Five very different books came across my desk recently and
some of them looked very interesting. Sadly, they did not
live up to the covers' hype.
One of the most promising was Live by Night (Hachette
NZ), written by Dennis Lehane, the author of Shutter
Island, a book that kept many a reader awake at night.
Live by Night involves Joe Coughlin, who, we learn at
the start of the book, is about to swim with the fishes with
his feet firmly encased in concrete.
The book is a look at his life and loves as he rises from a
small-time hood to a full-time gangster and back to a
small-time hood. Intertwined with Coughlin's life is that of
his first real love, Emma Gould. Gould is the mistress of one
of Boston's meanest gang bosses and she sells out Coughlin to
save her own life. Eventually, Coughlin moves on and up and
deals with the gang bosses while still carrying a torch for
Gould. There is a delightful twist to the plot regarding
getting firearms off a boat stranded in Florida. But it is a
book best read fast over a weekend.
Sutton, by J.R. Moehringer (HarperCollins), is one of
those frustrating books that has passages of story in the
present then uses italics when telling the story in and of
the past. Willie Sutton was born in the squalid Irish slums
of Brooklyn and is one of life's losers, spending a fair
proportion of his life behind bars. Like Coughlin in Live
by Night, he falls in love with a woman and that love
haunts him all his life. Sutton is spending a day out with a
reporter and a photographer in an ''exclusive'' deal on one
of his worst crimes. It is seriously dreary at times. There
is a nice unusual touch about Sutton coming to terms with his
lost love, but the book is hard going.
Thankfully, The Bat (Harvill Secker) has been
published and we can all know why Harry Hole - the creation
of Jo Nesbo - is such a troubled man. The Bat is the first
Harry Hole thriller and it has troubled me why my favourite
anti-hero is, well, so troubled. But the book reveals all
during Hole's trip to Australia. The book is certainly not up
to recent Nesbo standards, but at least it retrospectively
sets the scene.
Harlan Coben has been a favourite author in the past and
Seconds Away (Hachette NZ) starts promisingly.
Basketball jock Mickey Bolitar and his new friends Ema and
Spoon find themselves at the centre of a murder investigation
involving their classmate Rachel. Again, the book drifts away
from the reader on so many levels before returning to what
becomes an over-the-top ending. Readers are asked to suspend
logic to digest this book.
The writing factory known as James Patterson has combined
with Michael White to produce another in the Private series,
this one entitled Private OZ (Random House). Authors
and publishers decry that people do not buy actual books
these days, instead downloading them legally through sites
such as Amazon or illegally through file-sharing sites. This
latest output by Patterson could be seen as a reason for
never again buying a book. Some chapters are but a few
paragraphs long. Some pages have large expanses of white with
two sentences at the top of a page to end a chapter. There is
a happy ending of sorts for the beautiful people and pain and
anguish for the rest. Read it if you must, but you have been
- Dene Mackenzie is a Dunedin writer.