Recently Added

I like a good mystery

January 19, 2012

I don't read fiction. The experience was spoiled for me 30 years ago when, as an English major, I was tasked with dissecting and analysing every assigned reading as if performing a post mortem. In the years that followed, I found myself unable to resist studying the author's structure, story flow, character development… right down to a grammar check and asking "why this choice of word instead of another?" It doesn't make for a pleasurable read, to be certain.

Two years ago, I picked up a classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This was one of those rare books (Pulitzer Prize) that made for an equally excellent movie (three Academy Awards, eight nominations). Gregory Peck's character, Atticus Finch, was named by the American Film Institute as the greatest movie hero of the 20th century.

The book was required reading in Grade 8, though, so a re-read forty years later doesn't count. I was having a look to decide whether or not it would be age-appropriate for my daughter, then just 10 years of age. Having enjoyed the movie more times than I can count on my fingers, there was no mystery here to unravel. I was just studying again. Found myself Googling the author and learned that one of the characters was based on her own childhood friend and across-the-fence neighbour, Truman Capote. Didn't know that.

In any event, both the book and the movie are well worth the time. Among the best on both counts.

Early this week, I decided to pick up another blast from the past, The Comedians by Graham Greene. While I've enjoyed a number of his works (The Heart of the Matter, for example), I quickly remembered why I'd forgotten this one. Heavy and depressing… even more depressing than Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. I started it, so I finished it, and was glad to banish the book from my sight forever more.

Again, I'd already read that one, too, so it didn't count.

So… I don't read fiction… or rather, until late evening two days ago, I didn't read fiction. My wife tossed a book my way, encouraging me to give it a chance. She'd just finished reading it and was already busy digging into the next one by the same author. At 841 pages, I said, this better be a great book. If I'm going to invest the time, it needs to be no less than outstanding. As a good friend of mine says regularly, the opportunity cost is pretty high if it doesn't pay off (lol – sorry, Don… couldn't resist).

Well, I read a couple of hundred pages that night, enough to give it the chance to lure me in or push me away. I picked it up again late last night, thinking about making it through another couple of hundred pages. At 6:02 this morning, I switched off the itty-bitty-book-light and closed the book – finished. Need I say more?

I was still studying the author, I must confess. May never find the cure to that. At the same time, I was entirely captivated by this book. The character development and presentation were layered deep… think phyllo pastry. Intersecting plot lines and puzzles coming from many directions, some parallel, some perpendicular, and some just plain off the map. No shortage of intrigue here. Social and political commentary is relevant. Its indictment of the financial press is stinging and very much on topic. From the closing pages, "You had to choose between your role as a journalist and your role as a human being." Not sure I'm fully in line with the distinction, but life is not black and white and this book makes no attempt to present it as such.

The effort to address personal issues of trust and respect is nuanced and provocative. The search for answers to the many puzzles introduced is a stubborn call to the fundamentals. Misinformation and misinterpretation run rampant. Not the easiest read at 3:30 a.m., but I couldn't put it down.

The subject matter, itself, is not child's play, and I do not recommend this as a book for young teens. This is complex matter under consideration.

The uninitiated are certainly at risk of serious injury. There are a great many obstacles thrown in the path along this journey. Deceit, paranoia, fear and greed, of course, bureaucracy, laziness… or is that the redundancy of bureaucracy and laziness?...  Enter at your own risk.

In the end, of course, all the elements merge into one coherent picture, though the opportunity for lively discussion and debate continues.

Will integrity, skill, and persistence win the day? As in most things, there is not just one battle underway here, so that's not an easy question to answer. You'll have to read the book for yourself before deciding.

I just love a good mystery…

Oh… the book, by the way, is called: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, by the late Stieg Larsson. Five stars all the way.

Be well,

Kevin Graham

I welcome your feedback. Feel free to contact me by e-mail.

To help me avoid receiving a ton of spam, I’ll ask that you please replace the parenthetic content, and the parentheses, of course, with the @ sign. Thanks.

kevin(at sign)