SirSurly's Books
3 Stars
Dark, Sacred Night
Dark Sacred Night - Michael Connelly

I was given the privilege (courtesy of MBD) of an advanced, signed copy of this one. If Little Brown + Company were hoping I’d promote the book on the back of that, they were sorely mistaken.


Over time, I’ve read the entire Harry Bosch series, but in a rather haphazard order. Before reading Connelly’s latest offering, I thought it would be a good idea to go back to the start - the first Bosch story, The Black Echo.


The Black Echo is a great novel, a superb introduction to the Bosch character. While telling a tale, we learn of Harry’s problems with Internal Affairs, he works his moves with female officers, and we know the police brass don’t like his approach.


In Dark Sacred Night, Bosch has been paired with Ballard, the new star from the Connelly stable. Bosch, confined to cold cases, uses Renee’s spare time on the night shift to aid his investigations.


Renee made an impressive debut, but if she is to be partners with Bosch in future, as Connelly suggests, she will soon leave Harry in the dust.


At his advanced age, Harry is stretching reality with his lack of sleep. And he always seems to have money, not sure how he manages that on a semi-retired cop’s salary. Harry’s traditional ‘conquest’ is probably the best indication that he is not the detective we have enjoyed over 30 odd novels. Physical contests result in an inordinate amount of time in hospital.


We have nothing left to learn about Harry. Instead, you spend your time cringing as he maintains his one man war against city hall. Then imagine if your parents divorced, and you had to watch your father at 65 chatting up his new squeeze.


Even if I’d read my own review, I’d still want to read the new Bosch. I’d suggest this should be second last novel for Harry. One last hurrah, then let the poor bloke hobble off into retirement.

Task 1- this one was easy...

When you go by the moniker Harry

LA is a mess, but he's happy as Larry

He's got a view, a story, a true tale of woe,

But he'll work 24/7, screw his partner in tow

Solve the case, slip the tail and piss off the brass

Stress his daughter, ignore his boss and finish with class

When you are always under the cosh

It's your old friend Hieronymus Bosch!

3.5 Stars
After reading this, I won't mention 'His' name either...
Macbeth - Jo Nesbø

Where to start…

For those familiar with Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Nesbo has stayed (largely) true.


For those familiar with Nesbo, while this might be a re-telling of a classic, there is no missing his style.


For those new to either – buckle in!


This book fucked with my mind – more than a little.


I am generally a quick reader. This book, at 503 pages, took me 2 weeks.

With an easy reading book, you pump through chapter after chapter each night. The story flows, the emotions are those you are familiar with, even if only in literary terms. You can forget that with Nesbo’s Macbeth.


Set in a dystopian town with little industry, and rampant crime underpinned by drug boss Hecate. A former drug addict, now SWAT commander, Macbeth is deemed the best option to lead the town out of its nefarious and corrupted past. The ballooning death-toll points to the folly of this choice...


I don’t like that the town doesn’t have a name. The clues intimate a town like Aberdeen in Scotland, and I can understand Nesbo not wanting to tag a town with this story. But give it a name! What do those in the Capitol (for eg.) call the town?


As a good private-school boy in Australia, we were required to read Macbeth early in secondary school. I suspect that’s because private schools liked to encourage many of the themes – strength, leadership and loyalty. Conveniently forgetting the other themes of treachery, addiction and megalomania.


As a 44 year old, I can now recognise all these themes have, and always will, drive humans.


I’ll admit it’s been a good 29 years since I read the original. In saying that, I think Nesbo has done a good job honouring the essence of Macbeth. Like the best of Shakespeare’s works, it often asks for the reader to delve into areas we prefer to avoid.


Why did it fuck with my mind (and sleep) for 2 weeks (while reading, and another week on)?


I can read about some brutal violence, I can deal with treason. I understand murder of families for the ‘greater good’ in espionage novels, and don’t give a second thought to those who fall in the classic spy stories.


In Macbeth, Nesbo/Shakespeare makes every death count. Each twist takes you to a place you don't want to go. As the tale unfolds, you find yourself cheering for those who will betray you, and you want a merciless death for those who are upholding your values.


I’m not sure who this book is pitched to; if it’s the traditional Nesbo fan, I’d suggest that while you are used to casual violence, there are questions raised in this story that could (and should) keep you awake at night.


If Nesbo was hoping to tap-in to Shakespeare disciples, I suspect they would have been alarmed at what he found necessary to do a ‘modern’ version.



*Partial Spoiler and trigger warning:


This does not affect the plot at all, but gives you an idea of what your mind must confront.


One of the main players is a middle aged woman trying to breast feed a baby, who has been dead over a week. If the idea of this messes with your head, do NOT read this book. Sorry Jo…

(show spoiler)


1.5 Stars
The Dying Game (The Trying - Lame)
The Dying Game - Asa Avdic

Who: Asa Avdic - A Swedish journalist (tv and radio) – this is her debut novel.


What: A merge of dystopian Stockholm politics, and a ‘reworking’ of Christie’s And Then There Were None (The correct, modern PC title)


When: Sweden in 2037. For some loosely explained reason, the country resembles the broke communist countries of the 1950s.


Why: I have no bloody idea! She basically pinched half the idea, topped and tailed it with some internal politics, and convinced some publisher she had an original worth printing.


I am tipping no one will be rushing out to buy the book on the strength of this review, so I’m not going to bother with spoiler alerts. Also, it’s only fair to declare this book was originally written in Swedish (under the title of Isola). I don’t think it struggles with the translation, it’s the material that’s the problem.


20 years in to the future, Sweden has left the European Union. The Protectorate of Sweden is now under the Union of Friendship. There is seriously a whole page (fake encyclopedia entry) explaining this at the start – full of contradictions and confusion.

This convoluted set-up is necessary to explain the bleak state of Sweden. Under totalitarian control, we are introduced to Anna. She is forced by the Chairman to accept an assignment on a Swedish island.


Now here’s my problem – the next 60% of the book happens on the island of Isola. It does have some minor variations, but she’s so damn close to plagiarising And Then There Were None* , it’s almost actionable. I feel like Advic must have read the book at some stage, as the blueprint is almost identical, but long enough ago to feel like she was writing an original mystery.


Strangers stuck on an island, dying one by one, as the guessing game goes on. OK, in this story, there are fewer people, with a slight twist involved, but it’s essentially the same premise, setting, and result.


Then we’re back to dreary Stockholm for the wash-up. A series of interrogations to explain what happened, ending in the usual political buck-passing. The end…


It really is a bizarre mix of 2 stories – one that has Christie’s fingerprints all over it, and then the dystopian future of Sweden, a worrying futuristic view from the author, one of the country’s most popular TV current affairs presenters.


*I thought it was only fair to go back and read And Then There Were None before writing this. It had been 24 years since I first read it, but I could feel the tale coming back to me as I read The Dying Game.


Agatha Christie is a damn genius! First published in 1939, there are obviously some dated phrases and social conventions, but it still stacks up as one of the finest mysteries written. Fast paced and engrossing, nothing extraneous, and will have you guessing right to the end. To those who haven’t read it, I can’t recommend it highly enough.