End-of-season reads

While putting together my previous reading list, I mentioned that I was already tackling Relentless. That was three weeks ago. I’ve since finished the nonfiction title, before trekking Nesbo’s 695-page Nemesis. In under a week, I’ve likewise knocked back Grisham’s latest. Winter is on hand, so here are the last few reads of the season that was:

  • Relentless. This book by a noted trainer was highly rated. However, upon starting, I concurred that many readers may have gotten it wrong. He equates many of his preaching to sports and stars. In particular, he uses a lot of basketball analogies and examples. The book tried to distance itself from self-help books but ends up being monotonous and boring. Central to this is the idea of a cleaner. The book spends an inordinate amount of time trying to define a cleaner, differentiating it to a closer and a cooler. He sees Michael Jordan as the ultimate cleaner, also mentioning Sir Charles and D-Wade as other models. He must know since he worked directly with these stars.

He talks briefly about his own family, who were migrants in both the UK and US. It was a true immigrant success story. He also discusses his rise. At first, the Bulls shunned him as their in-house trainer. Yet with time, he showed that he can make even Michael Jordan stronger and better. He navigated MJ to surpass the Pistons and win all those rings. Throughout the book, he repeatedly emphasises how his process is. Little is known about his regimen, but when he comes along, his clients sweat a lot. He talks about the sugarless diet and that this merciless programme is how he starts his spells. Personally, I’ve gone no-sugar before and it’s an extreme way of eating. Being committed is a common theme in this book. He argues that you would tolerate the pain if you want to achieve your goal. Relentless is just over two hundred pages long but seems like a hard slog. If not for the basketball bits to keep me honest, I would have given up.

Rating: 3.77/5

  • Nemesis (Nesbo). Redbreast, the author’s breakout novel, impressed me. Nemesis, the next Harry Hole instalment, was just as stellar. The book tackles two parallel mysteries: the murder of a Romani chick and ongoing bank heists across Oslo. The bird, Anna, is significant since she is Harry’s lover and he was with her the night she died. However, Detective Hole has no recollections as to the events of that night. Meanwhile, a downtown bank robbery sees a teller gunned down. Body cues indicate that the woman knows the thief, which they dub as ‘the expeditor.’ As Harry’s life unravels, the bank heists persist with unbridled savagery. For your information, the book is titled Nemesis since this was Anna’s last project. Featuring a tableau with three heads, she would go out in style. Beate Lonn, Harry’s colleague, identifies Harry as one of the heads. Lonn has the condition called fusiform gyrus, giving her a photographic memory.  

In an effort to contain the sadism, Harry works with the new girl, Beate, and interviews persons of interest. They find clues, dead-ends, and a trail that leads them to Brazil. In addition, Harry’s friend goes to Egypt just to help him. Detective Hole likewise visits Raskol Baxhet, Anna’s uncle, in an attempt to unmask the callous raider. The latter is an expert robber and imparts long stories that underscore the plight of the Romani people. He talks about his life story, Romani customs, and insists that a woman wrote The Art of War. He ultimately leads them to the alleged perp, but they may be too late. Nesbo makes sure to provide a few twists, although he reinforced stereotypes with the Romani as thieves.

We would once again see the darker side of Tom Waaler, Harry’s colleague. Hole becomes a pariah for a moment as Waaler frames him. A few times, Hole warns Beate about fraternising with Mr Waaler, but this falls on deaf ears. Harry’s rival may be pretentious, the parabolic wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing. However, we could all agree that Tom is a dead-eye and covers his tracks like a master. While a relatively minor player, the psychologist Aune is like a sage. He’s been a great help and uses his vast knowledge in profiling offenders. He also deconstructs Hole’s issues and they get on well. He functions like M in the Bond movies. There was a word on the cover, proclaiming that Nesbo’s ‘the next Steig Larsson.’ Personally, I get that they’re both Scandinavian and write in the same genre. However, the late Steig had way more description; Nesbo is more accessible.

Rating: 4.35/5

  • Camino Winds (Grisham). This is the master’s latest offering. Winds is a direct sequel to Camino Island (2017), taking place amid Hurricane Leo. The category four hurricane devastates Camino, with the residents evacuating the popular holiday town. The night before Leo strikes, Bruce Cable (Bay Books owner) organises a get-together to celebrate local author Mercer Mann. Bay Books was the last stop on her book tour; her semi-autobiographical novel, Tessa, was making waves in the literary world. In the end, only a few of the group braved the cataclysm: Bruce, Nick (his employee), Bob Cobb (a crime writer), and Nelson Kerr. The storm offers the perfect pretext for Kerr’s murder. Both the state and local authorities see it as an open-and-shut case. However, the three sleuths think otherwise. While the island recovers, both Bob and Nick get on with their lives. Meanwhile, Bruce liaises with Polly in the aftermath of her brother’s death. Nick believes that Kerr was killed by a hitwoman and not by Leo. He also purports that Nelson’s knowledge, laid out in his unpublished last novel, was why he got whacked.

This novel deals with a key trope of our time: whether to trust the big pharmaceuticals and their promises. We have been confronted with much bad press from nursing homes and their staff. Unfortunately for Kerr, his digging costs him. Fortunately, though, he had a few good pals that he could count on. One of these chums would part-pay for a firm to look into this miracle drug. Unlike in real life, the wheels of justice move smoothly here. Trite as it may be, this still offers a much better conclusion than The Associate. However, often overlooked is Bruce’s ruminations regarding his bookshop. After decades of giving so much to the writers and bookworms, he is at a crossroads. With Leo squashing his market, retiring early is the easiest way. We could all learn from Bruce, seeing him fight his weariness and inject new life to his calling. Grisham introduces some new characters in a very breezy read, which also has a twinge of humour. At 292 pages, this trade paperback only has eleven chapters to peruse. It’s time to bask in Camino Island.

Rating: 4.4/5

As has been the case, I’ve had two fiction titles and one non-fiction volume. I am trending towards novels these days, with only two nonfiction reads in my past seven. This is only my second Nesbo ever, although I am currently taking in The Devil’s Star. My list has three different authors: two thriller maestros and one fitness guru. I’ll be back in a bit to share even more reads.

Now reading:

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