Tuesday, June 27, 2017

THE HEART OF PRINCESS OSRA – Anthony Hope

Poor Princess Osra. For her, men kill, allow themselves to be killed, go mouth-foaming mad, give up worldly riches, all, we must believe, charmed solely by her beautiful face. Other than her height--she is tall—we are told nothing of her physicality below the chin. This is not a failing of author Anthony Hope, who wrote The Heart of Princess Osra in Victorian England when proper literature required readers to lean a tad heavier on imagination than today's. Heart, on the other hand, was as much a code for love back then as it is now. Nor have the varied applications of love varied noticeably over the subsequent centuries, and perhaps even in previous ones, as Osra is set more than a century back, in the early seventeen hundreds.

Today's male readers not accustomed to imagining female pulchritude beyond such descriptions as blitzkrieg bazookas and gams that never quit need not fear Hope's clues too subtle to stoke a healthy libidinal pulse. Hope knew women and men who loved women. He knew attraction's nuances, of which physical beauty is only a part. He demonstrates this acuity in the deliciously clever scene between Osra and the Marquis de Mérosailles, a French nobleman and friend of Osra's brother Rudolf, crown prince of the fictitious Germanic country Ruritania.

The marquis and Rudolf have bet the marquis cannot win three kisses from Osra, who is noted for her indifference to men's charms. To win her sympathy first, the marquis feigns a grave illness that has him bedridden. The ruse works so well, with Osra fussing over him, and even kissing him once on the forehead, that the marquis, having fallen in love and feeling rotten for what he did to her, confesses and rides off into the forest to kill himself. Osra, whose first reaction is rage at being fooled, then realizes maybe the marquis does love her, and rides off after him to prevent the suicide. She catches up with him and says she forgives him:
"I cannot believe that you forgive. The crime is so great," said he.
"It was great: yet I forgive."
"I cannot believe it," said he again, and he looked at the point of his sword, and then he looked through the leaves at the Princess.
"I cannot do more than say that if you will live, I will forgive. And we will forget."
"By heaven, no," he whispered. "If I must forget to be forgiven, then I will remember and be unforgiven."
The faintest laugh reached him from among the foliage.
"Then I will forget, and you shall be forgiven," said she...

So intricate and playful a dance of words one can almost see erotic sparks lighting the forest around them. Alas, however, after a third kiss from Osra, the marquis flees the guards her father, the hot-headed King Henry, has sent into the forest to find her. Back at the castle, she muses over her ill-conceived, ill-fated dalliance: “'Why I kissed him the first time I know; it was in pity. And why I kissed him the second time I know; it was in forgiveness. But why I kissed him the third time, or what that kiss meant, heaven knows.'

And she went in with a smile on her lips.”

While these stories on the surface are about Osra's face and the power it has to make men do brave and foolish things in her behalf, ultimately it's her heart, her quest to understand love, that ties them together. She's attracted to some of her suitors, admires them, finds them not wanting in any way, and wishes she could love them as they love her. But to no avail. Meeting a couple of men who clearly do not love her, while they rouse her competitive feminine wiles, fail to awaken whatever it is in her heart she needs to feel love.
One of these men, Prince Ludwig of Glottenberg, offers this insight after she finds him with his secret dying wife: “For though you are more beautiful than she, yet true love is no wanderer; it gives a beauty that it does not find, and forges a chain no charms can break. Madame, farewell."
And Osra was for a long time very sorrowful for the fate of the lady whom the Prince of Glottenberg had loved; yet, since she saw Ludwig no more, and the joy of youth conquers sadness, she ceased to mourn; but as she walked alone she would wonder more and more what it might be, this great love that she did not feel.

The Heart of Princess Osra is the prequel in Hope's famous trilogy that began with The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel, Rupert of Hentzau. Critics have deemed Osra not as memorable as the other two. Maybe it's just me, whom the critics no doubt would deem most accurately a sentimental fool, but I've become rather stuck on Princess Osra.
 

[Find more Friday's Forgotten Books links at Todd Mason's amazingly eclectic blog]



Monday, June 26, 2017

Paleo Prophet



The unmuffled internal combustion engine
forewarns our demise;
hated to say this, but how can we avoid
the implications? An unwitting clarion,
celebrating the unchecked universal appetite
as it powers the fragile steel skin
that emboldens with its roaring illusion of invulnerability
the puny hominid on the upholstered seat within,
perched amid the stink and detritus
of cheap forgettable delights.

We are insatiable,
consuming with gusto the stuff of fantasy,
pleasant poisons in pleasing disguises,
growing fat, sassy, sick and unrepentant, overladen,
fooling ourselves with easy aphorisms,
that belittle with cheap irony niggling doubt,
and fairly staunch malignant dread;
the billboard smirk says live for today
and whatever gets you through the night,
for tomorrow...well, tomorrow
might never come.

Denial is getting harder and harder,
the sarcasm harsher, brittler;
realistic hope is fraying on the rasp of inevitability;
the tragic lovers ride their roaring bucket with glee,
while the stubborn gather kindred souls
to join in their Xanadu dream.


-- M.D. Paust



Monday, June 19, 2017

GOD'S RED SON: The Ghost Dance Religion and the Making of Modern America – Louis S. Warren

Sitting here trying to think of how to begin my reaction to this enormous, daunting history, God's Red Son, a memory from my sadly distant childhood has just popped into my head. I was in what today is called middle school—fifth or sixth grade—and we were getting ready for parents night. As class let out for the day, I glanced at the desks of my fellow pupils, upon which our teacher had placed the most recent essay we'd written. I could see that whatever the single sheet of paper on the desk of my friend John contained was much briefer than mine and probably all of our classmates'. I leaned down and read the single sentence: I don't know what to write. I left the room wondering what John's mother and father would think when they visited the classroom with the other parents that night. As I sit here now, though, about to conclude this opening paragraph, I feel a deep empathy with what John might have experienced so long long ago, sweaty fingers gripping his pencil, eyes frozen with stubborn panic on a blank sheet of paper.


This one's for you, John. I'm stuck here, just as you were then. But I've learned a trick or two, and I'll be damned if I can't push through that soul-numbing dread of failure, get something started at least, keep alive hope the words will find me.

We grew up in the neighborhood playing cowboys and Indians. We took turns on either side despite our preferences. I believe I was Gene Autry that afternoon I was chasing you and J.J. through the backyard—or you guys were chasing me—and I slipped going up the grassy, stony incline from the Thiedes to the strip behind our duplex, right hand bracing my fall. I remember which hand because the three-stitch scar is still visible on the heel of my palm more than half a century later. Considerably more. Gadzooks.

We never wanted to be the Indians, because that meant we had to lose. Just as the Indians always deservedly lost in the movies we watched at the Rudalt Theater on weekends. Years later, at the University of Wisconsin, the jocks all took a Western history course they called “Cowboys and Indians.” They took it because it was said to be so easy even a jock could pass it without studying. I should have (might have) taken it, too, but if I did it must have been so bland I can't remember anything about it, or else I flunked it and am in denial . After reading God's Red Son I would assume the course taught that the Indian “threat” on the great frontier came to a blessed end with the Dec. 29, 1890, 7th Cavalry victory over a band of crazed, bloodthirsty Indians near the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. There, brave troopers crushed a murderous insurrection by vengeful savages who'd been whipped into atavistic hysteria by some mumbo jumbo hoodooboo called Ghost Dance.
Frozen corpses at site of Wounded Knee massacre

God's Red Son, written by an acclaimed professor of western US history at the University of California, puts the lie to all of that hooey. Prof. Louis S. Warren's meticulous research reveals how national economics, politics, ignorance, and misunderstanding of a new religion led to the cataclysmic massacre of 146 Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee Creek. The only specter to emerge in all of this was the idiotic notion the ghost-dancing Indians posed any threat at all, to anyone. Ghost dancers made up about a third of the 250,000 Indians reported by the 1890 census, compared with an estimated 63 million other Americans.
Frozen corpse of Chief Spotted Elk, also known as Big Foot, whose band of Lakota families was slaughtered by 7th Cavalry troopers at Wounded Knee Creek on Dec. 29, 1890

Practically everybody assumed that the teeming mass of Americans...would any day now engulf Indian villages and usher the native peoples, finally, into oblivion,” Warren writes.

It was in large part a response to signs of this imminent extinction that spawned the new religion, with its signature dance. It was a way to address the rapidly changing world, giving Indians hope to survive without turning their backs on their heritage, as the U. S. government demanded while stealing their land and herding them onto reservations. The non-Indians were restless in a crumbling economy, and drought was scorching the West:

Indian reservations occupied poor land that had little game and few wild plants of any use. In the withering heat, what grass was left by cattle and sheep (most of them owned by white ranchers) quickly shriveled. Scarce game vanished. By 1885, many Indians had turned their hand to farming, but in 1890 their crops wilted. Starvation, that old monster, circled the camps. It was thus not surprising that some Indians had turned to a new faith...In doing so, Indian believers unwittingly launched upon a collision course with the anxious American public.

Chief Spotted Elk (Big Foot), murdered at Wounded Knee Creek, was a famed mediator among the Lakota tribes, and was known for urging peace with whites.

This new religion started among a tribe of Northern Paiutes, known as “Fish Eaters,” who lived on the shores of Pyramid Lake in Nevada. It's founding prophet was a man called “Jack Wilson” after the ranch family name where he'd been employed since childhood. He was known also by his Indian name, Wovoka. Himself the son of a shaman, or holy man, Wovoka began getting attention in the tribe and neighboring ranches by appearing to control the weather, and with his extended trances, some lasting several days.

'He wasn’t shamming,' recalled Ed Dyer, the storekeeper who occasionally translated at Wovoka’s meetings with government investigators in the early 1890s. 'His body was rigid as a board. His mouth could not be pried open.… The whole matter is one to which I still confess considerable puzzlement.' Initially friends tried—and failed—to revive him, and some feared he was dead. But in time they became accustomed to his trances. Awakening after a full day or even two, [Wovoka] would describe entering heaven through the Milky Way, wrapped in a blanket. It was a strange story but hard to dismiss, for when he awoke he had ice in his hand.”



The message he claimed to bring back from these visits to “heaven” was hardly one to frighten the region's white settlers. In fact it was strikingly similar in many ways to the teachings of Christ: love one another, don't steal, don't fight, tell the truth, and “work for the white man.” Word of Wovoka's “miracles” reached tribes as far as Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Evidently it was the dancing that scared the settlers, who worried it meant the Indians were planning to make war. Reminiscent of the traditional Indian Sun Dance, the Ghost Dancers joined hands in a circle, rotating clockwise as they danced. They called it ghost dancing because it was intended to summon spirits of dead relatives and friends, as Wovoka had promised would happen. The federal government had banned the Sun Dance under an “assimilation” policy forcing Indians to give up their old ways and become “civilized.” Indians came long distances to attend this revival of the old dance under a new name and with new meaning. Some dances had hundreds of participants. Eventually a nervous reservation agent called for help, and President Benjamin Harrison sent troops west to put an end to the dancing.

The Wounded Knee massacre seemed to be just what the feds wanted, and for a while the Ghost Dancers danced with more discretion. But the religion was in no way stamped out.

The Ghost Dance,” Warren concludes...”was no last gasp of Indian resistance, but rather a movement that promised believers a means to [keep their Indian identity] while surviving conquest and the reservation era.”




[For more Friday's Forgotten Books check the links on Patti Abbott's unforgettable blog]

 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

DEAD MAN'S GUN, and Other Western Stories -- Ed Gorman

Of all the valuable stories in this collection "The Face" alone is worth many times more than the $2.99 you commit to download the book. Many times more. It is a masterpiece of craft, sensibility and sheer artistry. If you are uncomfortable with the image of the revolver pointing out from the cover of Dead Man's Gun, you may find solace in regarding it as a symbol of the cruel, true and timeless poetry "The Face" will fire into the depths of your heart.
 For this price, every high school history and English teacher in the country can afford to download it in the classroom, and every high school student should be assigned to read it. There need be no test given afterward. "The Face" will stay with them the rest of their lives, as it will with their teachers and with you, as it will with me. This I can guarantee without fear of contradiction by any who have read this brief, profound, elegant, haunting story, no matter their religion, their politics or their station in life.

I came to "The Face" because I am a longtime admirer of its author, the late Ed Gorman, a prolific, masterful spinner of tales in almost every genre imaginable. This book contains the first of his western stories I've read, and although westerns are not ordinarily my cup of tea those in
Dead Man's Gun are no less entertaining and enlightening than his mysteries and political thrillers - my preferred genres. "The Face", in fact, falls outside all three of these categories.
Ed Gorman
 It's a story from the American Civil War, as told by a Confederate battlefield surgeon. I'm something of a Civil War buff, having grown up in the Midwest and lived most of my adult life in Virginia. I do not exaggerate when I say "The Face" is the most sublime, horrifying and memorable Civil War story I have read. It may well be the most powerful anti-war story ever published. 
 
[For more Friday's Forgotten Books check the links on Patti Abbott's unforgettable blog]


 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

THE PRISONER OF ZENDA and RUPERT OF HENTZAU – Anthony Hope

I knew nothing of Anthony Hope or The Prisoner of Zenda, other than a vague familiarity with the intriguingly classic-sounding title, when I decided to download the novel's Kindle version some months ago. The decision was easy, I see now: free download. I've no recollection how I came to it, but assume the book was mentioned in something I was reading. It's entirely possible my literary advisor, Fictionaut's Kitty Boots, led me to Zenda indirectly (her tastes being more contemporary) via something she'd recommended. Then again the enticement might well have happened before Ms. Boots took me on as an advisee, about a year ago (zounds, how fleet doth time canst be!). For now, nay, its wherefore must of my own remiss remain a mystery, although I hereby pledge upon my honor as a descendant of Norse and European common blood to update this report with an insertion of the solution, should one emerge from memory--no matter the time elapsed--following publication. I offer this pledge in homage to the most honorable fictional faux king of the fictional Ruritania and his most honorable fictional cohorts.

Lord, what was I thinking, I muttered under my breath, when, after selecting Zenda from from my Kindle library following a delicious meal of two Nordic police mysteries by the incomparable (and barely pronounceable) Arnaldur Indridason, I began reading the 1894 prose of the delightfully pronounceable Anthony Hope:
"I wonder when in the world you're going to do anything, Rudolf?" said my brother's wife.
"My dear Rose," I answered, laying down my egg-spoon, "why in the world should I do anything? My position is a comfortable one. I have an income nearly sufficient for my wants (no one's income is ever quite sufficient, you know), I enjoy an enviable social position: I am brother to Lord Burlesdon, and brother-in-law to that charming lady, his countess. Behold, it is enough!"
Behold, indeed. It was to yawn when I first beheld those lines, and I returned it to the library. Then, a day or two later, feeling the pressure of an approaching Friday's Forgotten Books deadline and having failed to find anything else that tickled my fancy among my Kindles-in-waiting, I remembered how short Zenda was. Short!

Okay, I, widely grinning, almost said aloud, I can put up with the beholds, the egg-spoons and the musings of some indolent English aristocratic fop for 137 pages. This I can do. And I did. And the damned book was so much fun—a hoot, in fact--I downloaded its sequel, Rupert of Hentzau (also free) and read that, as well! Another hoot—I nearly bemoaned the lack of a third, despite knowing deep within my commoner's breast a third Zenda must would strain with mighty fervor to keep up with the first two, and still fall woefully short of hootitude, reprising for me the saga's inaugural yawn (and carrying us dangerously near that looming deadline). Well, okay, there is a prequel, The Heart of Princess Osra, set a century before, but I'm discounting it for various reasons, the main one being I discovered it too late.
So for now, two it must be. And here I should note that to describe these novels merely with the word hoot is to do them an injustice. Romp should be part of the descriptive mix, as well as suspenseful and thrilling and clever and smart (those last two are not necessarily synonymous). The hoot part comes with engaging a narrative draped in Victorian decorum and ethos from the vantage of a world obsessed with a typoed Tweet while slinking mindlessly toward climatological calamity.
The world of Zenda is one where we are lured to accept that love unto death can exist without so much as a whisper of lust, and that honor alone can compel a man to give up a royal crown, thus losing to another the woman he loves, without once saying, “I've got to live with myself.” This is not parody or satire or farce, although it is rich with droll humor—both intentional and not. The intricate plotting reminded me of the sort of outrageous tangles of expectation and fortune that enliven Shakespeare's comedies.
Rudolf, the indolent fop I mentioned above narrates the first novel, the one with Zenda in the title. On the road to observe the coronation of his distant cousin, also named Rudolf, as king of Ruritania, he becomes enmeshed in a scheme to save the throne from the cousin's evil brother, Michael, who has drugged the king to prevent him from receiving his crown. The political situation requires that a king be crowned on this particular day. Else Michael will usurp the throne in his place. Well, Rudolf the English fop just happens to be the spitting image of Rudolf the unconscious king. Thus, the king's loyal sidekicks...oh, you know what comes next. Rudolf the fop is crowned and promptly falls eternally in love with the king's betrothed, Princess Flavia—and she with him. Can we see the plot thickening here? Believe me, it doth. Yet, with all comedic tropes and nuances aside, I found something deeply refreshing with how things play out.
Black Michael (called such from his hair color, contrasting with his brother's red locks) abducts the unconscious Rudolf and locks him in a dungeon at the Zenda castle. There the real king remains for three months, wasting away, while his stand-in reigns with Princess Flavia, and with overwhelming popularity. Meanwhile the king's loyal sidekicks, now loyal to the stand-in, scheme to rescue the real king from Black Michael. Here's the refreshing part: do we suppose today, in the era of covfefe, should such a dilemma face a head of state—to rescue the real king and give up the crown or...is there any doubt? If the stand-in can get away with it? Would he today? Are we laughing yet? Or weeping?
Perhaps today's scenario is indeed the natural one, no matter what ethos prevails in what era, and this Victorian literature is only silly fantasy. Probably. Most likely. Hell, yes. Yet, Anthony Hope has given us believable characters who ruminate these tough questions and make us—me anyway—believe for the moment that human character is capable of rising to noble heights against all the demonstrable odds, covfefe or no. To me The Prisoner of Zenda is a triumph of hope by a fittingly named master.

    More demonstrations of this nobility are presented in the sequel, named for the villain in Zenda: Black Michael's most devious henchman, Rupert of Hentzau. I'd give too much away of Zenda to go into Rupert of Hentzau in any detail, save to say the suspense involves a document that could ruin Princess Flavia.
I'll leave off here with one quote from the English fop Rudolf, which gives a glimpse of the insight and wisdom Anthony Hope brought to these novels:He could not appreciate—I will not say an honest man, for the thoughts of my own heart have been revealed—but a man acting honestly.”
No covfefe there.




[Find more Friday's Forgotten Books links at Todd Mason's amazingly eclectic blog]


Thursday, June 1, 2017

REYKJAVIK NIGHTS + INTO OBLIVION – a twofer by Arnaldur Indridason

Yowyow. Say that, and you're speaking Icelandic. I learned it from Ransy, a photographer at the newspaper we worked at. I overheard her on the phone to a relative in (or from) Iceland. She was speaking an unfamiliar tongue. I asked and she explained after hanging up. She'd been saying yowyow a lot during the conversation. I asked her what it meant. “Yes?” she said. “Yowyow,” I said again. “What does yowyow mean?” “Yes,” she said again. “Yes? Yowyow means yes in Icelandic?” She laughed. “Yes, it means yes.
Remembering the charm of this little language lesson might explain my hesitation before deciding to try one of Arnaldur Indridason's Inspector Erlendur mystery novels. For one, I suspected my tongue might get tangled in what's left of my molars asking a librarian to put anything by one of Iceland's most popular authors on hold for me. Overriding this potential nightmare was my difficulty in assuming I could accept at all seriously a fictional police officer saying yowyow in any but the most comically painful circumstances.
I needn't have worried about the yowyow, although I did get a few laughs from the little quirks in Victoria Cribbs's translation, such as “drink-driving'” and “He was in his shirtsleeves, his flies were undone...” On second thought, I suppose more than one fly might have to be negotiated with the layered clothing Icelanders presumably wear during that arctic rim country's sub-zero, blizzardy winters. Then again, who but the keenest-eyed of police inspectors in any climate might notice such lapses in sartorial propriety beyond the outer layer? Inspector Erlendur perhaps? Well, yowyow!


Not that Erlendur (Sveinsson--Icelanders refer to each other by first names) finds this evidence to be of even the scantiest value in Reykjavik Nights, which leads me to pin the blame for such excessive acuity on Ms. Cribbs—with a wink from Sigmund Freud, of course. Nor do “flies” play any role in its sequel, Into Oblivion. Loopy translations aside, I read both books back-to-back, entranced, after the bracing slap of awareness I no longer had to try to say “Arnaldur Indridason” to any of our savvy, though deeply empathic, librarians. I found the Kindle versions.
I owe my vicarious Icelandic trips to an enthusiastic blurb by novelist/crime writer Patti Abbott, founding host of the Friday's Forgotten Books weekly blog feature (hosted this week by Todd Mason), to which I and dozens of others contribute. “Indridason is a master at plot, creating memorable characters, and evoking Iceland during World War II and today,” Patti writes. “His detective has a compelling personal life, is likable and gets the job done.”
I looked over the list of fourteen Inspector Erlendur novels, and lucked out when I picked Reykjavik Nights, one of the more recent in the series but a prequel to those in which Erlendur is a bona fide detective. In this one he's still a junior cop, a patrolman, who uses his own time to investigate a disappearance and a drowning. His diligence impresses one of the department's longest-serving detectives, Marion, who tells Erlendur, “Get in touch with me if you’re interested in doing more of this kind of sleuthing.” It comes near the conclusion of Reykjavik Nights.
By now I am hooked, and identify among the other thirteen books the succeeding prequel, Into Oblivion, the first in the series with Erlendur as a detective. I soon learn Erlendur has been a detective only two years after waiting several years before taking Marion up on his offer. I also learn Erlendur has a five-year-old daughter. The mother is never identified, but presumably is Halldóra, his girlfriend in Reykjavik Nights. The girl appears briefly in a single touching scene, with Erlendur seeing her on a playground:
Erlendur hunched his shoulders against the cold and headed back to his car, thinking about the little girl and himself and what a mess he had made of things. One day he hoped he would have a chance to explain to his daughter who he was and why he’d had to leave.
Of course I must read the other dozen novels to find out, too. But don't expect me to reveal it here, in another Friday's Forgotten Books report. Nuh uh. You'll have to find it out on your own. And if you get there ahead of me you might also get to peer deeper into the darkness that's clouded Erlendur's heart from the childhood loss of his brother in a blizzard:
Bergur had been only eight years old when he disappeared in a blizzard and was never found. The incident had set an indelible mark on Erlendur’s soul. He had been out there with Bergur but lost hold of his hand, and later had been rescued, more dead than alive, from a snowdrift. Ever since then he had been wrestling with the question of why Bergur should have suffered such a cruel fate while he himself was spared.
So Patti Abbott is spot-on when she mentions Erlendur's “compelling personal life,” which, apart from his professional obligations, drives him in his investigations. In both novels the fate of a person gone missing grabs and holds his interest in addition to the mystery of an unnatural death. His obsession extends to collecting accounts of morbid deaths in the unforgiving landscape and climate of Iceland, a tiny country of fewer than 340,000 citizens living on only 40,000 square miles:


When he was in his teens, and bored with life in the city, he had taken to browsing in antiquarian bookshops. One day he had chanced upon a series of volumes recently acquired from a house clearance, a collection of true stories about people going missing or getting lost on their travels in Iceland. Some had survived to tell of their own ordeals, but there were also second-hand accounts of incredible feats of endurance or of tragic surrender to the forces of nature. Erlendur had not realized that such tales existed in print. He devoured the entire series and ever since then he had been collecting books, and anything else he could find, about human suffering in shipwrecks, avalanches or on the old roads that crossed the Icelandic wilderness.
Author Indridason (glad I don't have to read this out loud) does not give us much to go on as to Erlendur's physical appearance, leaving it up to our imaginations. One scene in Reykjavik Nights gives us a clue, noting that he's “powerfully built” and had done some boxing—this just before he defends himself by decking his attacker with two blows to the gut. I should note here that Icelandic police do not carry firearms. In Into Oblivion, an elderly woman wonders why he's so intent on digging into past sadness. “‘You’re very serious,’ she said, ‘for such a young man. Why are you…why are you doing this?’ Erlendur had no answer ready. Why was he doing this? Why couldn’t he leave well alone? Why did he have to reopen old wounds and wallow in grief and loss? ‘Is it something to do with those mournful eyes of yours?’ she asked. ‘Has anyone ever told you? What beautiful eyes you’ve got?’"

I enjoyed both novels, although in part for different reasons. While the principal characters and Iceland's uniqueness provide continuity, Reykjavik Nights is set in summer, during the months of “midnight sun.” The nights, Erlendur muses, reflecting on his night shift as a patrolman, were “so strangely sunny and bright, yet in another sense so dark and desperate.” Into Oblivion takes place in the harsh winter, with news accounts of a couple of men missing in “a ferocious blizzard” haunting Erlendur throughout the novel. In this one he's paired with Marion, a librarian before he joined the police force. Marion, serving as mentor/partner--almost a father figure to Erlendur--suffers his own haunted past that has nothing to do with shushing library patrons or fining them for overdue books.
The suspense is more immediate in Into Oblivion, with scenes that kept me on the edge of my recliner (assuming that's even possible) and clicking Kindle pages long past my usual bedtime. If you're thinking I'm going to try to be clever and get yowyow in one more time before closing out this report, trust me, I won't.

[Note: the aforementioned Patti Abbott is on vacation this week, but her loyal, diligent backup blogger, Todd Mason, has once again picked up the weight for Friday's Forgotten Books.]