Jason Bourne: smart, determined, indestructible

If I had to rely on the films focused on this character, of which I recently have also watched the first three again, I would come to the conclusion that Jason Bourne doesn’t sleep (and if he tries, he is haunted by nightmares), doesn’t eat, tours half the world mostly by train and this doesn’t seem to tire him the least, isn’t afraid of anything, doesn’t care about anyone (except Marie, that is precisely why she was eliminated in the second film), the rare occasions when he is wounded he becomes stronger, and he doesn’t even need to carry a weapon: when the time comes and he is faced with no less than three well-trained agents, he knock them out within seconds, barehanded, and takes one of their guns.
In short, he is indestructible.

Yes, of course, he had that nasty amnesia and his memories resurface conveniently little by little, so as to put together the plot of another film. But the more he remembers, the less the man he was before emerges: the elusive David Webb.

What I notice as we go on with the films is the disappearance of any empathy in the character, which gradually dehumanises himself as he moves faster and faster from one to another breathtaking action scene.
In “The Bourne Identity” I wondered who he was, just like he did; I felt concern for him and the woman who had decided to trust him and help him. Only some years later, when I read the book by Robert Ludlum, to which it was inspired, I learned this is the only film in the series to have some connection with the novels. And you see it, since Bourne in the first film is a character with a certain depth. Although he instinctively behaves like a war machine, he is full of doubts and fears, like his literary alter ego. The plot is a bit different, because the context in which it takes place is far ahead in time and this required some adaptation. Furthermore, the film medium imposes a certain reduction and simplification of the novel, which, instead, is extremely intricate.

But, since the moment it detaches from the work of Ludlum (which, I must admit, inspired my action thriller “Kindred Intentions”), the one which suffer most from the consequences is precisely Bourne’s character. What characterises this work disappears: this character being a bit crazy, his wavering between the normal personality of Webb and the one thirsty for revenge of Bourne, his being fallible.
In fact, Bourne in films rarely makes a mistake. He is always a step ahead of others. And this characteristic is accentuated by the deletion of any bonds with other people, starting from Marie (played by the talented Franka Potente), even if what moves him is, in theory at least, a desire for revenge as well as survival, combined with the absence of any fear of death.

In this context, the same plots are repeated. Someone wants to kill him, usually someone from the CIA, whether this is an official and approved decision or not. They unleash against him the most ruthless assets (how much I like this term for a hired assassin!). So bad. They kill anyone who stands in their way, but never once they manage to get rid of Bourne.
On the other hand, when he flees in a car or motorcycle with someone, this someone ends up getting the bullet meant for him.
And you don’t know how that has bothered me when I understood that it would happen again in this last film. I was watching the long chase in Athens and I remembered that one in India at the beginning of “The Bourne Supremacy”. It was predictable that it would end like this. And in both cases I was sorry, as two characters (the only ones) with whom he had a bond that gave continuity to the plot were eliminated.

Jason Bourne” is a repetition of all these elements, held together by a secret to be discovered regarding the protagonist’s father, which is the only new element. The rest is action, action, and more action.
Not that I’m complaining. I love action.
During the film I felt glued to my seat to follow the swirling succession of events and continuous cutting away of the camera, accompanied by the certainty that Bourne would always prevail. The fun part was to find out how he would succeed, what they would invent for him to overcome all obstacles, what other famous city he would put on fire and how he still would outwit the others.

And then there are the car chases. It doesn’t matter if his opponent drives a Humvee, blasting the other vehicles as if they were bowling pins, and Bourne has a normal car. The latter will be bruised, but will always be fast, indeed, even faster than before. He, who can do everything, will drive without stopping, dodging the cars that come his way, because he certainly cannot help but enter a trafficked road against the flow. It doesn’t matter if Bourne is injured and not fastening his seat belt. When the car overturns and he comes out limping, he will still be able to fight barehanded with his opponent. He will risk succumbing, but eventually a last-gasp effort will save him.

Let’s not forget his cunning and audacity. Bourne watches from a distance (but not too far) that one CIA character that basically doesn’t consider him a threat, and he anticipates their moves. It had already happened with the one played by Joan Allen in “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum”, and now it’s time for Alicia Vikander, whom, although being a good actress and despite I have much appreciated her in other films, I just cannot like in this film because of her selfishness. But do not worry: Bourne has understood her well. He will prove it in the end.

In short, this film has all it takes to please me, but I liked it less than the first and the third one, and I don’t know if more or less then the second one. Maybe it depends on the progressive chillness shown by the protagonist. Or perhaps simply because I didn’t accept how Nicky Parsons, played by Julia Stiles, who is one of my favourite actresses, is treated. Lately she is increasingly relegated to secondary roles in films and I was hoping that after “The Bourne Ultimatum”, where she was one of the main characters, the latter would be repeated in “Jason Bourne”.

Well, I will suck it up. And, if there is a sequel (the open ending would suggest so), I’ll have to see that too. After all, I cannot miss a movie with Matt Damon.

A Quantum Murder - Peter F. Hamilton

**** Who killed Edward Kitchener?

The second book in the Greg Mandel Trilogy is in some ways a proper mystery. All the elements are there: one dead, a secluded place, a small number of possible culprits, many of which would have a good reason to kill him, and apparently no one of them did it. To figure out who the murderer is, you must choose the least likely, but can in no way imagine what lies beneath. The sci-fi element is what makes the magic, leaving you speechless.
As always in Hamilton’s books the characters are believable and tridimensional, and even likeable. His elegant prose involves you, transporting you inside their mind and showing the reality through their eyes.
The novel, however, does not stand comparison with the first. Once the surprise after discovering and understanding Mandel’s abilities, given to him by his gland, is over, the author had to create a new story unrelated to the previous one, so that the novel could be a standalone. This is made possible by the numerous recaps on past events and the historical and political situation, which on the one hand slow down the book and the other bore the reader who had already endured all those explanations in “Mindstar Rising”. I understand the need to put them, but not to make them so long.
Even if the intricate case treated in this novel is completely new, I found too many similar elements to the previous book that caused me a sense of déjà-vu. There are too many descriptions. In the first book they were essential, because the reader was experiencing a new world. In the second they become annoying. In general, with the exception of the last part, which has an excellent pace, the book shows a very slow action (relatively few things happen for a book of 376 pages written in small print) and at the same time is not always able to keep the reader interested with new and original elements.
However, the last chapter is very nice and improved my judgment on the book.

A Quantum Murder on Amazon.

Crime scene investigators, forensic scientists, medical examiners, and police officers

We know that fiction alters many of the aspects relating to the analysis of physical evidence during an investigation. First of all it enhances the importance of this analysis, when in reality most of the times the physical evidence points to very few conclusive results for the identification of the culprit.

Second, timings do not match the real ones. Downtime is not fun, so in fiction everything happens very quickly, just a few minutes or seconds to find a match, so the culprit is identified in a day (in TV series), or in a few days (in films and novels).

Even the technology is far from the real one. Apart from the representation of science fiction equipment, that is to say that they don’t exist (yet), forensic science laboratories are always described as extremely modern and that they can rely on the latest technologies on the market, moreover they have a large staff and much time to devote to cases, without any backlog.
In reality funding for these labs are never so abundant, the staff is not enough to keep up with the crimes and then the backlog is the norm, becoming one of the main reasons why the resolution of cases can take months or years, if they are ever solved.
In addition, some laboratories may even be absent in the territory where the crime took place, therefore the exhibits may be sent elsewhere, making the process even slower. For example, in May 2016 I had the opportunity to visit one of the headquarters of Polizia di Stato (Italian police) in my city, Cagliari (the capital of Sardinia), where I was also briefly explained the role of the Polizia Scientifica (police forensics department; not to be confused with RIS, the Department of Forensics Investigations, which is part of Carabinieri and does a similar job). And I discovered that there is no biological laboratory in Cagliari, so any DNA analysis is made in Rome. Finding a source of DNA in the physical evidence is quite rare and, fortunately, violent crimes are anything but common here, so if you think about it all that has a certain logic, but considering the geographical problem (I live in an island) and the amount of work that certainly already exists in the laboratories in Rome, this isn’t an ideal situation.
This in itself would represent enough a motivation to keep me from set one of my books in my city (besides the fact that there had never been serial killers here, in the modern sense of the term).

Finally you must consider the evaluation that this work will get in court. We know that the CSI effect may give the impression that the cases are solved and the culprits are convicted if there is sufficient physical evidence, but in fact in most situations other types of evidence determine the outcome of a trial.

But there is another aspect that is represented in a distorted way in fiction and that deals with forensic science: the various roles of the people involved in investigations.
In fiction we see the same people collecting evidence on a crime scene, analysing it in the laboratory, identifying suspects, interrogating them, the witnesses and victims (if the latter aren’t dead!), and even carrying out the arrests.

The reality is often different. There are the so-called crime scene investigators, who collect evidence at the scene. Then there are the forensic scientists who analyse them and possibly a medical examiner, in the case of a murder. Instead, the identification of the suspects, interrogations, and arrests are carried out by police officers and detectives. Forensic experts and medical examiners, then, may come into play in the courtroom to explain the results of their analysis on physical evidence.

This compartmentalisation, as well as having an organisational purpose (each one specialises in one aspect, thus providing better performance), is important to keep a certain objectivity during an investigation. In certain geographical areas the separation between the various roles is less clear, but is total in others. Sometimes, as it often happens in the UK, crime scene investigators and/or forensic experts may not be police officers.
At the same time, however, all these people interact with each other; they shall consult, because if this didn’t happen there would be a reduction in efficiency. In short, they try to find the right balance that yields the best result. Then this, contrary to what is observed in fiction, may come, or worse, be wrong, because these are always people who can make mistakes.

Therefore there is a specific terminology that in fiction isn’t used or is simplified, because the real one tends to change with the country or simply is too long or abstruse to be used in fiction.

A classic example is offered by the terms anatomopathologist, medical examiner, and coroner. They are three different things that often coincide in fiction and can even do it in reality, but it isn’t always so. The anatomopathologist is a specialist that identifies and analyses tissue and organ alterations due to illness. Typically they work on the living, not the dead. However, they may be involved in an investigation or become a coroner, for their specialisation is particularly suitable for determining the cause of death or other injuries in the body of a victim.
The medical examiner is, in short, the person in charge of the autopsies. They should not necessarily be specialized in anatomical pathology. It is a kind of career where doctors who have specialised in something else can converge. This reminds me an example in fiction: “Body of Proof”, where the protagonist is a neurosurgeon who because of an accident can no longer exercise and then she starts working as a medical examiner.
Finally, the coroner is a typically Anglo-Saxon role, although our background of American and British fiction may lead us to think that it exists everywhere. It is a legal officer who in the event of suspicious deaths has the task of establishing the circumstances of death and the identity of the victim. The coroner may be a lawyer or a doctor, so sometimes he/she is a medical examiner, but often he/she is not. This also depends on the laws of each country or even, in the case of federal countries (like the United States of America), each state/region.

And then there’s the distinction between criminologist and criminalist. The two terms have different meanings in different countries.
In English, the criminologist is often defined as an expert in forensic science, so it can be a crime scene investigator and/or a forensic technician. The term “criminalist” can be understood either as expert in forensic science and as a synonym for criminal defence lawyer and criminal psychologist or psychiatrist. The choice of either term varies according to the different language variant (American, British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, etc ...) and common usage. Between the two, the term “criminologist” often prevails, because it is the one used in fiction. The British often avoid the term “criminologist”, which is more American, and use the specific ones, i.e. “crime scene investigator” and “forensic technician” or “forensic scientist”.

What about Italy? Here the use is different. The person who analyses the physical evidence is always defined criminalist (criminalista in Italian).
The criminologist (criminologo in Italian), instead, is an expert in criminology, i.e. the science that studies crimes, perpetrators, victims, types of criminal behaviour, prevention of crimes and reintegration of offenders into society, after serving their sentences. In short, it is an interdisciplinary field that combines expertise in criminal law, psychology, biology, sociology, and many other disciplines, and that focuses on the “who”, not on “where” or “how”, so the criminologist doesn’t participate in the investigation or trials.

Who, like me, writes novels that deal with forensic science has to consider the target readers, of which I myself belong, both concerning the terminological knowledge and from a geographical point of view. To avoid confusion in the reader, in the books of the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy I tried to use simple terms, which are understandable and commonly used. For this reason I mention a “medical examiner” and not any specialisation of Dr. Dawson or his assistant, Dr.  Collins (who appears in “Syndrome” for the first time). I use the term “coroner” only once in a scene from “The Mentor” to indicate the presence of this figure or its representative at a crime scene including a corpse. Actually I mention the coroner’s van, without specifying who the coroner is.

Moreover, since I had to indicate the role of the characters who work for Scotland Yard forensic department (Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Service) with a single term and widely used in fiction, I chose the generic “criminologist” (if the story were set in Italy, it would be wrong ) instead of “crime scene investigator” or “forensic scientist”, which sound too technical or just bulky in a novel to indicate the person who is speaking, although they are the more correct in a British context.

Finally, to do honour to the habit of TV series, movies, and other novels by using the characters at all stages of the investigation, my criminologists go to the crime scene, do the analysis in the laboratory, but they all are also police officers (which is not always true in the UK), not only the detective chief inspector who heads the team (Eric Shaw), therefore they interrogate people, participate in the chases and arrest the criminals, and unlike the majority of real British police officers they usually have a gun.

The Listener: the paramedic who reads your mind

The broadcast on Fox Italy (my country) of this Canadian series was preceded by a lot of advertisement that pointed to the fact that it was a world premiere. Actually “The Listener” was broadcast in Italy and other countries a few days after its Canadian premiere (3 March 2009), but a few months before its premiere in the United States.

I don’t know why, because I’m not generally crazy about the series that have to do with paranormal stuff, but I still found myself watching it from the first episode to the last one in 2014.
The series had as its protagonist a paramedic, Toby Logan (played by Craig Olejnik) with telepathic abilities. Toby could read what was in other people’s minds, whether it was sound, images or words, and because of this talent he found himself involved in solving murder cases.

The first season showed him interacting with a detective, Charlie Marks (played by Lisa Marcos; the first on the left in the last picture), but this was done in an almost fortuitous way, since Toby during his ambulance service was often to intervene where a crime had occurred and read the minds of the victims, before they died, or others involved. Parallel to each case there was a subplot on Toby’s past and the origin of this ability.

I must say that the series was not extraordinary, but I watched it with pleasure, thanks to the setting in Toronto, certainly less famous than others, and the presence of a good cast of little-known actors. Being a Canadian series made it distinctly different from US ones in the way some topics were treated, presenting less clichés and more original elements. The dramatic aspect was then diluted by the presence of an ironic character: Osman Bey (played by Ennis Esmer), called Oz, who was Toby’s colleague in the ambulance. The subplot, finally, was intriguing and pushed to watch the next episode.

After the first season, the series underwent a revolution, because the scriptwriters were replaced and its creator, Michael Amo, stopped working on it.
Instead of finding himself by chance involved in the crimes, Toby was called by an IIB sergeant (from a special investigative unit), Michelle McClunsky (played by Lauren Lee Smith, whom I had already seen in the ninth season of “CSI” and later played an important role in the science fiction miniseries “Ascension”), so that starting from the third season he stopped being a paramedic and began working in the team as consultant. Only a few (though their number was increasing) knew about his ability and officially he was considered an expert of facial micro expressions able to tell if a person were sincere or not.

Because of that the subplot completely disappeared giving way to an episodic trend that made the series become almost procedural. “The Listener” lost its originality, but acquired rhythm and action. The intention was probably to attract a wider audience and seemed to work, since it went on until its conclusion programmed with the fifth season.
In the US, the series didn’t do particularly well, while in Italy was actually the second most watched series on Fox.

The Sands of Mars - Arthur C. Clarke

*** Hard science fiction from the past

I know I find myself in front of a science fiction classic written in the 50s of the past century, but I’m obviously forced to judge it according to my tastes as a reader from these times.
This is an early example of hard science fiction, that is, a science fiction that seeks to be based on real science, but being a novel from 1951, most of its science is outdated. Therefore you must take it as it is.
The story sounds cold and linear, even though there are passages that theoretically should excite, both with regard to the private scope of the protagonist and the adventurous events and discoveries that he has witnessed. This causes the novel to appear as a report that doesn’t make you feel involved as you read.
The simultaneous presence of these two aspects unfortunately prevented me from enjoying the book.
I have read other classics that show a totally different Mars from what it turned out to be, but the way they were written still made it enjoyable, as they allowed me to feel along with the protagonist, suffer with them. It created a strong reader-protagonist bond that surpassed all scientific nonsense and anachronistic aspects of the story.
I wasn’t able to create such bond in this book. I just found it boring and I’m afraid that it hasn’t left me anything at the end of the reading.
I know that this is a risk you take by reading classic novels, since some of them are the mirror of a type of fiction that is very different from the contemporary one and therefore not everybody likes it today. I certainly don’t.
Anyway I enjoyed some suggestive ideas generated by the imaginative setting.

The Sands of Mars on Amazon.

Thomas Harris: the father of Hannibal Lecter

I still remember that night when, sitting on my bed, I was reading the scene of “The Silence of the Lambs” where Clarice enters Buffalo Bill’s house.
I had palpitations.
And I’m not kidding.

I have read many books in my life, some really beautiful and exciting, but only “The Silence of the Lambs” made me feel that way. As I read it, I was Clarice and, between fear and horror, I was exploring the house in search of the senator’s daughter. I was also that girl (I cannot remember her name) who, locked in the well, begged Clarice not to leave her alone. But Clarice must first find the serial killer, so that both were safe.

All the novels by Thomas Harris, even if they are only five, have yielded in me the same effect: I felt inside the story, and I felt compelled to read at any time, whatever I was doing.
No author has ever managed to capture me so much with their prose to push me to read out from the usual places and times that I devote to this activity. There is something unique in his way of narrating that is in perfect harmony with me, without the slightest smear, so when I am asked about my favourite author, I mean the very first one in my ranking, the answer is only one: Thomas Harris.
The others come much later.

We don’t know much about him, as he is a very discreet person, elusive to the media. We know that in thirty years he wrote five books and that more than ten have passed since the last one. Each of them was turned into a successful movie; actually two movies came from his second book “Red Dragon”. Apparently he told Stephen King that writing for him is a proper torture and this explains why he isn’t very prolific.
In my small way I understand him perfectly. Writing is really a torture, but of course he is luckier than me, because he can afford a little more than a book for decades, given the success they have!

Like many, I learned about him with “The Silence of the Lambs”, but my favourite of his books is “Hannibal”, where the figure of Lecter, the perfect anti-hero, is shown in all its splendour to the reader. It is no coincidence that Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the serial killer also known as The Cannibal, for the habit of eating some organs of his victims, is also my favourite literary character.
What I love about Harris’s writing is his incredible ability to develop a character with clear negative connotations, but still be able to let me love it. No one like him can distort the very concept of good and evil.
In “Hannibal” in particular there is no good guy in the strict sense. There is so much evil in the characters that Lecter becomes the hero in all respects. And the way what dwells in his mind (the palace of memory) is shown makes me understand his motivations, why he became what he is, up to immerse myself in him and accept his actions, his malice.

Harris has shown me that a true villain like Lecter (and he is without a doubt a true villain, since there is no remorse in him nor the minimum search for redemption) can be the hero of a novel, appreciated and recognised as that by so many readers.

Lecter makes his first and brief appearance in “Red Dragon”. The first film based on this novel is “Manhunter” starring William Petersen (Gil Grissom from CSI), where Lecter, here oddly named Lecktor, is played by Brian Cox. Its second film adaptation, “Red Dragon” starring Edward Norton, instead shows Anthony Hopkins reprising his role in 2002 after “The Silence of theLambs” (1991), for which he won an Oscar in 1992 as best actor (the Academy also awarded Jodie Foster as Clarice, director Jonathan Demme, screenwriter Ted Tally, and the film itself), and “Hannibal” (2001).
The last novel in the series, “Hannibal Rising”, was published in 2006 and narrates the youth of the character. The story of Hannibal, however, ends with “Hannibal” (published in 1999), which has a completely different ending from that of the film.
A TV series was also dedicated to this character, “Hannibal”.

Before the Lecter Series, Harris wrote “Black Sunday” (1975), a novel that narrates about a terrorist attack with a dirigible against New Orleans stadium, where the Super Bowl is taking place. Even in this one the author investigates the minds of the villains, showing without any filter the logic of their intentions and actions to the reader.
I remember I started reading the book in 2001 and then I was forced to temporarily stop reading after the attacks of September 11, because it appeared too realistic to me. Then I picked it up again years later and finished it in a few days.

After “Hannibal Rising” I wondered what Harris could ever write, because the Lecter series seemed complete. Of course, there would be much to tell between the end of this novel and the beginning of “Red Dragon”, but I don’t know to what extent it would make sense to write a book out of it. Lecter is already perfect this way. Actually, I’d be curious to know what other frightening characters dwell in Harris’s mind. I would like to meet them.

I have no idea what Harris is doing now, but I sincerely hope that he is torturing himself at least one last time so as to give us another beautiful piece of his work.

Thoughts by Anakina: an alternative way to connect with me

As you may know I have a regular mailing list, with which I keep my readers posted about new book releases, promotions, and giveaway.
The problem with this mailing list is that more than 90% of the subscribers ended up in it after getting a free e-book and not because they really wanted to keep in touch with me. That’s why I send my newsletter just when I have some news related to new publications and promotions. Once I do that, I also add a link to the latest articles posted on this blog, but I don’t put anything personal, because this is not the reason why people subscribed to or ended up in the list in first place.

Now I decided to create a brand new mailing list, which I called Thoughts by Anakina, dedicated to real readers of my books who are interested to know what I’m involved in, but also to get my tips about books, TV series, movies, my life here in Sardinia (do you know where Sardinia is?) and more things that I like, and fun stuff related to my books and characters.
Of course I will add a note to this newsletter when I publish a new book in English and I will point out to the relevant link with further detail, but the purpose of Thoughts by Anakina is that I can keep in touch with those of you who really want to keep in touch with me.
You won’t get many of these emails and they won’t be long, but I’ll try to make them interesting. I promise.

Moreover, later on, subscribers to this mailing list will receive some exclusive free stuff!

Do you want to enter my little club?

Some people have already subscribed: thank you, my dear readers and friends! As of today, I haven’t started yet to send my messages, but I will start soon.

My messages (except those including exclusive free stuff, which only subscribers will receive) will then appear on the archive site, i.e. the same one where you can subscribe. They will appear as sent from my e-mail address: carla@anakina.net. Save it in your address book. You can also email me any time.

Why don’t you give it a try?
And if you get bored, you can unsubscribe with a click.

“The Mentor” on sale for $2 throughout February (US & Canada only)

Mina was there when they killed her family.
Now the time has come for her to kill them all.

If you live in the USA or Canada, you have a new chance to meet Detective Eric Shaw and his pupil for a very low price. “The Mentor” (Kindle edition) is on sale on Amazon for $2, instead of $5.99, until the end of February.

Get your copy on: http://smarturl.it/mentor

This crime thriller set in London is the first one in the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy, which narrates the story of a Scotland Yard forensics detective who finds out that a person he loves is a serial killer.
The following books, “Syndrome” (already published in Italian) and “Beyond the Limit” (to be published in Italian in May), will be published in English in 2018-2019. In the meantime you can get the first book at this special price.

More about “The Mentor”.

Detective Eric Shaw, chief of a forensics team at Scotland Yard, together with Murder Investigation Team Detective Miriam Leroux, is investigating the death of a previous offender, killed by two pistol shots: one at his neck, in a style recalling an unusual execution, but preceded by another shot at his groin, which seems having a more personal implication.
However, his attention at work is often distracted by criminologist Adele Pennington, a beautiful woman more than two decades his junior, by whom he realises he is attracted, though his feelings aren’t returned.
Meanwhile, the details about a very similar crime are described in an anonymous blog, unbeknownst by the London police. The author of the blog signs herself Mina, like one of the victims in a case Shaw investigated many years ago.

This book is also available in paperback and audiobook.

Start reading “The Mentor” right now: http://smarturl.it/mentor

The Black Echo - Michael Connelly

***** The first Bosch is never forgotten

I had never read anything by Connelly in the past and I admit that I was attracted to this series because it was brought to my attention by the existence of a TV series produced by Amazon Studios. Apart from that I knew nothing of the main character, Harry Bosch, nor had I read the book description of this first novel. I just decided to take it and read it, and then defer the judgments to a later time.
Well, it was love at first sight.
I quickly managed to create a strong bond with this character, so flawed as to be a perfect anti-hero. Harry drinks too much, smokes too much, sleeps little, eats little, is unruly, which led him to be exiled in Hollywood Homicide Squad. But Harry is clever, stubborn, has a great intuition, which in the past has earned him considerable success. Despite his life has become problematic, he does everything to accomplish his job, in particular, as it happens in this book, if he realises that somehow he ended up involved in the case.
In fact this is not a mystery, but a crime thriller. The degree of involvement of the protagonist with both the victim and one of those responsible for their death makes him an integral part of the main plot, thus making the character undergo a growth over the course of story.
It is also true that the disappointment he incurs (I don’t specify the reason of such disappointment, to avoid spoilers) could block this process and causes that the character is repeated as such in the subsequent books, but the existence of a complex subplot gives me hope.
I found very interesting the historical reconstruction relative to the tunnel rats in Vietnam. Something I appreciate a lot in the novels I read is their ability to teach me something unexpected and “The Black Echo” succeeded in that, too.
I also find it suggestive to read a story set in a time when people still used the landline to communicate, there were no cell phones, and computer access was difficult even for a police detective. All this makes the investigation most complex and compelling.
The introspection of the character is magnificent. One cannot but love him and want to know more.
The plot is super intricate, never falls into banality, forcing you to read very carefully throughout the novel.
The structure in long parts (divided in the few days when the story takes place) pushes you to read as much as possible and so the novel runs off fast, despite the large number of pages.
Personally I found it as a great inspiration when writing a book of mine characterised by a similar mood, and this discovery was for me like the icing on the cake, which made it an even more satisfying read.
So, in general I can say that it is a great novel, and I will no doubt read the next ones.

The Black Echo on Amazon.

Another Earth: is a second chance really possible?

There are so many good movies that don’t arrive to our local theatres and which you hardly hear about. “Another Earth” (2011) is one of them. But if on 24 July 2011 I had not read a very short post by Gary Lightbody (lead singer of Snow Patrol), who claimed he wanted to see it and enclosed a link to the trailer, I would hardly have thought of looking for it among the many possible choices on Sky TV or other sources.

Instead it took a very short post to intrigue me, but then the film stayed there for years before I decided to watch it.

It is an independent film, so don’t expect amazing special effects or a large cast, but at the same time you can rest assured that you’ll be amazed, because, being released from the logic of blockbusters, which must be a success to cover the enormous costs to produce them, independent films (a bit like the works of independent musicians or independent authors) have the privilege of being able to dare.
The film is directed by Mark Cahill, a little-known director of three independent films (of which this is the second one).
The role of the female protagonist is entrusted to Brit Marling, who later starred in such films as “Arbitrage” (in which she played the daughter of Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon) and “The Company You Keep” (Robert Redford).
The male protagonist is played by William Mapother, whom TV series fans will remember as Ethan Rom in “Lost”, but who hangs about big cinema productions, although in smaller roles, since 1989.

At first glance the plot would seem that of a science fiction film or more generally of a film that is part of the speculation fiction genre, reminding of “The Twilight Zone”.
A habitable planet identical to Earth is discovered, and it is approaching. They call it Earth 2, for simplicity. However, its being identical to the Earth doesn’t only apply to its shape. This fact should be already enough to scare all the inhabitants of our planet and make them believe they are victims of a collective hallucination, instead, in a kind of surreal atmosphere, people seem just curious. But what makes this discovery even more incredible is the fact that, after four years, when the two planets are in communication distance, they realise that Earth 2 seems to have the same inhabitants of Earth.

Are they living the same life?

In this context you are shown the story of Rhoda Williams, who on the night of the first sighting of Earth 2, when she is a bit tipsy after a party, is driving a car while trying to see the new blue dot in the night sky and, in so doing, she causes an accident in which two people dies and one ends up in a coma.
I don’t tell you what will happen later, because the beauty of this film is to follow the unpredictable turn of events. Indeed, I have already revealed too much.

Suffice to say that it is a dramatic, redemption story, which uses an imaginative context to address the topic of second chances.

Can there be a second chance for a person who has made such a horrible act that even she cannot forgive herself?

Rhoda tries to discover it as she puts back together the pieces of her life and try to make amends, but things don’t go exactly the way we had expected.
In about 90 minutes we follow her with bated breath, only partly interested in the story of second Earth, but the latter will prove crucial to the conclusion that is consumed in the last 10 minutes of the movie, leaving us dumbfounded as we think about it for a few minutes. Or for some days, as it happened to me.