“North Water” by Ian McGuire (Henry Holt & Co., 2016)


North Water is a nineteenth century whaling story by British author Ian McGuire. It is not for the faint of heart or a weak stomach, but it also smacks of a stereotypical “man’s novel” with over the top violence, graphic description and cruelty. While it is well written, it is ultimately about men wanting to hurt each other in despicable ways, and you have to really ask yourself: why would anyone want to read about that?

The book opens with Henry Drax, a harpooner, who is broke and down and out again, and proceeds to knock a black child unconscious and then rape him; it is done to show his depravity; all it did for me was make me hate this book. He joins the crew of the Volunteer and faces off against an ex-army surgeon named Patrick Sumner who has been through his own trials and tribulations. The two pit against each other on a seemingly doomed voyage.

For those who enjoy the over-description of this harsh world in this harsh time on an old whaling ship, as men are being men in extreme conditions and a harsh arctic winter, then this is the book for you. For those looking for something more engaging and actually worth reading, move along to the next title.

Originally written on July 12, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

“End of Watch” by Stephen King (Scribner, 2016)


In the final volume of the Bill Hodges Trilogy, as we know with Stephen King, he’s going to be pulling out all the stops and things ain’t going to be pretty, and with a title like End of Watch, you know the ending is going to be anything but happily ever after. Retired detective now turned geriatric private dick Bill Hodges got pushed to the limit in Mr. Mercedes with a true psychopath. In Finders Keepers things took a turn in a different direction, but Hodges was still well tested. In this final showdown, unsurprisingly, it all comes back to the Mercedes Killer, where it all started, even though he’s a comatose vegetable rotting away in Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic.

Bill Hodges gets a call from an old friend in the force to come check out a strange suicide, and brings along his partner in crime, Holly. As they learn more about the case they discover it has some strange ties to the Mercedes Massacre, but the connecting link is anything but obvious. Hodges is drawn back into the case he thought he was done with. He stopped seeing Mr. Mercedes, Brady Hartsfield, when he was told to by Holly. But it seems Brady’s not done with whatever he started and somehow even though he’s little more than a helpless body, behind his eyes, in his brain there’s something going on. There’s a power that gives him control over others. Hodges just has to figure out how and why before a lot more people get hurt. He also has an important doctor’s appointment he keeps skipping out on, because he’s pretty sure – with the intense pain in his side that’s isn’t going away – it’s bad news.

Readers may be a little disappointed with the concluding volume of the trilogy, after the fun wild ride that was Finders Keepers, that King brings it back to Brady Hartsfield. By the end of the book the story has its definite King flair, but is a little thin and simple, with the end being pretty predictable and straightforward.

Originally written on July 12, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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