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A Book Where Language is the Star: Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry

24 Dec

Night Boat to Tangier
I picked up Night Boat to Tangier after I saw it chosen on the New York Times list of the 10 Best Books of 2019. It’s a relatively small volume, and flipping through it, I saw a lot of white space and dialogue.

A quick read, I thought. I can’t remember which conversation caught my eye, but I was hooked.

The plot concerns two older Irish thugs, Charlie Redmond and Maurice Hearne, who are waiting in a ferry terminal in Algeciras, Spain. They are expecting Maurice’s estranged daughter, Dilly, to pass through the terminal either coming or going on a boat to Tangier, Morocco.

The book hopscotches back and forth from the terminal waiting to fill-in of the backstory behind the lives of the two men and how they came to be waiting in the present moment.

Language is the star: gritty, salty (language), menacing, melancholic, lyrical and poetic.

Charlie and Maurice go a long way back, and use their own linguistic shorthand as they discuss friendship, aging, the nature of death, and more.

One strange plot coincidence didn’t ruin the book for me, but rather made me think about why the author included it. I still haven’t quite figured that out.

On the whole I enjoyed that language and the way the story was told, but this left me feeling a bit melancholic myself.

Written by:
Victoria Turk
Reference Librarian

A Kinder Kind of Detective: Newcomer by Keigo Higashino

20 Mar

Detective Kyoichiro Kaga is a newcomer as an investigator in the Nihonbashi precinct in Tokyo. Instead of the usual trope of the tortured or flawed or divorced or somehow broken detective, Kaga is mostly…..kind. He doesn’t seem to have any of the personal problems that give other detectives a distinctive personality. He goes about his business, trying to piece together a crime solution, ruffling as few feathers as possible.

At times he buys small gifts for the people he interviews. Not just to gain their trust, although you can see that it helps, but because he is nice.

In Newcomer, he is investigating the strangulation of Mineko Mitsui.

Mitsui is, similar to Kaga, an individual who doesn’t seem to have any enemies. She is divorced and estranged from her son, and also a newcomer to the precinct where Kaga works.

In procedural fashion, Kaga visits stores in the surrounding area to talk with a variety of characters. There is a helpful list of the venues and people, with their roles set out, at the beginning of the book.

No spoilers here. The denouement is no real shocker, but more of a why-done-it.

I enjoyed the foreign setting and found it to be a quick and easy read.

My only quibble with the book was the translator. He seemed to use a lot of idioms as figures of speech. More than you would ever expect in a single book. Other than that, a quick and satisfying read that you might enjoy.

There are several other titles by this author available through the BCCLS system in English, Chinese, and Korean translations as well as in Japanese (this is the second novel translated in English to feature Detective Kaga), as well as a DVD movie, The Secret, based on one of his novels, Himitsu.  The first in the series available in English Malice is also available from the Hoboken Public Library.  Several audiobook versions of his work are available to stream from Hoopla.

Written by:
Victoria Turk
Reference Librarian


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