller, Origin, out last year, the critics are almost universally agreed that we have had enough of his same-old-same-old story line.
But while I agree mostly with the criticism of Origin that it is just a continuation of The Di Vinci Code (except it is set in Spain!!), what did everyone expect? Of course, Brown’s plots are in the style of DAN BROWN. That is, they are just like the similarity you see in Lee Child novels and Robert Parker novels – if you have read one, you have read them all. But that is why we read serial-character novels as they come out… we liked Brown’s basic plot around cryptography, symbols, codes and conspiracy theories.
In Origin Brown again tackles the religion vs. science arguments. This time quite substantially. Our art history lessons this time concern modern art – that is at least one significant change in a Brown novel! And as I said, we learn a great deal about Barcelona and Bilbao, Spain.
Brown got his interest in European art when he spent a college-abroad year in Seville, Spain, where he enrolled in an art history course. His first book Digital Fortress was also set in Seville. And I think you can feel Brown’s affection for Spain in the pages of Origin.
I cannot say that the writing in Origin is great or even that good. I agree the “Dan Brown Plot” has been done over and over. But I did indeed enjoy Origin. I got pulled in to the silly plot and the chase through famous Spanish historical sites. But the book was what I expected, and therefore, I was not disappointed.
3 of 5 stars
I have discovered that some readers do not know about Denise Mina, the Scottish mystery writer who is both outlandishly funny and brutal at the same time. She writes other things such as stand-alone novels and the graphic novel adaptation of the Steig Larsson books. But forget about those and focus here on her amazing three series which are exceptional.
When someone asks me who my favorite authors are I often say Louise Penny, Philip Kerr, Harlan Coben, Lee Child. But I always say…. Denise Mina! If you have not been lucky enough to find her, I can point you to 11 books in three different series to gorge on in the coming months!
Her first series called Garnethill – first book by that name – is my favorite of the three. Young Maureen O’Donnell is about to end her affair with her psychotherapist when she awakes from a drunken stupor to find him tied to a chair in her living room with his throat slit. Poor Maureen is, of course, a suspect, as is her drug-selling brother.
Oh, the language Maureen spouts! Funny and yet poignant, she is hell on wheels to defend her friends and her brother. Yet, she is not so careful at taking care of herself. You will laugh and cry and instantly move right on to the next in the trilogy – Exile – when you finish Garnethill. The third in the series is titled Resolution. I quite understand Mina’s desire to put Lisbeth Salander (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) into graphic novels – Maureen is Lisbeth with no education, money or expertise!
The writing is the best you will find, often called Tartan Noir; and you can smell and taste Mina’s Glasgow along with Maureen as she moves about the city. There is nothing predictable about these books. I have no idea why Mina does not have the accolade of other lesser authors. Except that they are very Scottish and quite different from the norm. All positives in my book. (Garnethill did win the CWA John Creasy Dagger for Best First Crime Novel)
And when you finish with the Garnethill Trilogy, you can begin on the other two series– one featuring a young Glasgow journalist, Paddy Meehan, in the trilogy beginning with Field of Blood, which won the Barry Award for Best Mystery in 2006. And then the other series featuring Glasgow detective Alex Morrow. You will be happy in Scotland for months!!
My rating: 5 of 5
Myron Bolitar is back!! It has been 5 years since we got to hang out with Myron and Win as they quipped and joked their way through an investigation. This time Win calls on Myron for help in the 10 year old kidnapping of his then 6 year-old nephew. Win has a lead in London, and of course, things get sticky.
For those who are new to Harlan Coben, he has this wonderful series with Myron, a sports agent of sorts who helps clients and friends out of problems – think Jack Reacher with a great sense of humor. Coben also has 15 stand-alone thrillers which are good, but his Myron Bolitar series is where he excels.
This series reminds me of Louise Penny’s Gamache series combined with Robert Parker’s original series staring Spenser. Like with Penny, you quickly grow to love the characters who come back time and again. Esperanza and Big Cyndi (female wrestlers and Myron partners) make an appearance in Home, as well as Myron’s mom, dad, and nephew Mickey who has his own 3-book YA series now by Coben. And then there is Win, Myron’s mega-rich college buddy who I would really want as a friend if I had problems. Or even if I didn’t!
I don’t want to give the impression that the books are light or silly. The story line is quite serious, but the characters are enjoyable and sassy like Parker’s Spenser and Hawk. This plot is well played out and challenging to fully guess how it will go. You could not ask for a better book in this genre.
Coben’s stand-alone thrillers are good, some really good, but he finds his true form with Myron, Win and the rest of the cast. If you are new to the Bolitar series, which has 11 books in it now, you might want to start with Deal Breaker, his first from 1995. Lucky you!
My rating 5 of 5.