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Archive for the ‘Crime novels’ Category

Louise Penny’s New #13 Gamache ~ “Glass Houses”

I wonder what’s going to happen to Louise Penny’s latest novel, hot off the presses, “Glass Houses”? It’s her 13th in a row Inspector Gamache novel. And USUALLY she hits it out of the ball park every time, but this time…Well, she’s a crime/mystery writer the world has fallen in love with, even though she’s an Anglo-Canadian writing about our beloved Montreal and the province of Quebec, where she lives.

“Glass Houses” was written very fast. It seems like the last one “A Great Reckoning” only came out last week, but actually it was last year. But still, a new book, EVERY year! I mean, that’s an incredible achievement by any definition and she’s been called “the new Agatha Christie”, which is also an incredible accolade. (She’s won Agatha Award six times!) And she sells! She tends to debut at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list.

And it’s really difficult to write about her Chief Inspector Gamache books, because you don’t want to spoil anything. But I will say this. This is my least favorite novel of hers, so far. And I’ve read them all!

Don’t worry die-hard Gamache fans he’s very much front and center here, and Penny has created a great character in him, her lead detective. He’s retired now and living in Three Pines, the wonderful, mythical Quebec township town she’s created. It’s not real, but it’s setting is continuously beguiling and I really want to eat at the Bistro of Gabri and Olivier, right now!

Food is mentioned often, but not as much in “Glass Houses” but the Bistro Gamache fans NEED to know is where most of the action, and the eating, mais oui, happens. And Kudos to Penny for putting two very original gay Bistro/B&B owners front and center in her books. Gamache has a gaggle of sorts. What’s the French word for “Posse”? Maybe it’s posse, too, and they are all on hand, and there’s so many of them now that the ensemble tends to push the new characters almost out of the book completely.

It must sound divine to Penny fans, but — this time…
“Glass Houses” I found confusing. There. I said it. You need to know that it switches back and forth in time and seasons and locales. It’s hard to follow, until you realize that the trial that takes up half the book, is set in Montreal in the summer. Just WHAT and WHO is on trial for WHAT is also confusing. It’s made clear at the end but by then my patience with Gamache & co. was more than a little frazzled.

Then her masterpiece Ruth Zardo the crazy, foul-mouthed Octogenarian poet whose pet duck Rosa comes on. And then Gamache’s PERFECT wife Reine-Marie starts exerting her charm, and they all dine at the beautiful, homey bistro and you realize that Louise Penny is really above criticism at this point.

Especially, considering she wrote this big 400 page tome as her beloved husband, Michael, in real life, was dying.

Which kind of exemplifies the dark, threatening figure that keeps appearing on the Village Green one cold, rainy November day…Wait! How did we get to be in November? I thought it was July! Well, “Glass Houses” keeps switching back and forth, yes, confusingly.

Penny really returns to form(she really is an exquisite writer) in of all places the Author’s Note, which is at the end of the entire book. She writes feelingly about her husband’s death and ends with the lovely thought “The final thanks is to you, my friend. For your company.The world is brighter for your presence.
All shall be well.”

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Golden Globe Winner Aaron Taylor-Johnson on “The Stephen Holt Show”

aaron-taylor-johnson-winning-golden-globeThis video is from a few years back when I interviewed a then-unknown(in the US) Aaron Taylor. At the time that was the entire name he was using. He then took his wife’s last name Johnson and hyphenated it. Into Aaron Taylor-Johnson. And he was the first, and perhaps biggest surprise upset of last night’s Golden Globes in Best Supporting Actor, right at the start of the show. He’s playing a serial killer btw in Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals.”aaron-taylor-johnson-3

#Aaron Taylor Johnson

#Nocturnal Animals

#Golden Globe Winner

#British

#Best Supporting Actor

# John Lennon

# Beatles

# Nowhere Boy

#Liverpool

 

 

 

 

 

Mhz’s French “Little Murders of Agatha Christie” Tres Charmant,but not Hercule Poirot at all

little-murders-1I continue my Hercule Poirot/Agatha Christie obsession with Mhz’ new series of five French TV shows, “Les Petites Muertres d’Agatha Christie” or “The Little Murders of Agatha Christie.” They may be “inspired” by Agatha Christie, but they are not Christie at all. Well, maybe glancingly. But they become their own delightful devertisement nonetheless.

Focusing yet again on the renowned fictional creation of Christie’s Hercule Poirot, one of the most famous Belgians ever, “Little Murders” starts by making Poirot as French as French can be. He’s totally transmorgrofied here. Christie’s solitary, probably celibate Poirot,in the French version here is the typically randy rogue, with a roving eye, and he turns out to have a daughter,too! Mille tonneres! It’s a shock to see him portrayed this way. And his Hastings stand-in is Gay! So, of course, I was delighted!

And also the very strong and funny performances by Antoine Dulery as LaRosiere, the Poirot character, and Marius Colucci as the piquant, red-headed Lampion, do enthrall and involve you in their own right.

They pull you into a world that is not Christie, but Christie-esque.. The period is the same the 1920s-30s . I kept thinking of Sophie Hannah and her two marvelous Poirot continuation novels, “The Monogram Murders” and “Closed Casket” the new one that has just come out and  is climbing the best-seller charts as we speak.CLOSED cASKET 1

Hannah’s Poirot is meticulously the Poirot we know and love. And is, yes, always being mistaken for being French, and he’s always snapping out “I’m Belgian!”david-shuchet-1

And he certainly doesn’t have any children, or former wives. He’s a solitary figure, and fussy as hell. He’s really OCD, I think And we love him for being such a nit-picking perfectionist. I can’t recommend “Closet Casket” highly enough and you’ll see how British Christie/Hannah’s Poirot really is. And PS, he hates the British! I always wondered why he has stayed in England throughout all his adventures.

Closed casket 2In “Little Murders”, Poirot still loves to eat. But La Rosiere will eat ANYthing! He’s a glutton. He’s not picky, like Christie/Hannah’s Poirot certainly is.

The five 90 minute segments that Mhz has so marvelously packaged for our delectation state-side really are VERY watchable and as convoluted as Christie’s brain-teasers should be. But you’ll only catch Christie, if you really are a devotee (as I am) because the plots are quite buried if not thrown away altogether by the French creators. I wonder what Christie or for that matter Sophie Hannah would think of this saucy, mistake-prone Poirot. And Lampion is always yelling at his boss! Poirot would never allow ANYone to raise their voices to him! Especially not his side-kick!

He’s also always mistaken for being gay, because Lampion is gay. There’s one episode where they end up in the same bed! I loved it!

little-murders-2My favorite  episode  was “Knife in the Neck” which is based on “Lord Edgware Dies.” I don’t want to spoil it, but in the French version there are TWO murder plots a foot, where Christie only had one, and this is one where Poirot’s comely teenaged daughter Juliette (Alice Isaaz) turns up.

Poirot has been an absentee father and Juliette reproaches him for leaving her alone to grow up with her (unseen) mother . I can’t even imagine what Madame Poirot might look or be like. In any case, Poirot doesn’t want anything to do with her, or their lovely daughter. But Juliette won’t leave her father alone.

She and the droll gay character Assistant Detective Lampion both fall for the same handsome actor, Julien Sobel. Played marvelously by Julien Allugette. There’s even a fantasy sequence where Lampion imagines Sobel doing a strip tease for him!

This is not your mother’s Agatha Christie, as you can see by the clip below.And I have to mention the fatalist  of femme fatales, Sarah Morlant, a great diva actress, who is based on the Lady Edgware character, but again only slightly. Maruschka Demets does a fantastic, sultry job, huskily purring every line she says, with blood red fingernails, like talons. There’s also several brief scenes of Racine’s “Phedra” thrown in. I loved that.  Antoine Dulery and M. Demets were more than up to this classical challenge.

“Little Murders of Agatha Christie” is not what I expected, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

Brilliant Sophie Hannah’s 2nd Poirot “Closed Casket” – A Non-Review Rave

Closed casket 2How can you review a nifty mystery-thriller without giving “it” away? Dear readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of literature, I ask you?

“It” being the surprise ending, the twists, the plot, the sub-plots. Well, you can’t. You just can’t. So I won’t. But what I will say is that “Closed Casket” British crime writer Sophie Hannah’s SECOND Poirot novel is a book that I just could not put down. I could not. And that’s called real suspense.

I can’t reveal anything about it, except perhaps it’s amaaaazing back story. Which is a combo of good luck and smarts by the Christie estate in wanting to continue delighting us with crimes for legendary Belgian detective Hercule Poirot to solve.And choosing the brilliant Brit crime writer Sophie Hannah to do it.

I was late catching up with “The Monogram Murders” Sophie Hannah’s first Poirot “continuation.” And so I didn’t review it because the new one “Closed Casket” is coming out very, very soon. Sept.8. And Harper collins, her publisher, generously sent me a review copy. So I’ll respect the pub date and not reveal anything except that, well, you can’t reveal anything. You just can’t. Except I couldn’t put it down!

But I can say that Sophie Hannah is one smart, terrific, delectable choice to fill Poirot’s patent leather shoes. A best-selling crime writer herself internationally, she was still completely unknown to me when I dived into “The Monogram Murders,” not knowing WHAT to expect.

I thought, as most readers did, I suspect, feel that anything “New” from Dame Agatha went to the grave with her. Agatha Christie 2But no! Sophie Hannah, a for-real, respected genre writer(as well as poet and children’s book author) is the authentic thing. La Vrai Choise, as I think Poirot would put it.

And she brought Poirot roaring back to life. Doing the seemingly impossible magic trick of reviving without re-inventing a beloved literary character. I never knew how much I missed him and his “little grey cells” til I found myself re-reading Christie’s entire oeuvre this past year. What had happened to me? Agatha Christie has taken over my life! But wait! I’m not alone! She’s taken over Sophie Hannah’s, too! It’s Christie-mania and it’s contagious! Beware!CLOSED cASKET 1Well, I can say no more about the suspenseful “Closed Casket” until after Sept.8. But I WILL say that a central character Lady Athelinda Playford is going to go down as one of Hannah’s great new creations.

She is one of “Closed Casket”s main characters and it is she who sets the wheels of the plot in motion, by re-writing her will at age 70. She is the widow of the fifth earl of Klonakilty, in County Cork,  Ireland, where “Closed Casket” is set and is the author of many,many children’s books.

More I will not say, except that this is the first novel I’ve ever read anywhere, that has Shakespeare’s “King John”, as a semi-constant reference point.

And yes, there is murder, mayhem, twists and turns and dastardly doings galore and Hercule Poirot at the seeming height of his powers in 1929.What more can one ask of a book? Dame Agatha would be so proud.

But you’ll just have to til Sept. 8 for more, when I predict “Closet Casket” will fly off the shelves! Better pre-order now!www.sophiehannah.org

#Sophie Hannah #Closed Casket # Harpercollins #Agatha Chrisite# Crime Novel # Mystery # Thriller# Novel #British# Detective#Monogram Murders

Louise Penny Has Done It Again!”A Great Reckoning” Is Great!

A Great REckoningI admit it! I’m an unabashed Louise Penny fan! And I’ve read every single one of her terrific mystery/crime novels about Quebec’s former Chief Inspector of the Surete, Armand Gamache, but with her newest one, “A Great Reckoning” she’s done it again! “A Great Reckoning” is great! The best so far. She’s really topped herself! I haven’t been able to do anything since I picked up this 12th book in her Gamache series.

I could not put it down!

And neither will you! It’s what a page-turner should be. Suspenseful, taut, fast-paced, totally absorbing and thrilling with a capital “T”.

I’ve read an early critic’s edition, as it were, so there are limits to what I can and can’t say. I can’t quote from it, but I can say there are beautiful descriptions of her beloved Quebec and the irresistible village of Three Pines. You really want to move there and retire, just like Gamache & his devoted, smart, beautiful wife Reine-Marie have. Except of course, it’s a fictional location where corpses and murders abound. And it’s in Quebec, where it’s almost always snowing.And her descriptions of the food Olivier & Gabri prepare in their adorable bistro ~ MOUTH~WATERING!

Also writing about a thriller like this is difficult, because you can’t reveal any of the mysteries, or you’ll spoil it. And suffice it to say that there’s a LOT to spoil. There are twists upon twists, and a really bang-up unguessable conclusion. And all your favorite characters, the colorful Quebecquois townspeople, are all back, Clara, Myrna, Ruth Zardo and her pet duck, Rosa. And the gay couple to end all gay couples, Olivier & Gabri, and their wonderful bistro/B&B, that you’ll wish you could dine at and stay at. But alas! They’re all fictional! But that’s the sign of great writing. It all comes alive for you, Penny tells her stories so well.

Taken altogether as one massive novel, it reminds me of “War and Peace”! That’s how the Gamache series  deepens and grows on you.Throughout the twelve preceeding novels(and you really should read all of them, in order, if you can), the characterizations just build and build and build til you feel you know Clara & Myrna & Ruth etc.,etc. It’s like visiting old friends, in their loveliest of homes. But you can read the Gamache series of mysteries and enjoy them as stand alones, too.

This mystery is set in the Montreal Police Academy, which has made Gamache its’ head and lured him out of retirement, and the scenes shift between the school and Three Pines, but I will say no more than that. No spoilers here! “A Great Reckoning” hits stores August 30. But you can pre-order, mais oui!

And as strong and suspenseful as “A Great Reckoning” is, it’s even MORE amazing how quickly after Penny’s last Gamache book ,N.Y. Times bestseller “The Nature of the Beast”, came out. Less than a year! How does she do it? But then that’s the timetable Agatha Christie kept to and Louise Penny is nothing if she’s not a modern, French-Canadian Agatha Christie. Miss Marple had St. Mary Mead and Gamache and co. have Three Pines. Murder mysteries set in small, cozy, seemingly idyllic villages.

And when you read her acknowledgements at the end, she heart-breakingly reveals that her much-loved husband Michael has gotten dementia. And they live together in a small village in Quebec’s townships. but it’s not Three Pines. So her writing this wonderful, complicated thriller so FAST and so WELL is even more amazing! That she wrote this great book in the middle of all this personal sorrow and tragedy is astonishing. All my best to Louise and to Michael, too.

#Louise Penny # Three Pines # Inspector Gamache # Murder Mystery#Agatha Christie #Canada # Montreal # Quebec

“People Vs. O.J. Simpson” TV Movie Series Very Well Done

OJ Cast 1I wasn’t going to watch it and then, I did, and after a few false starts, I was gripped. So kudos to all involved with the new TV Movie series “The People Vs.O.J. Simpson”. Based on the book by Jeffrey Toobin, it’s very well done. And smart, too. I was gripped. Even though, we all know how it turned out.

No spoilers are necessary, as this was the first court case that was turned into a TV series already when Judge Ito allowed cameras into the courtroom. It crackles. It’s sharp and it’s right on the money Writtten by .Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewki and directed/co-produced by Ryan Murphy “The People…” sizzles and burns up the small screen in just the right way. I was surprised. And delighted. Smart TV is always welcome.

And the casting is phenomenal. Cuba Gooding, Jr. FINALLY lives up to his Oscar potential (He won Supporting Actor EONS ago, it seems, for “Jerry Maguire” opposite Tom Cruise and a very young Renee Zellweger.)Yes, Cuba Gooding IS O.J. in this, although he is a man of much smaller stature. He has the bravado and the charm and the impatience of a super-star-football-hero-jock, which is what he was.

And Sarah Paulson, always a personal favorite, gets the role of HER career as the prosecuting attorney Marcia Clark. She is depicted here as a harrowed, over-worked single mom, and a feminist, who is appalled by the case she’s just been handed. It seems to her like it should be open and shut, except it isn’t at all.Sarah Paulson 2

Strangely, “The People…” doesn’t take sides and depicts the LAPD as the bumbling bunch of key stone cops that they probably were, in this instance.

Sarah Paulson really delivers here and puts her in the realm of leading lady roles where she’s always belonged. And David Schwimmer, of all people, is just grand as the compassionate heart of the O.J. side of things as Robert Kardashian. Yes, the father of all those Kardashians who now reign supreme as the Queens of Reality TV. And yes, Kris Kardashian Jenner is depicted, too. Although she only has a very small part to play in Episode One. She was a very close friend of the murdered Nicole Brown Simpson.David Schwimmer 1

He was a lawyer and one of O.J.s best friends who is just bewildered by the unbelievable events he sees unfolding around him. O.J. hides out at Kardassian’s house and we see him even attempting suicide in “Kimmy’s” bedroom, as the stricken Schwimmer, pulls him out of it.Before he disappears from the Kardashians hideaway starting his infamous White Brono chase.

In sharp contrast, there is ANOTHER lawyer, Robert Shapiro, who is played again at the top of his A-Game by John Travolta! Another shock. And a shockingly good performance. One of the best of Travolta’s career, and he is the super slick lawyer, a legal shark, if ever there was one, who knows that his client is guilty, probably,  and goes for it, takes the case, anyway.Schwimmer & Travolta 1

People forget now, but it was on TV EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR MONTHS! I watched the entire proceedings unfold with the rest of America. I was living alone in the Bronx after my mother’s death. I wondered what she would’ve thought of all of it. I was as gripped then. As I am gripped now by this exciting, insightful news series that is going to be on at 10pm on the FX channel on Tuesday nights for nine more weeks. And even though I thought I knew everything about it, “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson” is constantly revealing new and startling aspects and yes, it WAS the birth of reality TV. Kardashians and all.

 

Oscar Buzz at TIFF ~ Eddie Redmayne Out Front by a “Danish Girl” mile

So what’s the Oscar Buzz at TIFF? All the world really wants to know is this. Who’s on top at TIFF? TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, as it’s come to be abbreviated world-wide, is without a doubt the single most important launch pad for Oscar hopefuls and wannabes. Much emerged. Top of the list going in was “The Danish Girl” and coming out it was Eddie Redmayne’s trans-gender pioneer Lili Elbe by a mile. It could also be up for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Costumes(for sure), Best Adapted Screenplay(it’s a true story) and the very strong likelihood that Alicia Vikander as Lili’s staunch, strong spouse, Gerde, may land not just in the Supporting Actress race(where she would have a VERY strong chance of winning) and also, Vikander may end up as Lead Actress.

Like her counterpart in “The Theory of Everything” Felicity Jones, who was also playing a similar part. Redmayne’s staunch, strong wife. And some years Jones may have been put in Supporting, but not last year. Swedish actress Vikander who is quickly becoming this year’s IT girl, may very well end up in lead, for her tremendous turn as Gerde, the audience’s surrogate. We see “The Danish Girl” through Gerde’s loving but dismayed eyes, as her husband turns from a man to a woman.

Less sure a front-runner was Johnny Depp in “Black Mass” as the frightening true-life gangster Whitey Bulger. For some reason, Depp was rumored to be cancelling interviews and press events left right and center. I heard that he was hitting the bottle quite strongly. I hope that’s not the case. I never heard before that he was an alcoholic.  But alienating those who might have potentially helped Depp get a nomination for this less- than-par gangster film.

He may doing a “Monique” and blowing off the dog and pony show run-up to the Oscars, something that rival Redmaybe excels at. And Depp may be saying “Screw all this folderol and just vote for me based on my performance.” It may land him a nomination anyway.

On the Best Actress side of things I saw two very good films with two outstanding lead performances by women. Both such strong contenders that they will not be overlooked come nomination time. There was the luscious, dewey-eyed, now all grown-up Irish beauty Saorise Ronan in “Brooklyn”. She is a young Irish lass who moves to America in the 1950s to find a better life for herself. And she does. But then a family tragedy drags her back to Ireland and into a Will She Stay or Will She Go dilemma. Her heart being caught between the love of a super-cute, super-hunky Italian kid (Emory Cohen) and the more traditionally suitable, wealthy. Irish man Domnall Gleeson. It’s a film in a minor key with soap opera bubbles all over it. But it’s well done. Tremendously Army of OscarsEddie Liliold-fashioned and super-sentimental, “Brooklyn” may just be the Academy’s Cup of Irish Tea come awards’ time.

Also there’s the ever-present, redoubtable octogenarian Dame Maggie Smith giving yet another career-best performance as a bag lady(!) who takes up residence in author Alan Bennett’s front drive-way in “Lady in a Van.” Dame Maggie played this role for nine months at the National Theater in London, to great acclaim, and under the same director Nicolas Hytner. Stats like those and a performance for the ages, are things the Academy is likely to take strong note of. And Dame Maggie is swinging from the rafters with his one. As dirty and smelly and ornery  as  her real-life character Mary Shepherd is meant to be, you love her any way. I really can’t wait to see this rather joyous  take on the homeless AGAIN. I liked it that much..

But it’s “The Danish Girl” that really was the masterpiece out of all those discussed.  Oh, and I here Sony Pictures Classics is going to run the OTHER Masterpiece I saw, holocaust drama, “The Son of Saul” for Best Picture, and the Academy might just go for it. A Hungarian film of tremendous power, it’s an amazing piece of filmmaking. But more about “The Son of Saul” later.

Isn’t this enough Oscar news for one morning?

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