Novels

Literature references and annotations by Dick Grune, dick@dickgrune.com. Last update: Sun Jul 9 15:51:56 2017.
These references and annotations were originally intended for personal use and are presented here only in the hope that they may be useful to others. There is no claim to completeness or even correctness. Each annotation represents my understanding of the text at the moment I wrote the annotation.
No guarantees given; comments and content criticism welcome.

* Janet Evanovich, "Turbo Twenty-Three", Headline Review, 2016, pp. 288.
When an ice cream truck gets stolen by one of Stephanie's skips, the war between two ice cream companies turns out to have a drugs component.

* Janet Evanovich, "Tricky Twenty-Two", Headline Review, 2015, pp. 304.
This is the mad professor episode. Although disgruntled Prof. Pooka's doomsday machine is a dud, he leaves three dead bodies in his wake, and when he tries to add Stephanie as the fourth, he is taken down by the wrath of Stephanie's mother.

* Janet Evanovich, "Top Secret Twenty-One", Bantam Books, 2014, pp. 340.
Stephanie's life turns into an 007 movie, as she infiltrates the Russian consulate to find a rogue former KGB agent who wants to kill Ranger, and then comes back, accompanied by her three-feet tall lawyer, to complain about the treatment.

* Janet Evanovich, "Takedown Twenty", headline review, 2013, pp. 328.
Somebody is killing old ladies and leaving them in dumpsters, and although Stephanie is not police, she cannot keep from investigating. And her skip-of-the-week, Uncle Sunny, godfather of Morelli, seems to be moving around in plain sight. And a giraffe is obfuscating the issue. In the end there is a (somewhat) reasonable explanation for the giraffe.

* Robin Sloan, "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore", Picador, 2013, pp. 288.
Almost as utopian as William Gibson is distopian. Out-of-a-job semi-nerd Clay gets the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore, but finds out it's an interface to the world for a cult searching a specific old book for the secret of eternal life, and a test office for apprentices. Clay enlists the help of a Google girl and then of all of Google to use computers to crack the code, threatening to blow the entire cult out of the water. The Google computers find "by exhaustive search" that there is no such secret in the old book. The girl gives up, but the cult regroups, and Clay finds the code in an unexpected place.
Comment: some hints were dropped that were not taken up later unless I missed something, for example the discrepancy between the printed and the read versions of the Dragon Song Chronicles, which seemed significant when it was introduced. Still a far more pleasant read than Gibson's Neuromancer, of which it sometimes reminded me.
Comment 2: there is no exhaustive search in code breaking; the universe of codes is infinitely large.

* Janet Evanovich, "Notorious Nineteen", headline review, 2012, pp. 342.
Two stories in one book. 1. A madman wants to take down Ranger and a comrade in arms and tries to get to them through Stephanie. 2. A high-reward skip of Stephanie is very much missing, and she finds out the grisly cause of that. All this has the result that she is in mortal danger twice in one day.

* Janet Evanovich, "Explosive Eighteen", headline review, 2011, pp. 342.
Probably the most complicated adventure to date. Stephanie finds a printout of an unknown man in her briefcase, and at least four parties are suddenly after her: the FBI, the fake FBI, i.e. the mob, the wife of the (deceased) owner of the printout, and a Somali secret agent. In the end the FBI bails out, the mob gets a warehouse blown up, the wife of the owner absconds with the money, and the Somali agent meets an untimely end. But much happens in between.

* Janet Evanovich, "Smokin' Seventeen", headline review, 2011, pp. 342.
"Vordo" time. The vordo spell is cast by Grandma Bella Morelli, and now Stephanie has to test men on their essential qualities, in addition to her day-to-day worries like catching a FTA (=failure-to-appear) who thinks he is a vampire. Three men line up, and she test-drives two of them, but the third man has sinister designs. Moreover through her work Stephanie has made two people angry enough to want to kill her. In the end all three gang up on her, she escapes and in the naturally ensuing event/accident one aspiring murderer kill the second; the third kills the first and goes to prison for it. The third to be tested but now dead man left her a good sum of money and she takes off on holiday with one of the test-driven men.

* Hanif Kureishi, "Intimacy (Secrets and Lies)", Faber and Faber, 2011, pp. 160.

* Kader Abdolah, "De kraai", in Dutch: The Crow, Stichting CPNB, Amsterdam, 2011, pp. 91.
Account of a fictitious, but partly autobiographical Iranian refugee to the Netherlands, with the crow witnessing all his actions.

* Kader Abdolah, "Geschreven portret", in Dutch: Written Portrait, Stichting CPNB, Amsterdam, 2011, pp. 64.
Partly in the form of an interview with no questions, partly in the form of comments on his books, this booklet allows the reader to see which elements of his other books are autobiographical.

* Caroline Blackwood, "Never Breathe a Word -- Collected Stories", Counterpoint, Berkeley, 2010, pp. 366.
Thirteen fictional stories about people in subtly and sometimes not so subtly awkward situations, followed by seven personal experiences in Ulster in the 1950s and 60s.

* Janet Evanovich, "Sizzling Sixteen", headline review, 2010, pp. 346.
There is no justice in the world. Vinnie, Stephanie's boss, has swindled Billy Sunflower, and Billy Sunflower has swindled Blutto the Bulgarian Bull. But Blutto, rather than considering Vinnie his ally against Billy, declares him his archenemy. This results in both Billy's and Vinnie's offices being torched, hence the title and the cover, which for once matches the title. Fortunately the Hobbits come to the rescue.

* Janet Evanovich, "Finger Lickin' Fifteen", headline review, 2009, pp. 373.
Should have been book 13, the book in which everything went wrong. Stephanie's relationship with Morelli is in the sink; her apartment is barbecue-sauced by an exploding pressure cooker; her apartment is fire-bombed by two crazed chef-cook murderers; her skips are all escaping her; she ruins two cars in one day; the cook-off in which she participates predictably goes up on flames; and the 1 million dollar award for catching the chef-cook murderers turns out to be non-existent. But she does find out that Ranger's company is almost ruined by two bored teen-age nerds.

* Mark Haddon, "boom!", David Fickling Books, 2009, pp. 195.

* Janet Evanovich, "Fearless Fourteen", headline review, 2008, pp. 372.
Four men rob a bank, one is caught and goes to prison. When he is released, the four go after the nine million dollars, but two turn up dead and one disappears. The last man standing is after Stephanie, who only knows his voice and his shoes. Then she recognizes the voice...

* Rebecca Miller, "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee", Canongate, Edinburgh, 2008, pp. 231.

* Janet Evanovich, "Lean Mean Thirteen", headline review, 20??, pp. 346.
Stephanie's ex husband and sleazy lawyer Dickie Orr is missing with blood stains in his office and Stephanie is the first suspect. And then his even more sleazy associates begin to turn up dead.

* Charles Lewinsky, "Johannistag", dtv, München, 2007, pp. 316.
Eine ziemlich langweilige Geschichte, beschrieben in wunderschönem Deutsch. / A rather boring story described in superbly beautiful German.

* Janet Evanovich, "Twelve Sharp", St. Martin's, New York, 2007, pp. 322.
Ranger's daughter is kidnapped by fake Ranger.

* Abdelkader Benali, "De soefi", in Dutch: The Sufi, VU Uitgeverij, Amsterdam, 2007, pp. 62.
Tale of an Iraqi-Dutch refugee Sufi teacher, whom the events of the world have put in a very complex situation. But the book stops way before the issues are resolved (and resolved they must be). This may be very artsy, but it is also very unsatisfying.

* Minda Webber, "The Reluctant Miss Van Helsing", Love Spell, February 2006, pp. 342.

* Janet Evanovich, "Motor Mouth", Harper Collins, 2006, pp. 396.
Second book about Alexandra Barnaby and Hooker. A&H happen upon an illegal component chip in a rival race car, and steal the trailer containing the race car with the chip to analyse it, only to find a dead body in the trailer. It gets worse from there, with some pretty distasteful details, unfortunately.

* Janet Evanovich, "Eleven on Top", St. Martin's, New York, 2005, pp. 321.
Mortician takes revenge from the past.

* Janet Evanovich, "Metro Girl", Harper/Collins, London, 2005, pp. 393.
First book about Alexandra Barnaby, race car mechanic, Hooker, race car driver, and Beans, the 150-pound St. Bernhard.

* Marina Lewycka, "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian: A Novel", Penguin Press, 2005, pp. 304.

* Janet Evanovich, "Ten Big Ones", St. Martin's, New York, 2004, pp. 319.
Stephanie's unintended blood feud with a gang chief is settled by a drag queen, who in the process earns ten big ones.

* Hari Kunzru, "Transmission", Penguin Books, London, 2004, pp. 281.
Indian computer hacker creates virus that in the end, and perhaps unintentionally, allows him and a Bollywood actress to find an undisturbed niche in the madding world.

* Mark Haddon, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time", Vintage, 2004, pp. 272.
Autistic boy solves the riddle of the disappearance of his mother.

* Janet Evanovich, "To the Nines", Headline Books, London, 2003, pp. 372.
Stephanie's hunt for a missing computer geek leads her to find the Web Master.

* Saskia Noort, "Terug naar de kust", in Dutch: Back to the Coast, Ambo, Amsterdam, 2003, pp. 244.
This is a thriller, not a detective story. No sleuthing is done, and the story just evolves until it becomes clear who did what and why. Unfortunately the 'how' is not explained; I find it very difficult to visualize how the perpetrator could have done all these deeds and not be noticed.

* Janet Evanovich, "Hard Eight", Headline Books, London, 2002, pp. 339.
Stephanie's hunt for a missing child who found a medal gets her entangled with a very nasty outgrowth of the mob, the members of which include a killer rabbit and a supercreep. They are killed by Stephanie's mother and a dark stranger, probably.

* Nancy Schoenberger, "Dangerous Muse -- The Life of Lady Caroline Blackwood", Da Capo Press, 2002, pp. 377.

* Caroline Blackwood, "Great Granny Webster", New York Review Books, New York, 2002,c1977, pp. 108.
Documentary-style attempt at understanding the almost caricaturally one-dimensional life of Great Granny Webster, from four points of view: 1. the author's as a 14-year old, during a two-week visit in 1945; 2. as told to the author by her aunt Lavinia; 3. twice removed, as told to the author by a friend of her father's; and 4. again the author's, at GGW's funeral. GGW successfully resists the attempt.
The chronology is strained: GGW married in 1876, which puts her birth at not much later than 1859, and she died in 1962, at the age of at least 103, fittingly leaving her almost unassailable even by death.
The character of GGW is (loosely) based on Caronline's grandmother Brenda Woodhouse. Her chronology differs considerably, however, from that of GGW. Brenda Woodhouse was born circa 1887, and died July 17, 1946 (at age 59). She married twice, to Frederick Blackwood on June 20, 1908 (at age 21), and to Henri Sommerset on Jan 28, 1932 (at age 45).
A good but not fascinating read, interesting for its curiousness.

* Douglas Coupland, "All Families Are Psychotic", Flamingo/HarperCollins, Hammersmith, 2001, pp. 279.

* Janet Evanovich, "Seven Up", Headline Books, London, 2001, pp. 373.
A bizarre misunderstanding between a hard-of-hearing senior criminal and his boss leads to a bizarre crime. The crazy wife of the victim goes to extreme countermeasures, putting two zonked-out oafs in mortal danger. Stephanie gets involved because the old man is wanted independently for a minor crime. She avoids becoming part of the crazy wife's plan by hitting her with a power saw, and brings in the senior criminal by attrition.

* Catherine Millet, "La vie sexuelle de Catherine M.", in French: The Sexual Life of Catherine M., Seuil, Paris, 2001, pp. 221.

* Josephine Hart, "The Reconstructionist", Overlook, Woodstock, 2001, pp. 218.
Disappointing story of a psychiatrist who tries to hide an implausible family secret from the reader until page 213. One-dimensional, in that each character has only one role.

* Jane Moore, "fourplay", Orion, London, 2001, pp. 325.

* Naomi Klein, "No Logo", Flamingo/HarperCollins, Hammersmith, 2000, pp. 490.

* Janet Evanovich, "Hot Six", Pan Books, London, 2000, pp. 324.
Somewhat confusing story in which one of Stephanie's two boy friends, Ranger, get accused of murder, everybody including the murder victim follows Stephanie hoping she will lead them to said Ranger, and in the end Ranger arrests the murder victim. Then there is a bag of money floating around, which ends up in the hands of two deserving adherents of creative living.

* Janet Evanovich, "High Five", Pan Books, London, 1999, pp. 336.
It all began with Uncle Fred wanting to find out why his garbage was not collected, and it ended with a cheating bank manager shooting a berserk Ramirez. And Stephanie gets her man with help from the otherwise despicable son of an Arab sheik.

* Frank van Rijn, "De twee scherven -- Een ontdekkingsrijk door China", in Dutch: The Two Shards -- A voyage of discovery through China, Elmar, Rijswijk, 1998, pp. 246.
Account of a -fortunately- rather uneventful 4500 km bicycle trip from Peking to the Kunjirap pass (Pakistan border), and of the Ming and Qing shards and how they did not reach Pakistan.

* Béatrice Nicodème, "Un détective de mauvais poil", in French: A Bad-Fur Detective, Hachette Jeunesse, 1998, pp. 122.

* Janet Evanovich, "Four to Score", Pan Books, London, 1998, pp. 311.
Stephanie is called upon to bring in Eddie Kuntz, which seems easy enough. But to impress his girlfriend Maxine, Eddie has stolen the plates from his counterfeit dollars printing aunt and uncle. Maxine has run with the plates and is blackmailing aunt and uncle. Stephanie, following the trail, ends up in the forgers' house, but is rescued by Lula.

* John Wilson, "The Disappearance of Lyndsey Barratt", HarperCollins, Hammersmith, 1997, pp. 435.
Very intriguing novel about a very carefully planned and meticulously executed (and described!) revenge.

* Victor Martinez, "Parrot in the Oven -- mi vida", HarperTrophy, 1996, pp. 216.
Eleven episodes in the life of a 15 year old Mexican-American boy in a project in an American city with scorching hot summers and freezing cold winters. The book is written in the first person, in an very polished and literary prose, which makes it totally implausible. Sample sentence: "When I neared the pharmacy, the sun was knifing a big blue hand through the ghosts of fog, sweeping them away like cobwebs." (p. 160-161). In the end the protagonist finds peace after being mistaken for a good guy during a robbery.

* Robert Harris, "Enigma", Arrow, London, 1996, pp. 454.

* Janet Evanovich, "Three to Get Deadly", Penguin Books, London, 1996, pp. 300.
Uncle Mo, for 40 years owner of the local candy shop, is on the run, and dead bodies of drug pushers are turning up everywhere he is being seen. So many burg citizens assume that Mo is cleaning up the neighbourhood and are applauding him for it. But it turns out that quite a different local worthy and his vigilantes are doing the killing.

* Janet Evanovich, "Two for the Dough", Penguin Books, London, 1996, pp. 301.
Stiva, the replacement undertaker, is a creep; Kenny, his buddy, is a crazy criminal; and Moogey, his other buddy, is too stupid to find his own nose. Together they've hatched out a crime, and now they are cheating each other. Kenny is missing, Moogey is dead, and Stephanie does not suspect Stiva enough. Until someone of the above kidnaps Grandma Mazur, and Stephanie gets real angry.

* Christopher Fowler, "Psychoville", Warner Books, London, 1995, pp. 417.
This book is a slow starter. Almost exactly the first half (209 pages) is dedicated to setting the scene, Invicta Cross, a small town thrown up in the 1980s on the border of urban and rural England; the story itself starts on page 211, and then takes off in high gear, detailing the settlement of bills of ten years earlier. As expected, the reader soon finds out that perhaps not all was what it seemed. In the end (page 417) it all ends more satisfactorily than one would expect from the actions of three such damaged/crazy people.

* Lonnie Barbach, PhD., "Erotic Interludes", Plume, New York, 1995, pp. 278.

* Janet Evanovich, "One for the Money", Penguin Books, London, 1994, pp. 290.
The first in the interminable, very amusing and highly readable series about Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter extraordinary.
Joe Morelli, a cop with an ambiguous relationship with Stephanie is accused of shooting an unarmed villain; he is on the run, and Stephanie is determined to bring him in and earn the \$10,000 award. Complicating the matter are Ranger, a super bounty hunter who has taken Stephanie under his wings and more; Ramirez, a mean boxer; Lula, an oversized hooker; and Carmen, a police informant who is missing. Bad things happen, and in the end the manager of Ramirez, who has diversified into drugs smuggling gets his come-uppance, and Stephanie brings in her man and proves him innocent.

* Hanif Kureishi, "The Buddha of Suburbia", faber & faber, London, 1990, pp. 284.
Rise and eventual settlement of an Indian boy/man, Karim, in the pre/post Thatcher London Area. It becomes increasingly less clear who is the Buddha of suburbia, Karim or his father, whose antics to a large extent determine the path of Karim's life.

* Françoise Rey, "La femme de papier", Ramsay, --, 1989, pp. 186.

* Caroline Blackwood, "Corrigan", New York Review of Books, 2002,c1984, pp. 319.

* Martin Cruz Smith, "Gorky Park", Simon & Schuster, 1981, pp. 559.
A Russian-American business man has smuggled sabres (the animals) out of the Soviet Union, to break the SU's monopoly on sabre fur, and to get rich. In the process he has murdered three witnesses in the SU, and a sabre has escaped in the USA. So there are loose ends on both sides of the Atlantic.
Two Soviet secret agencies, two American secret agencies, our detective Renko Arkady, and a New-York cop whose brother was one of the murdered witnesses all stick their fingers in. In the end everybody is dead with the exception of our detective, his not-girlfriend, and the smuggled sabres.
The book is dead-serious (with emphasis on dead), the dialogues are often cryptic, and the required border crossings and smuggling methods are either shaky or not explained.

* Mikszáth Kálmán, "The Siege of Beszterce", Corvina Kiadó, Budapest, 1965, pp. 423.

* Saikaku Ihara, "This Scheming World", Tuttle, Rutland, Vt., 1965, pp. 128.

* Gerald Durrell, "Ha-ya'ar hashikor", in Hebrew: The Drunken Forest, Am Oved, Tel Aviv, 1963, pp. 197.

* Hubert Lampo, "De komst van Joachim Stiller", in Dutch: The Coming of Joachim Stiller, Meulenhoff, 1960, pp. 191.
A magic-realistic novel. On a cold winter morning late in 1944 a German V-I flying bomb hit a tram on the Teniersplaats in Antwerp, killing many people among whom a U.S. army Major named Joachim Stiller and the 10-years old daughter of Mr. Keldermans, later to become an alderman of said city. The passport of Major Stiller was found ripped from his clothes by a 22-years old student, Freek Groenevelt, later to become the first person singular of this book.
Fifteen years later, the souls of the deceased Major and the young girl team up to bring together in this world this Freek Groenevelt and the 25-years old Simone Marijnissen, who reminds Mr. Keldermans strongly of his deceased daughter. But due to communication problems between this universe and the hereafter, their hints and pointers continue to confuse and mystify everybody including the reader. Anyway, that is what my rational mind makes of it... (They do succeed in their effort.) For a more factual summary see the Wikipedia, both in English and in Dutch.
The author neglects to tell that the army truck that killed the returning Joachim Stiller on his arrival to a meeting with Freek, Simone and Mr, Keldermans, was found not to exist; but the reader has already guessed that...

* Françoise Sagan, "Dans un mois. dans un an", Julliard, 1957, pp. 184.

* Frederik van Eden, "De kleine Johannes", Manteau, Brussel, 1887, pp. 151.