Um, snow, plus new(ish) reads from Zeltserman and Egan

As I’m sure you’ve heard, we’ve been having a spot of weather in the north americas. The roof of my niece’s elementary school collapsed. And my entombed mailbox:

Luckily, despite snowpocalypes and such, there’s still books!

Dave Zeltserman’s newest (yes, the prolific bastard puts out like three a year) is OUTSOURCED. It’s a crime/heist novel about Dan, a laid off software engineer. At 48 years old, his re-hire prospects are grim, and he’s slowly losing his sight (retinitis pigmentosa) to boot. Creeping ever closer to defaulting on his mortgage, and desperate to provide for his family, he schemes to rob a bank, or more specifically, to rob the safety deposit boxes that belong to a reputed Russian mobster. Dan gets a bunch of his has-been friends in on the clumsy yet clever caper, and stuff goes way wrong, quickly.

OUTSOURCED is brilliantly paced and reminiscent of A SIMPLE PLAN with the supposed non-criminals slowly descending into desperation and violence, and Zeltserman gives the characters (Dan, in particularly) a kind of heartbreaking vulnerability as well. Another great crime novel from Zeltserman.

If we’re all still around and reading books 20-30 years from now, I can totally envision the next generation of crime/noir readers–the ones discovering and raving about Chandler and Hammet–finding all of Zelterman’s books too, and greedily inhaling them.

Jennifer Egan’s A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD is one of the best novels published in 2010. A sprawling epic about seemingly small lives, and all packed in to 288 pages. The novel opens with a music producer who’s dying inside because the music he’s producing now more than kinda sucks. His assistant Sasha, is a mysterious closet-cleptomanic, and the novel quickly then spins into other interconnected characters, their past lives (including the Bay Area punk scene, and an African safari), and their future lives (Sasha’s daughter’s power point about their lives is as heartbreaking as it is breathtakingly genius). Clever but never winky. Many critics have talked about the chances she took by playing with narrative structure and viewpoints almost in a chapter-by-chapter basis. It all works and the result is an emotionally dizzying and authentic novel. Time is a goon….


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