Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Winterkill by C. J. Box

Winterkill (Joe Pickett, #3)
Although I've known of C. J. Box for years, this is the first of his books I've actually read. It's the third in the series and I chose it because it happened to be a random unread book on my shelves. I think it would probably be better to start from the beginning of the series, as some important events that happened in earlier books are mentioned here. But I really enjoyed finally becoming acquainted with the author's work.

In an epigraph to the novel, we learn that"winterkill" is defined as "to kill (as a plant or animal) by, or to die as the result of, exposure to winter weather conditions. There are quite a few deaths in this story, and it is winter, but Box is expanding the meaning of this term a bit to cover most of them, some of which could have happened in any season at all.

I really enjoyed Box's gift for rendering the Wyoming landscape--and the Wyoming winter--so vividly. His protagonist, game warden Joe Pickett, spends a lot of time traversing wide expanses of wild land, and it's never boring. His work reminds me a bit of Tony Hillerman in his descriptions of the Southwest.

Another enjoyable aspect of the book, and presumably the series, is that Pickett's roaming is counterbalanced by his home life with his wife and daughters. They are portrayed lovingly and with an eye to their individual aspirations. A couple of the women outside of this sphere are portrayed in a black and white, good and evil sort of way, where I think they could have been painted a little more complexly. Box is capable of it, as seen in the shadowy character Nate Romanowski, who pops up part way through the novel. But it's a small quibble. I look forward to reading more of the series.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Until Thy Wrath Be Past, by Asa Larsson

Until Thy Wrath be Past (Rebecka Martinsson, #4)

Although I had read Larsson's first Rebecka Martinsson novel, Sun Storm, ideally I probably should have read the two books that come between the first and the forth, as this one refers a lot to several people's backstory that occurs in one or the other of those. That said, though, you really don't need to have read the books in order to understand the crime story told in this volume.

Right from the outset we know that one of the main characters here has already died, but her strong narration of this event is one reason this book gets off to such an exciting start.

In terms of mystery, there don't end up being a whole lot of suspects, so if you're looking for a puzzle this may not satisfy you. The things I enjoyed about the story are different. First, Larsson writes of a certain mystical or spiritual element, and not just the immediate appearance of the dead girl. As another reviewer here writes, there is an element of redemption here, but it's not an easy fix and it certainly doesn't apply to everyone.

Second, Larsson apparently grew up in this small Swedish mining town of Kiruna herself and has a real gift for describing the natural beauty of its surrounds. And she is good on animals, particularly dogs, as well.

Finally, there is a lot of interesting Swedish World War II history that is part of the story, particularly Sweden's complicated relation to Germany, which it allied itself to for awhile. My impression is that this was not so much ideologically as in an effort to save itself from the Soviet Union, a nation they perceived as a bigger threat. There is a list of books she read to fill out this aspect at the back of the book, for those who want to know more.

(Originally posted on GoodReads.)