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

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Giraldi's mix of literary fiction, thriller, horror story - that ought to pique your interest

Great reviews and blurbs (OK, we all know not to trust blurbs but still ... ) for William Giraldi Hold the Night have led me to start reading this novel, which looks like it's going to be a highly literary thriller with a touch of horror as well. Nothing wrong with that - I'm intrigued. Starts off excellent, with a very vivid description of the setting, a remote Alaskan inland village where roving packs of wolves have killed three village children. The protagonist, named (Russel?) Core, is a 60-year-old writer-naturalist who has written about wolves and actually hunted and shot a wolf who'd killed a person in Yellowstone. A woman in the Alaskan town who's son has been killed writes to Core and asks him to come to the village to help - seems preposterous on the surface, but he agrees to come, in large part because somewhat estranged daughter lives and teaches in Anchorage. He has great sympathy for the wolves, even killer wolves, understanding that they're just doing what their species will do when driven by starvation; he deeply regrets killing the wolf he shot, and tells the woman so. She still wants his help, however, and he goes off on a long trek, finds the wolves, and scares them off with a shot from his rifle. And then the novel starts to get really weird (spoilers here, though they all occur in the first 50 pp. or so): when he gets back to the woman's small house he finds she's abandoned the home and he finds her dead child in the cellar. Belief is she killed him - but then why would she summon him to help, and why leave - leaving the evidence of her guilt behind? Even weirder, her husband, a soldier in what seems to be Iraq, comes home wounded but physically OK and learns about the killing and his wife's flight - and then he embarks on a brutal shooting spree of his own. I don't like that it's implied that war veterans returning are likely to create carnage (though we may learn more about his psyche later in the novel), and I'm finding the body count pretty gruesome, but Giraldi definitely has piqued my curiosity and interest (can he hold it?). This novel is as dark as they come. As noted at the outset, his account of the cold desolation of the Alaskan interior in winter is exceptional.

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