Reviews: E-books and audiobooks: Nordic noir of Department Q is back
The Faithful Couple
by A.D. Miller
(read by Patrick Tolan)
A.D. Miller's second novel is being whispered about as a possible Man Booker contender. He has some form here: his debut, the excellent literary thriller Snowdrops, made the shortlist. The Faithful Couple has thrilling elements, but the story is psychological rather than procedural. Neil and Adam are friends, bonded by temperament but also their complicity in a spot of underage sex: exactly what happened during a teenage tour of Yosemite National Park shapes the central action of the novel. If the title hints at Neil and Adam's relationship, it can also cover almost every double-header in the story: the men's relationships with their much better halves, Jess and Claire; Neil's father, who is faithful in slightly creepy fashion to his dead wife; Adam's father, who demands his son honour his class and financial inheritance. The story both confirms and subverts their ambitions and expectations - and the past is never far behind. Patrick Tolan reads with a nicely casual ease. This is a smart if sobering dissection of 21st century masculinity.
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
(read by Steven Pacey)
Denmark's Jussi Adler-Olsen is one of the bigger fish in the Nordic Noir pond. As the dust jacket of his fifth instalment of the Department Q series trumpets, he has sold more than 10 million books. We follow hero Carl Morck as he traces a conspiracy from Denmark to Cameroon. At the centre is Marco Jameson, just about the only decent character in this dark but gripping tale. Marco's uncle, Zola, is a manipulative psychopath whose network of beggars in Copenhagen funds other nefarious financial activities. One of these involves fraud on a vast scale in Africa. When Zola threatens to maim Marco to improve his begging skills, Marco stumbles onto evidence of murder, financial crimes and cover-ups. Morck is a melancholy if likeable hero, supported as in the previous books by the enigmatic Assad (a mystery in himself) and Rose, his secretary. Steven Pacey's gruff tones sound oddly Shakespearean and suit this unpleasant fable of third-world exploitation, violence and human degradation. I'm just not sure about his Bantu accent.
The First Bad Man
by Miranda July
Miranda July is a filmmaker and conceptual artist who specialises in the offbeat. Previous projects include fabulous film Me and You and Everyone We Know. Cheryl Glickman is the narrator of The First Bad Man, whose relationships tend towards the obsessive. She is in love with Philip, and they both work for an organisation called Open Palm, a self-defence charity turned non-profit fitness club. Philip, she is convinced, has been her date in several previous lives. Similarly pseudo-Buddhist preoccupations are harboured about Kulbeko Bondy, a baby Cheryl met when she was six years old. Enter Clee, who is everything Cheryl isn't: young, self-confident and a little scary. There is hardly a straightforward sentence, idea or encounter: "I was woken up by the sound of limbs falling in the backyard" is characteristic of the impression of David Foster Wallace without the effervescent, intellectual heft. July reads her own novel, sounding a little breathy, a little monotonous, a little bored; she even makes mistakes. The overall effect is strange, desultory and intense, fun but tiring at the same time.