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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

As the death toll gets higher: Hold the Dark

First off I have to say that William Giraldi's writing is excellent throughout his novel Hold the Dark: he is excellent at capturing every aspect of his dark and cold setting, a village in the Alaskan interior in mid-winter, and he shows his chops by also depicting desert battle scenes in the Iraq War, where one of the characters is in service. His dialogue, too, is very powerful, in particular a long scene in which the police chief negotiates with a murder suspect to try to get him to leave his house peaceably and turn himself - the entire chapter (I think) told in stark dialogue that could serve as a script for powerful short play or dramatic exercise for acting students. Descriptions of the rugged and disfigured, often grotesque, characters in the far North very powerful as well. That said, this novel is just far too gruesome for me: by my rough count 23 killed in the first 140 pages, not counting those uncounted killed in the Iraq battle scenes. Whew. At some point we pass beyond the boundary of murder mystery, thriller, or even horror fiction and verge on the bizarre and obsessed. And with all that killing there is, at least at this point, 2/3 through the novel, no explanation for the massacres. There are hints of some kind of Alaskan Indian curse put upon the inhabitants of the village - a vagrant who shows up bearing a wolf mask and warning a pregnant woman that her child must never be born, an old Indian woman who makes dire predictions about the fate of various characters - but this seems a flimsy base on which to build such a murderous superstructure. Though I'm not sure the ends can ever fully justify or even explain the means, for those who can take it this is a very well written and extremely dark thriller. But for me no resolution could undo the damage of all the barbarity and carnage.

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