Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Crime Stories

Swedish author, Steig Larssen, died before the last of his Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked Over the Hornet’s Nest was published. I have just finished reading it. I had not read the earlier two books, which is a disadvantage. But one is enough. I am pleased to have read it but I do not intend to read the others.

The style is stark and simple – very modern, urban, fast, staccato, vivid detail. It’s that murky world of espionage and counter-espionage, violence, casual sex and power games. Ethical dilemmas rather than moral issues predominate. Computer hacking dominates. Surprise rules supreme. Humour and solace are absent. .

I do not respond well to conspiracy theories. It disturbs me that some readers believe ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is truth and not a novel. I accept corruption occurs at the highest political levels but I found Larssen’s account lacking credibility.

Likewise his characters. The heroine is operated on to have a bullet removed from her brain in the opening scenes. A few days later she is moving freely around and using a smuggled laptop to contact the outside world from her hospital bed. The hero escapes a machine-gun assassination by grabbing the barrel of the gun. This is Hollywood, not real life.

The best scene is the trial scene. A court-case can be riveting drama. In this case it is so. The whole fabric of lies is demolished as the prosecution’s case unravels. After that the rest is anti-climax. I do wonder if the author’s death left the ending up in the air. I found it most unsatisfactory.

I suppose one source of my unease is my rather naïve assumption about civilised behaviour. I do not move in a world of stolen identities, of computer hacking, misinformation, constant coffee and serial sex. So I fail to respond to narrative based around them. Out-of-date man, you might say. .

I know these things go on. I’m sure the Americans and the Chinese are busy trying to hack each other’s military and commercial secrets. And I doubt if we are lily-white clean. Every technological advance has its downside.

Ken and Rosemary lent me the eight disks of ‘Underbelly’, parts one and two. I had roughly the same reaction to the series. Gripping viewing. The moving image adds power to the narrative. Will the girl courier smuggling drugs strapped round her body get through customs? The viewer gets sucked in to willing her to get through safely, ignoring the fact, as she also does, that if she succeds, hundreds are going to suffer.

The glorification of corruption, violence, murder and drugs with sex thrown in as an incentive to action is powerful stuff. It’s not Hollywood though, it’s close to home. I know the good guys appear to have won out. But the story was not about them despite feeble efforts to portray it as such. And to play ‘The Carnival Is Over’ as the bad guys at the end face arrest was an act of bad taste, destroying positive memories of a well-loved melody.

I must say, however, the use of music in ‘Underbelly’ was striking. Life is as ever, complex.

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