Carol Jordan and Tony Hill have been through a lot in their eleven books together, and they each know that they wilt outside of each other’s presence. In this latest instalment, Val McDermid finally allows Carol to process the extreme PTSD that has cropped up over two and a half decades worth of adventures and, as these things go, How The Dead Speak is a progress novel in what has become an increasingly stop-start pattern for these characters.
Nathan Hill’s decade-in-the-writing debut The Nix is a densely packed novel, to the point that some might call it overstuffed. At 640 pages, cut down from the original (longhand!) 1,200 page version, Hill has a lot to say – and he says much of it very well.
Graham Norton’s first novel is small town soft crime, which some may argue is the best sort of crime (they would be wrong: the best sort of crime is the sort solved by cats). Norton’s chat show experience did not merely prepare him for a life of showing tired memes to bemused celebrities; it reveals the deep humanity that pervades Holding.
The desire to make a novel Big Little Lies is understandable. But Whisper Network, a new novel set around a lukewarm mystery at a sporting goods empire, is less like Big Little Lies than it is like fetch. Stop trying to make fetch happen.
The cat and mouse genre requires delicate calibration to work. If a reader is going to have two opposing forces driving a book’s narrative, it is often better to know one intimately and the other only in passing. Ran Will Come, the pseudonymous debut of screenwriter Thomas Holgate, gives near equal footing to its leads. It’s a bold move, and it pays off in places and confounds in others.
In 1994, the animators working on The Lion King thought that they were toiling in obscurity on a movie that no one was going to see. They lived in jealousy of the Pocahontas crew, who they thought were on to the big thing. The Lion King, of course, went on to become a massive hit, breaking VHS sales records and making literally billions of dollars through ancillary properties. Pocahontas was considerably less successful, although at least two of its songs are all time greats in the Disney canon.
Thomas Harris’ first novel since 2006, first not written under duress since 1999, and first not featuring Hannibal Lecter since 1975, is a strange book, fleet of foot and overburdened of character. Cari Mora is a fondue pot of a novel: disparate elements covered in cheese, bubbling to the top at random intervals and vying for the attention of a wary reader. That sentence was less tortured than some of the prose in Cari Mora.
It is hard to conceive that Spider-Man, one of the biggest heroes in the world, was once not a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now that Peter Parker is an integral member of the pantheon and the MCU is one of the most lucrative franchises at the global box office, it feels natural. Spider-Man: Far From Home officially closes out the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, serving as a sort of epilogue. It’s a fun movie, but most importantly it understands what makes its hero work.
The super rich are better than everyone else. It goes without saying. Writer director Bong Joon-ho (Okja) has different ideas, however: perhaps blind worship of the upper echelons at the expense of our fellow man is not the way that society should work. It’s just an idea he’s throwing out there. In Parasite, Bong looks like he might be turning out a Trading Places kind of caper, but there are darker forces at play. Bong has put out a very politely worded letter asking that critics not reveal too much of its inner workings. He was nice enough about it, and so batrock.net will do its best to honour his request.
A movie’s concept means nothing without execution. The dumbest ideas can become strongest films, and something that sounds amazing on paper can fizzle out on the screen. There’s a third combination: a dubious idea can become an incredibly dubious film. Cue Yesterday: a man wakes up from a coma into a world where the Beatles never existed, but almost everything else is the same. Any drama that springs from this idea is contrived at best, and there’s no twist to be seen.