Posts Tagged ‘Michael Connelly’

Crime report

January 4, 2018

About a year and a half ago I wrote about my favorite series (plural) of detective novels, and I included the Robicheaux novels of James Lee Burke with the ones I thought were finished (the last one having been Light of the World, in 2013). I am happy to report that I was wrong. I just learned that a new novel in the series — titled, of all things, Robicheaux — has just been published. I rushed to put a hold on it at my library, and I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

Meanwhile, over the last couple of months I have caught up with the latest Rebus by Ian Rankin (Rather Be the Devil) and the latest Bosch by Michael Connelly (Two Kinds of Trush), as well as what seems to be the onset of a new series by Connelly, featuring a woman detective, Renée Ballard (The Late Show) and written entirely from her point of view (in free indirect style). In addition I read the latest by Tana French (The Trespasser), featuring two detectives carried over from her previous book (The Secret Place)  but written entirely from the point of view (in first-person narration) of the female partner, Antoinette Conway.

Differences in narrative style aside, I was struck by some of the similarities between the latter two novels. In addition to having French first names, both detectives are tall, hard-boiled, rough-talking single women in their thirties; both work the night shift with male partners, are treated unsympathetically (or seem to be) by the other men on their squads, and venture outside their working hours in order to pursue their cases. In both cases the murderer is himself a detective, discovered (by good detective work and a ruse involving a senior detective) after another detective had been a suspect.

The Trespasser came out some nine months before The Late Show. Could the former have inspired the latter?

I have long believed that John Rebus was, in some way, an inspiration for Harry Bosch. The first Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses, came out in 1987; the first Bosch, The Black Echo, in 1992. Both men are war veterans (Rebus in Northern Ireland, Bosch in Vietnam) and around forty when the series begin. Both are mavericks who often get in trouble with their superiors and get denied promotion or demoted. Both have unsteady relationships with women, each being married once with a resulting daughter (though the circumstances are vastly different). Both work well with women partners. Both are forced to retire but continue working cases voluntarily. Both series abound with local color of Edinburgh and Los Angeles, respectively.

And in both of the recent novels the women detectives are, at last, referred to by their last names, just like the men, unlike, say, Peter Robinson’s (Alan) Banks and Annie (Cabbot) or Elizabeth George’s (Thomas)  Lynley and Barbara (Havers).


No cure for… oops!

July 9, 2016

As I mentioned in a recent post, I am an enthusiastic follower of the Harry Bosch novels of Michael Connelly and the Banks novels of Peter Robinson. Both writers have new entries in the series coming out later this year, and I am awaiting them eagerly.

While waiting, I came across a recently republished non-Banks novel by Robinson, originally published (in Canada) in 1995 and titled No Cure for Love. The new edition features a foreword by Connelly, largely devoted to praise of the authenticity of Robinson’s writing. Coming from Connelly in reference to Los Angeles (where the novel’s action largely takes place) this is high praise indeed. (At this point I will charitably abstain from commenting on Connelly’s forays into Spanish.)

As I  began reading the book, I quickly came to a passage referring to an “article in TV Guide that mentioned she  [the novel’s non-detective protagonist, a Yorkshire lass turned Hollywood television star] lived in Malibu. Which wasn’t quite true. Strictly speaking, the house was in Pacific Palisades, close to the Los Angeles city limits…”

Wait a minute, I said to myself. Malibu is a good fifteen miles from Pacific Palisades, with Topanga Beach in between, and I can’t imagine that a journalist who is probably based in Los Angeles would ever confuse the two. And what does “close to the Los Angeles city limits” mean? Pacific Palisades is within the LA city limits. Of course,  the house could be within LA and near the city limits, but that would put in the Getty Villa area, where there are no private houses with beach access.

As I got into the book, the plot took over my attention and I stopped paying mind to geography. I focused on dialogue instead. Connelly, after all, attributed to Robinson “a snare-trap ear for dialogue.”

I have written before about Ian Rankin’s Briticisms creeping into the dialogue of Americans in one of his novels. But I expected Peter Robinson, who by 1995 had been living in Toronto for some twenty years, to have no trouble with North American English. And yet:

“Now she was…,” “Now she had…” (for ‘now that’).

“A rasher of bacon” (for ‘slice’).

“Carry on!” (for ‘go ahead’)

“Have done!” (for ‘I have‘)

All of these are spoken or thought by Americans.

Oh, well…

Spanish by Hill et al.

October 16, 2015

A few years ago I wrote about some linguistic troubles that the mystery writer Elizabeth George had when she tried to make one of her characters Spanish-speaking. It struck me as telling that, among the many grateful acknowledgments appended to her novel, there was not one addressed to anyone who might have helped her with her Spanish.

I have since found that Elizabeth George is, in this regard, far from alone among English-language mystery writers. It is especially striking that Tony Hillerman and Michael Connelly, who have written respectively about New Mexico and Southern California — both places rife with Hispanic people, culture and history — have also been cavalier to the point of ludicrousness when it comes to Spanish. I meant to call attention to some of the blunders at the time I read the books, but somehow didn’t get around to it.

I will make up for it with Reginald Hill, the (English) author of the Dalziel and Pascoe series. His novel The Stranger House is a mystery that involve detective work, but it is not crime investigation by actual CID detectives. Rather, it’s about personal quests by a disparate pair of graduate students: an Australian young woman doing mathematics and a Spanish young man doing history.

Early in the book the young man’s name is given as Miguel Elkington Madero. Except that his father was Miguel Madero, while his mother is an Englishwoman named Christine Elkington. He should, therefore — following Spanish and not English naming customs — be Miguel Madero Elkington. While a recent law allows some freedom in the order of surnames, Miguel was born in the late 1970s, so that Hill’s version of the name is an impossibility.

Another linguistic impossibility is Miguel’s nickname, which is given (also early on) as Mig. Spanish words do not end in -g, except English borrowings ending in -ing (such as párking) which is pronounced /in/ or /iŋ/. The ‘hard G’ sound implied by Miguel’s self-introduction cannot occur in Spanish.

Further on in the book there are at least three howlers. Miguel gives himself a more formal introduction as Miguel Ramos Elkington Madero. What in the world is a third surname doing there? Perhaps Hill thinks that a surname can, as in English, be used as a second given name. While some Spanish-American countries allow plenty of latitude in assigning given names, Spain does not, and Ramos is not a possibility.

In a manuscript supposedly written in Spanish, the line ‘Father, forgive me’ is written as Padre me perdona, which means ‘Father forgives me.’ The correct Spanish is, of course, Padre, perdóname.

And Christine Elkington is said to be known in Spain as Donna (not Doña) Cristina.

In his author’s note Hill thanks two Australian editors for helping him get things “right about matters Australian.” There is nothing equivalent about “matters Spanish.” And it shows.