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Celebrating the Life

The Terra-cotta Dog

[Longhorn Review] The Terra-cotta Dog

Material Type: All, books — Tags: crime, mafia, murder, mystery, Sicily — Posted on June 25, 2008, 11:00 am

By: Camilleri, Andrea

Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series now numbers six or seven titles, and this
is one of the best. Originally written in Italian and set in Sicily, there is no
shortage of great scenery, good food, sly politics, corruption, and fatal mistakes.
As a good Sicilian cop, Inspector Montalbano doesn't reveal much as the story
develops - to the reader, his colleagues, or his girlfriend. Yet he is always
conscious of the multiple layers of meaning in the actions and words of his
superiors and his suspects alike. In keeping with the setting, there are classical
themes at work - notably tragedy and fate. Good and bad people alike overreach,
suffer, and occasionally pay a terrible price, or make fools of
themselves.Camilleri's characters, always strongly described, also share a streak of
rough and ancient comedy. As one translation of Artistotle's Poetics puts it, "the
ludicrous being merely a subdivision of the ugly", there is plenty of ugliness in
Sicilian life, and Camilleri uses it for great comic effect. Readers of Donna Leon's
books set in and around Venice will find here the antipode of northern Italian life.
The only disappointing thing about this and all of the Inspector Montalbano books is
that they end too soon.

Reviewer: Dennis Trombatore

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The Miracle at Speedy Motors

[Longhorn Review] The Miracle at Speedy Motors

Material Type: All, books — Tags: Botswana, detective fiction, mystery — Posted on August 1, 2008, 9:15 am

By: Alexander McCall Smith

Mma Ramotswe's good humor and good will continue to shine, and Alexander McCall
Smith continues to find engaging, non-life-threatening mysteries for her to solve in
this ninth book of the series (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency) set in Botswana. This
novel particularly touches on telling the truth (and how to react when people don't)
and deciding what to believe is the truth. Look for Jilly from Philly as Precious
Ramotswe in the forthcoming BBC adaptation of the series.

Reviewer: tonstant weader

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Little Scarlet

[Longhorn Review] Little Scarlet

Material Type: All, Books — Tags: Easy Rawlins, mystery, Watts riot — Posted on August 5, 2008, 10:25 am

By: Walter Mosley

Easy Rawlins is rough, self-assured, mature, street smart, definitely a man’s
man. A businessman who loves family and respects women, he is the amateur
investigator featured in 10 books by Walter Mosley.

It’s the 60’s – a violent time
in our history. An violence is the vehicle that Mosley uses to drive this story.

Watts 1965. For those who don’t know what went down, go Wiki it for the full 411.
But here’s a snapshot… Watts, is a black neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles,
California, that erupted violently in August 1965 after a white highway patrol
office stopped a black driver. Blacks in the neighborhood, like Blacks all over the
country during the 60’s were fed up with injustice. And more so with non-violent
protest. They gathered, observing this unusual traffic stop. They began throwing
rocks at the police. This escalated into five days of burning, looting, and
bloodshed. Blacks attached white people, fought police and shot at firefighters. It
took 15,000 National Guard troops to squash the rebellion.

Sounds familiar. Riots.
LA. 1992. Rodney King. Baby, there ain’t nothing new under the sun.

Watts, Los
Angeles, August 1965, five days after the riots began is where the story Little
Scarlet kicks off.

Ezekiel Rawlins, as the white folks called him, fronts as the
head custodian at Sojourner Truth High School while keeping a private investigator
business on the down low. You know the brother doesn’t have a PI license, but that
doesn’t stop him for helping folks in his community. Easy ain’t no push over, but
deep down he can’t get over his southern gentleman roots. Roots that lead back to
Louisiana and Texas. He enlists the help of several interesting characters including
his, shoot first and never ask questions, “ace boon coon”, Raymond Alexander, better
known as “Mouse”

In the aftermath of the riots 34 people are killed. Although the
news only reports 33, the 34th is a young black woman who the police suspects was
killed by a white man. They need Easy’s assistance in solving the crime, because
they would get nowhere with white cops investigating the murder of a black woman by
a white man. That would be just the spark needed to rekindle the riots.

Mosley, one
of the best-selling mystery writers, has weaved a story that is real, compelling,
engaging,…and puts the issue of black – white relations on blast. He does it in a
very easy and subtle way, which is contrasted with the way Easy moves through the

Yes, the story takes place in the aftermath of the Watts Riots…black-white

Yes, Easy is a black man who doesn’t trust the white police…black-white

Yes, there is the murder of a black woman by a white man – black-white

This tension explodes when Easy discovers who the murderer is and the fiery
rage that consumes him. Once the murderer is revealed, you will not be able to put
the book down. These are just a few of the many parallels that exist in the story.

You will definitely want to know what Easy and his friend Mouse gets into next.
There is a film in the works starring Jeffery Wright and Mos Def.

Reviewer: G. Perrin

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Chinaman’s Chance: A Novel

[Longhorn Review] Chinaman’s Chance: A Novel

Material Type: All, books — Tags: espionage, fiction, mystery, thriller — Posted on November 10, 2008, 2:00 pm

By: Thomas, Ross

Lines in the first paragraph pull you into a story that never follows a straight
line: “The pretender to the Emperor’s throne was a fat thirty-seven year old
Chinaman called Artie Wu who always jogged along Malibu beach right after dawn even
in the summer. It was while jogging along the beach just east of the Paradise Cove
Pier that Artie Wu tripped over a dead pelican, fell and met the man with six
greyhounds.” This book is about the ultimate con. You’re never sure until the very
end who is actually being conned and why. This is a character driven story and there
are is an amazing list of characters from Otherguy Overby, to the folk singing trio
of Ivory, Lace and Silk, though a former CIA agent who’s gone out on his own, to big
time record producer and the head of a criminal syndicate.

Reviewer: Susan Ardis

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A Beautiful Blue Death

[Longhorn Review] A Beautiful Blue Death

Material Type: All, books — Tags: detective fiction, fiction, mystery, Victorian — Posted on November 17, 2008, 11:08 am

By: Finch, Charles

Set in London in 1865, it’s true to the language and milieu (as far as I can
tell) and has an amalgam of elements of the classic British detective story and 19th
century novel: an aristocratic amateur detective and his valet, gentlemen’s clubs,
old boys, country houses and town houses, balls and bridge and afternoon tea. The
London winter is palpable and the understated romance between sleuth and lady

Reviewer: Janice Duff

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

[Longhorn Review] The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Material Type: All, Books — Tags: Adventure, mystery, Niels Arden Oplev, Stieg Larson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — Posted on May 2, 2011, 3:36 pm

By: Niels Arden Oplev

The film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was definitely a film that kept me on
the edge of my seat wondering what was coming next, that is after it got into the
plot anyway. At the same time it had me covering my eyes in disgust at many of the
scenes. There are several extreme rape and violence scenes, of which I have never
been exposed to before. Perhaps I am naive in the movie realm, but there were some
disturbing scenes and actions in this movie. I believe the director, Niels Arden
Oplev, took advantage of these scenes, also included in the book, to make the movie
more interesting and exciting.

A subject that I usually try to keep from my mind,
violence against women, was strongly brought out in this movie. Stemming from the
book, it seems as though the original author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
wished to show that violence against women is common in Sweden. This is specifically
shown through the life of Lisbeth Salander, who we see is abused sexually and
physically several times throughout the movie. As I mentioned before, these were
hard scenes to endure. One of which shows her being brutally raped by her mentor,
Nils Bjurman, and does not leave much to the imagination. Also, the film includes
tales of what one character, I won’t reveal who, does to women, which I believe are
unspeakable things and I almost wish I had not been exposed to them.

The excitement
and mystery of the plot makes up somewhat for all the disturbing scenes as Mikael
Blomkvist and later Lisbeth Salander try to solve the 40 year old mystery of Harriet
Vanger’s disappearance. Blomkvist begins this job after being hired by Henrick
Vanger, a family member in the great clan of the Vanger Company. It is suspected
that someone in the family has killed Harriett. Blomkvist and Salander go through
many scenarios of what could have happened to her, which all seem favorable, until
they lead to a dead end. The real conclusion, one you would never expect, is the
most fascinating. I believe it is also the most disturbing of them all. Unless you
have read the book, you will not know what really happened until right before the
very clever Blomkvist and Salander figure it out.

In comparison to the book, there
are several big plot points left out and the plot develops much faster in the movie,
making for a more enjoyable watch. It is about halfway through the book when
Blomkvist makes his first discovery, contrasting to only thirty minutes into the
movie. Also, it is easier to read about these disturbing scenes than to have to see
them with your own eyes. At least with the book, you can edit them in your mind and
see more of what you chose to see. Perhaps this wasn’t what the author, Stieg
Larsson, or the director of the movie, Oplev, intended for the mind to do.

Oplev, Niels Arden, dir. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. 2009. Music Box Films, 2009.

Reviewer: Mary Ann McKenzie

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