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review 2018-07-19 20:14
"The Devotion Of Suspect X - detective Galileo #3" by Keigo Higashino - Translated by Alexander 0 Smith - Highly Recommended
The Devotion of Suspect X: A Detective Galileo Novel - Keigo Higashino,Alexander O. Smith

"The Devotion Of Suspect X" is an original, surprising, thought-provoking crime novel set in Japan. It's one of the most satisfying reads I've had this year so far because it's fresh, it works on so many levels and it's entertaining.


"The Devotion Of Suspect X" sets out to do something different than a normal crime story. We know who killed whom and how pretty much from the beginning. The rest is about defeating the police investigation by out-thinking them. It becomes a reluctant duel between two genius-level thinkers who were at Imperial University together decades earlier. One is a mathematician working to cover up a killing. The other is a physicist curious to work out what really happened. This gives plenty of scope for the discussion of the nature of problem-solving, the role of assumptions in disguising meta-problems and the nature of proof.


Yet this is not a dry abstract, book. The plot is driven by ordinary people wanting ordinary things and this makes it much more than an intellectual puzzle. It's about happiness, purpose, devotion, and guilt. It's about what gives you the will to live and the ability to kill. Even the "dual" between the two mega-minds is not what you might expect. It's based on a respect and understanding rather than enmity of moral conflict.


The ending caught me by surprise, not because it's some kind of last-minute tricky twist but because the actions come from values in a culture that is not mine and brings the whole puzzle back to a human level.


The book is translated from the original Japanese. Some translations leave me feeling distant from the text or make me feel the text has been "pasteurised" into English. Alexander O. Smith's translation kept the text vital and accessible without losing the sense of the places where Japan is alien from my Western experience.


David Pittu's narration is flawless. You can hear a sample by clicking on the SoundCloud link below.


[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/46866532" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]


Don't be put off by the "Detective Galileo #3" tag. "The Devotion Of Suspect X"  works as a free-standing book. Detective Galileo is the nickname the police give to the physicist who sometimes assists them  I can't find books one, two or four in English but books five and six, "Salvation of a Saint" and "A Midsummer's Equation" are available in English.   "A Midsummer's Equation" was made into a movie in 2013.


"The Devotion Of Suspect X" was made into a movie in 2017 in China (in Mandarin with English subtitles), with the script written by Keigo Higashino. If the trailer below is anything to go by it looks like a faithful adaptation.


[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpfBF5dJqwk&w=560&h=315]

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text 2018-07-15 21:38
Reading progress update: I've read 5%.
Persuasion - Jane Austen

I started a new audiobook and guess who narrates it? Yes, Juliet Stevenson! After North and South I'm in love with her narration. Isn't this the one you recommended I start my Austen journey with, Themis?

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text 2018-07-15 18:13
Reading progress update: I've read 12%. - immediately immersive
Clock Dance - Anne Tyler

"Clock Dance", Anne Tyler's latest novel, sets out to share the defining moments of a woman's life.


The first. longish, chapter immediately immersed me in the life of the then eleven.year-old-girl, in small-town America in 1967, on the day her mother walks out of the house.


It effortlessly captures that feeling of still working out what's going on in your family, when you're not sure if stuff is really weird or if all the other families do this too and when your anger and anxiety and desire for competence get twisted up with your love for your parents and your doubts and hopes about yourself.



So far, it's wonderful stuff.

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text 2018-07-15 17:58
Reading progress update: I've read 8%. - totally compulsive listening
The Princess Diarist - Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher reading her own diary looking back on her involvement with Star Wars and including journal entries made at the time of the first movie - how could I resist that? WHY would I resist that.


With dry wit, unflinching candour, a dash of carefully expressed malice and a wry sense of humour, Carrie Fisher takes us into her confidence. I'm going to be dipping into this eagerly when I need to relax.

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review 2018-06-30 18:44
"A Delicate Truth" by John Le Carré
A Delicate Truth - John le Carré

I came late to John Le Carré, falling in love with his prose storytelling style upon my first encounter with them when, last year, I read his remarkable novel"A Legacy of Spies".


Naturally, I had to have at least one Le Carré in my Summer of Spies reading challenge this year, I picked "A Delicate Truth" because, published in 2013, it was his next most recent book and because the audiobook version that I listened to was narrated by Le Carré himself.


I found the novel very satisfying both because the world it describes is frighteningly plausible without ever becoming melodramatic and because the cadence of Le Carré's prose and his nuanced use of language, especially in dialogue call to something in me in the same way that the best music does.


In some ways, this is not a very dramatic tale. It covers poorly conceived, disastrously executed and robustly covered-up covert operation. The body count is low by genre standards. There are no car chases. No desperate gun battles on the streets of London. No evil genius strapping our hero to a table to be dissected by an industrial laser. Yet the import of what it describes is truly disturbing.


The tale starts slowly satisfyingly,  by establishing the point of view of a mature senior Civil Servant in the FCO, pulled in over his head by an ambitious Minister, to oversee a covert operation in Gibraltar.


As I watched the stolidly upper-middle class civil servant, son of a general, married to money, well-educated but only moderately accomplished, thrill, in an appropriately low-key it-wouldn't-be-good-form-to-express-my-feelings kind of way, to the opportunity to serve his country, even if that meant obeying a bullying, egocentric, self-serving Minister, I understood that Le Carré's England is not mine or, at least, not an England I want to tolerate.


I recognise that it's real enough. It's the kind of England the odious Boris Johnson and the surprisingly dangerous Jacob Rees-Mogg want to drag us all back into so that they can live the Eton dream while the rest of us touch our forelocks and hope to keep our jobs. 


It's an England where the under-funded State is preyed upon by billion dollar Private Military Corporations that are contracted to kidnap and kill with an impunity secured by anti-terror legislation that has eroded public accountability to the point of non-existence.


Le Carré describes the people of this world with great precision and insight without ever once straying into empathy. I admire that.


Nothing in the content of Le Carrè's story surprised me, a fact I find deeply depressing, but it acted as a reminder of how the clannish secrecy of an entitled ruling class mixes with the greed and egocentricity of politicians whose eyes are the revolving door into high-flying commerce to create something fundamentally corrupt.


Yet what I like most about Le Carré is the way he tells his tale. He takes his time. He uses complex sentences. He moves the reader effortlessly backwards and forwards along the timeline and he perfectly evokes a sense of place, whether it is a Cornish Fair, a Private Club or the corridors and conference rooms of the FCO.


Here's a sample of that prose from the start of Chapter Two, where we are introduced to Toby Bell, the man around whom most of the story centres. It's a slightly long extract but that is necessary to demonstrate how he evokes the man and his situation. If you like this, you'll like the book.

"On a sunny Sunday, early in that same spring, a thirty-one-year-old British Foreign servant, earmarked for great things, sat alone at the pavement table of a humble Italian café in London's Soho, steeling himself to perform an act of espionage so outrageous that, if detected, it would cost him his career and his freedom. Namely, recovering a tape-recording elicitly made by himself from the private office of a Minister of the Crown whom it was his duty to serve and advise to the best of his considerable ability.


His name was Tony Bell and he was entirely alone in his criminal contemplations. No evil genius controlled him. No paymaster provocateur or sinister manipulator armed with an attaché case stuffed with hundred dollar bills was waiting around the corner. No activist in a ski mask. He was, in that sense the most feared creature of our contemporary world: a solitary decider. of a forthcoming clandestine operation on the Crown Colony of Gibraltar, he knew nothing. Rather it was this tantalising ignorance that had brought him to his present pass.


Neither was he in appearance or by nature cut out to be a felon. Even now, premeditating his criminal design, he remained the decent, diligent, tousled, compulsively ambitious, intelligent-looking fellow, that his colleagues and employers took him for. He was stocky in build. Not particularly handsome with a shock of unruly brown hair that went haywire as soon as it was brushed. That there was gravitas in him was undeniable. The gifted, State educated only child of pious artisan parents from the South coast of England who knew no politics but Labour..."

One of the joys of the book, for me, was Le Carré's narration. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear him read the start of Chapter One.


[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/89424970" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]

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