Monday, April 24, 2017

The Rundown

Hang on, let me blow the dust off the—there we go. That’s better.

Things have been hectic lately, what with the launch of the second Lillian Frost & Edith Head novel from Renee Patrick Dangerous to Know. My co-alter ego has the scoop, and believe me when I say there’s more in the works. All kinds of fun and games are coming, including a few things I can’t believe. I’m popping in amidst the promo push to recommend a few items for your delectation.

Under the Midnight Sun, Keigo Higashino (2016). Here’s how busy it’s been: a new Chinese adaptation of Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X—easily my favorite mystery novel of the past 20 years—was playing two blocks for me and I missed my chance to see it. Higashino’s latest is also his most ambitious, at least of the novels that have been published in the United States. It’s a sprawling crime story-cum-social novel, spanning decades and touching on, among other things, the growth of the Japanese computer industry. In 1973, a man is murdered and a woman identified as the likely killer. Each has a child. Higashino tracks this pair through the years, but never as the viewpoint characters. Instead, they’re at a remove, always seen through the prism of others who fall into their orbits. It’s a daring structural choice that for the most part deepens the intrigue. As is so often the case with Higashino, any reservations are swept away by a climax at once elegant and charged with emotion. It’s not Suspect X, but then nothing is.

Five Came Back, Netflix. I raved about Mark Harris’s book, which cast a clear eye on a long-overlooked piece of Hollywood history. The three-part documentary based on it has the added advantage of film clips, and pairs contemporary filmmakers with some surprisingly simpatico predecessors (Guillermo del Toro and Frank Capra make an inspired match) who walked away from their Hollywood careers during World War II to make propaganda films.

Cork Dork, Bianca Bosker (2017). I was occasionally frustrated, frequently spellbound, and always fascinated by this memoir from a reporter-turned-sommelier. I remain a cocktail fanatic, but this opened my eyes (and nose) to vino in a way few books have.

Brockmire, IFC. What threatened to be a one-joke character is the centerpiece of a soulful if deeply, deeply profane comedy, thanks to Hank Azaria’s performance and a low-rent atmosphere out of Slap Shot. Granted, it helps knowing that lifelong Mets fan Azaria based Jim Brockmire in part on the team’s original announcers, specifically Lindsey Nelson’s wardrobe and Bob Murphy’s cadences. Hearing him wax rhapsodic about rye whiskey in that home run call voice is all my worlds colliding. And pontifidrinking is real. Not that I’ve done it or anything.