“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

“And Now The End Is Near / And We Face The Final Curtain / But Lo! / Do We Really?” Yep, It’s Tana French And Her Ambiguous Endings

It must be, oh, almost an entire week since we’ve mentioned Tana French (right) on Crime Always Pays, for which craven dereliction of duty we deserve nothing less than to be stood against a wall and shot with bullets of our own shite. Happily, Cream and Written By A Woman (!) rescues us from a fate worse than death with an early review of Tana’s second offering, THE LIKENESS, the gist of which runneth thusly:
“The book actually manages to surpass IN THE WOODS (her stunningly accomplished début) which is no small feat. Set in Dublin again (with the fictitious Murder Squad), this time it is Cassie who takes the lead in a plot which requires a little suspension of disbelief but pays off in spades. I caught nods to both THE SECRET HISTORY and THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (and anyone who has read Shirley Jackson gets automatic kudos from me), but they are mere nods since the central plot has nothing much to do with either …
  “French’s writing is taut, clever and, in places, truly chilling. She deserved all the praise heaped on her previous effort, and this should garner her even more. It’s a big book, but not daunting, and you’ll fly through it getting lost in the world of Whitethorn House and its inhabitants.
  “One caveat though (and not on my part; I love that French refuses to tie up her resolutions in a big shiny bow at the end): those who were disappointed with the ending of IN THE WOODS may find more to grumble about here. To me, resolutions that are not neat are more realistic, and infinitely more interesting than the bog standard crime novel resolutions, but if you like your endings completely wrapped up, you may not be happy with this ending either. However, that should be a minor quibble since a book as accomplished as this one holds many other treasures, not least the fluidity of the prose and the constant tension that seeps through it. One to savour, and I know I’ll be re-reading it in the future.”
Ah, ye olde ambiguouse endinge – what say you, Karen Harrington, ma’am?
“I understand ambiguous endings in novels and films. I’m a fan of them. I write them. And I’ve taken some heat for the ambiguous ending in JANEOLOGY. So I can understand the reasons an author employs this technique in her art. However, there comes a point when a writer must balance the ending on a scale of satisfaction by asking the question: Are my reasons for creating that ending in balance with a satisfying ending?
  “Assigning this question to Tana French’s formidable novel IN THE WOODS is tough …
  “Despite the issue with the ending, this book is still cleverly penned and engaging. French’s descriptions are first-class. Her scene-setting abilities are refined well beyond the skills of your typical debut author and this is no doubt one of the reasons this tale earned her an Edgar award. In sum, I liked this book. And in some ways, owing to the spooky atmosphere, I think this might make a better movie than it reads on the page.
  “So, what do you think? Are unresolved endings a good thing? And if so, what books including an ambiguous ending have you loved? Hated?”
  It has to be The Book of Revelations for us. That whole apocalypse deal – y’know, the ‘Will it-Won’t it?’ dynamic … sterling stuff from St John, we think you’ll agree.

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