cbottomley@northshire.com's blog

Doxology: A Novel by Nell Zink - Book Review

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ISBN: 9780062877789
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Published: Ecco - August 27th, 2019

Nell Zink has long been tipped as a novelist to watch. At last, here is a teeming magnum opus of life at the end of the last century and the beginning of the next. As the American empire careens towards a final reckoning with the logic of late capitalism, Zink presents the masque of anarchy as seen through the eyes of a couple of indie rock veterans raising their child in downtown Manhattan. Zink's prose has the ability to make you giggle with recognition and then sideswipe you with an insight that belies her years. For anybody who has lived through the time (that is to say, all of us), the book is a touchstone of opportunities met and missed. It's also a reminder that for all the mistakes we might have made, decency is still possible--even if we have to work at it. Like a plane crashing into the World Trade Center, Doxology is impossible to stop and hits the reader where they live. ~ Reviewed by Charles Bottomley

Joe Country (Slough House #6) by Mick Herron - Book Review

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ISBN: 9781641290555
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Published: Soho Crime - June 11th, 2019

The sixth installment of the Slough House series shows that Herron is still on top of his game. Jackson Lamb's bureau of misfit agents are reeling from the slaughter of their colleagues and a new recruit who may possibly be a psychopath. Then their nemesis makes an untimely reappearance. The chase is on, and it soon becomes clear that the hunted may very well be the hunter. Thanks to Herron's garrote-tight plotting and kill-the-hostages sense of humor, the tension is only relieved by the reader's laughter. Another winner. ~ Reviewed by Charles Bottomley

The Keeper of Lost Causes: The First Department Q Novel (A Department Q Novel #1) by Jussi Adler-Olsen - Book Review

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ISBN: 9780452297906
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Published: Dutton - July 31st, 2012

After using his partner's body as a human shield, Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Morck is assigned to deal with cases that aren't so much cold as in deep freeze. With the surprisingly resourceful help-meet Assad, the two-man department investigate a Danish politician who boarded a ferry and was never seen again. Once Adler-Olsen's pieces are in place, take a sick day, because the first novel in his Department Q series is nigh unstoppable. A satisfyingly complex mystery that's a cut above the usual Scandinavian fare (and not too grisly). ~ Reviewed by Charles Bottomley

Dead Lions (Slough House #2) by Mick Herron - Book Review

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ISBN: 9781616953676
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Published: Soho Crime - April 8th, 2014

Goddamn, this is a great spy series. Slough House is where disgraced MI6 agents go to be ignored until they die. Led by the corpulent and incorrigible spymaster (and utter bastard) Jackson Lamb, however, international mischief ends up abounding. The death of a Cold War relic leads to the discovery of a sleeper cell that has been slumbering for longer than most spies can remember. What does this have to do with the arrival in London of a mysterious Russian oligarch? Herron's plotting keeps the reader guessing until the knuckles goes white, but ultimately it's his characters who win the day. The screw-ups of Slough House might not be the spooks you want to raise a pint with, but they are as entertaining a crew as thrillers have to offer. ~ Reviewed by Charles Bottomley

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin - Book Review

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By Alfred Doblin, Michael Hofmann (Translated by), Michael Hofmann (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781681371993
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Published: NYRB Classics - March 6th, 2018

Pimp and murderer Franz Biberkopf is set free from jail. Once he realizes they won't let him back inside, he vows to become “an honest soul.” That turns out to be damned difficult in a Weimar Germany where temptation exists around every corner and the finger of fate presses on the stolidest of Jobs with the force of a meteor crashing to earth. Doblin's 1929 novel is an extraordinary performance. Biberkopf's progress is related through song, weather reports, descriptions of slaughterhouse protocol, visions of the Whore of Babylon, political speeches and the cultural detritus of postwar Germany. Navigating his torrent of brilliant prose, the reader discovers the disasters of the ensuing century in their embryonic state. What abides is the fortitude of Biberkopf, a hero of German literature to rank with Faust or The Tin Drum's Oskar Matzerath. ~ Reviewed by Charles Bottomley

Oraefi: The Wasteland by Ofeigur Sigurosson - Book Review

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ISBN: 9781941920671
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Published: Deep Vellum Publishing - October 2nd, 2018

As unpredictable as a drunken sleigh ride across the Icelandic interior, Sigurossen's unclassifiable novel opens with the rescue of an Austrian toponymist from a glacier. One amputation of his frostbitten nether regions later, the poor sap tells his sorry story to the dotty veterinarian who saved his life at the cost of his manhood. Scheherazade-like, his tale becomes entwined with other stories: the expedition of Iceland's answer to Lewis and Clark, the history of death metal, the taste of cardamom, and--since this is Iceland--an alcoholic freeloader or two. It's a mark of Sigurossen's genius that this unholy tangle beguiles rather than infuriates. The concerns of his country and our time are addressed with a deft, always engaging wit. Not just a front-runner for novel of the year, but one that leaves the other sleds way behind. ~ Reviewed by Charles Bottomley


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