Through careful layering of mystery and character development, Rosanne Dingli has created another deeply engaging and powerful novel in Camera Obscura. As is always the case with Dingli’s work, the research is impeccable, enlivened by art, by a deep love of travel and exploration, and above all, by the conjunction of personal and global, art related, history.
The story Patrick M. Garry tells is a story of how curiosity on the part of a group of young teens leads them to meddle in someone’s life with tragic results. This premise is well-rooted in life especially in political campaigns. The staging for the story has a small hometown appeal well-suited for the action.
Certainly the mystery that surrounds and motivates Jonathan Pryde and the poor ‘lost souls’ that inhabit his castle, drives the story rapidly towards its conclusion, but this is more than simply a story of suspense. The novel touches on some serious thematics such as the relationship between art and life, on both ethics and philosophical responsibility, and ultimately, on how we create meaning in our lives.
How do people carry on with their lives when someone has not only departed, but vanished? How do they cope privately with the not-knowing, and endure the public scrutiny? What becomes of them? The novel gives the reader an insight into those living out their lives among the departed. This aspect of the novel is particularly compelling, thought provoking, and heart-rending.
There’s a lot to enjoy about the novel, not least the mystery: Hammett generally wrote tightly plotted novels and, in that respect, The Thin Man satisfies in spades. The banter between Nick Charles and his wife is also very enjoyable and his wisecrack about a man needing a shot of whiskey in the morning to ‘break the phlegm’ is one that most men will identify with.
The story of the Underground Railroad is also compelling and Lazar handles the history beautifully, deftly weaving it into the story, and allowing the reader to discover and enjoy each piece of information along with Gus and Camille. Managing a delicate balance between action and reflection, Lazar’s latest book FireSong is a delightfully satisfying read full of warmth, humour and drama.
It isn’t just the natural world that is richly described, but also the iconic places that the characters visit, from the Saydnaya convent in Damascus to the Rabat Priory in Malta, along with the many paintings and sculptures, all described with the kind of meticulous detail that helps the reader sympathise with the love that Jana has for the places and work.
There are few things scarier than an evil clown, but coupled with a broken promise, a lost child, black and white film reels, a shipwreck, bad dreams, and a series of slightly Satanic symbols, the story takes on a serious resonance.
Why should one read The Big Sleep today? Well, first there is the story: it is a thrilling ride. Then there is the quality of Chandler’s prose, his much vaunted style, which still impresses (though its downbeat and bathetic vibe is occasionally imitative of Hemingway).
Hussey has been kind to the reader by slicing his novel into bed-time-reading sized chapters. But unless you like your nightmares to be as ‘jittery as a dog full of fleas’ then read Through a Glass Darkly on a bright summer’s day.