Two books to note this week.
The first is Nemesis by Jo Nesbø, the Norwegian author whose virtues I extolled after finishing his novel The Snowman a few days ago. While it's clear from this book that Nesbø truly belongs on the must-read list of any fan of crime fiction, this book is not as successful as The Snowman, at least not in my view. Here Nesbø weaves together two intricate plots -- a series of carefully orchestrated bank robberies and the murder of the lead detective's former girlfriend -- in a way that few authors could pull off. Though Nesbø is surely a master storyteller, the tension in this book doesn't match the intensity it reaches in The Snowman, so I was a little disappointed. Still, this is a fine thriller and worth the read. I'm looking forward to reading Nesbø's The Redbreast soon. ★★★☆☆
In this past Wednesday's New York Times, I saw a short note by Susannah Meadows about A Long Drive Home, a new novel by Will Allison, which "looks at how a snap decision causes one American family to come undone."
"A man driving with his 6-year-old daughter in the back seat gets a case of road rage after a teenage driver cuts him off on a quiet residential street. As the car careens toward them a second time, the dad, Glen, decides to teach the teenage boy a lesson, turning into his lane to give him a scare. The oncoming driver swerves into a tree and dies. While narrowly focusing his lens on the event and its consequences, Mr. Allison still manages to take in a panorama of human behavior. Not knowing what his little girl was aware of, Glen doesn’t admit his role in the accident to his wife or the police. Mr. Allison’s gift is in making that lie — and each new one it inevitably spawns — understandable, showing how this story could be anyone’s. Part of the book is written as a letter from Glen to his daughter, to read when she’s 18, explaining the consequences."
If you want to read a really frightening, unsettling book, this is it. Don't bother with Stephen King or crime stories. There's nothing more disturbing than a normal person's life falling apart inexorably as a result of completely understandable actions and reactions. Will Allison's tragic tale is a true horror story. His prose is taut and gripping, utterly compelling. You'll keep imagining yourself in Glen's position. Every few pages, as things keep getting worse, you'll find yourself saying outloud, as I did, "Oh, shit!" ★★★★★