SURVIVOR: black swan green (david mitchell)*
CHALLENGER: the likeness (tana french)

if i had venture capital and/or an intense desire to get into the film business burning a hole in me, i'd waste no time optioning tana french's books. my film version of the likeness, her second novel, would pack the theaters with every conceivable demographic: i'd have a crackling undercover murder investigation for the thriller fans, a stroll through the political history of irish landlords and tenants for the history buffs, a love story for the romantics, and a big old georgian house that would charm the shit out of everyone. for good measure i'd detonate megan fox at the end, and then i would go swimming in my silo of money.

french's first novel, the (THUNDERTOME alum) in the woods, introduced rob ryan, an angsty irish homicide detective with a freaky past and a feisty, pixieish, crappy-old-vespa-ridin' partner. said partner, cassie maddox, is the sequel's main character; after her adventures with rob, she transfers to the domestic violence squad, which is where the likeness finds her, literally and figuratively. a dead girl turns up in a famine cottage outside a small village, you see, and the ID at the scene says she's lexie madison, the fictional college student cassie impersonated when she was an undercover agent years ago. she's cassie's spitting image, so the irish police decide to pretend the dead girl survived her wounds, train cassie to impersonate her apparent impersonator, and send her into lexie's old life to find her killer. it's a ludicrous premise, but it's a stunt worth following: french spends at least a hundred pages reliving the bad old days of cassie's first stint undercover and retraining her to slip into someone else's skin. as in her debut, french's ant-farmer attention to her characters' emotional antennae is a thing of meticulous beauty; i can't think of another genre writer (and only a few writers of any sort) with her talent for building interpersonal tension one hair at a time. she's either the best coffee date ever or the worst frenemy i can imagine. as she made me use the word frenemy (the mexicorn of relationship discussions) in mixed company, i'm going with the latter for now - but either way, she's a fine read.

VICTOR: black swan green, but mitchell will sweat over french's last moments for weeks.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 would megan fox be difficult to detonate? how would you go about it?

02 do you think you'd be a good undercover officer?

03 which writers do you associate with supermeticulous interpersonal tension?

04 is there a neologism you hate as much as i hate mexicorn?

05 seriously, want in on this GRAVITY'S RAINBeh business? it will be the best reading group ever.

*previous battle here.


rachel (heart of light) said...

This one actually stuck with me more than In the Woods.

That's all I have this morning - not enough coffee in me to contribute anything else.

LPC said...

01 - Beestings, lips.
02 - Terrible. The worst ever. Would be killed on the first day if not in the first hour.
03 - Coetze, if you define interpersonal as between a person and the universe. Otherwise, Ishiguro. Somehow I feel that answer is too facile.
04 - But what IS mexicorn?
05 - See previous. But if I get to take you to lunch some day you can probably make me do it.

jacob said...

01 clone megan fox and have one interview the other about female representation in film. self-detonation X 2.

02 as i am a terrible liar, no.

03 ian mcewan usually does a very good job with this.

04 "staycation" is pretty bad.

05 bring on the banana pancakes. the book is all about pancakes, right?

jamie said...

all i read from your tweet was candy corn. its my own fault but now i am dissapointed.

kidchamp said...

you can't even eat candy corn, jamie! you're vegetarian!

@jacob: yes, "gravity's rainbow" is the convexity one develops from a surfeit of pancakes. 

lisa, mexicorn is this insipid canned mix of corn and mild peppers. someone used it at work a few years ago - in copy - and i nearly threw an office chair. 

i agree, rachel; in the woods was good, but the likeness i'd read again. 

g said...

01 tell her she is more incredible than angelina jolie & marilyn monroe combined.  watch head swell until it explodes.  done.

02 i think you know the answer to that question.

04 i gotta side with jacob... the word "staycation" makes me want to hit people with drunken ferrets.  drunken ferrets that are angry and bitey.  and ON FIRE.

jamie said...

oh does it have horse hooves in it???? i didn't know! #badvegetarian

kidchamp said...

kidchamp dot net: ruining dessert for vegetarians since 2001.

g, it should be noted that you'd be unlikely to blow your cover, as you wouldn't talk to anyone. one might argue that that would compromise your ability to get information, but silence is an interviewer's keenest blade, you see.

uncle paul said...

"Frenemy" seems to correspond to an identifiable thing in the world, so even in my rigid early-Wittgenstein moments I can't manage to hate it all the way. But Mexicorn - the hell? I mean, corn comes from - oh, fuck it.

Amanda said...

01 Who? (Done and done.)
02 See above. Also? Grey trench.
03 Hugo.
04 Frindle.
05 Finnegan's Wake?!

furiousmuse said...

straight to the point: when does the reading groupd start? i can't seem to make heads or tails out of my time and find myself rather booked-up until October. If next month, count me in. By then I should be ready to add to my bugeoning schedule*!

*which, for the record, includes toastmasters, weekend ceramics classes, 2 writing workshops, not to mention EVERYTHING ELSE. lol. 


kidchamp said...

it won't start for a bit, i think; we were thinking of getting going before jacob has to start baby-taming (the baby is nigh!), but it's my hell week here at work and october is twelve kinds of crazy (weekend in CT, week in CA, possibly half a week in ca...nada), so i think mid-fall is more realistic. i'd say november, honestly. 

LPC said...

Sometimes I feel that commenting here is like Ms. Austen would feel picture a court debut. Or a Dallas debut, for that matter. Curtsey, deep, deeper, deepest. That said, there's also dancing, which makes up for all kinds of disgrace.

kidchamp said...

that sounds so exclusive, though, and who can choreograph all of that underwear? i just want to talk about spies. (like jacob, i'm a terrible liar; i'd be a miserable spy.)

LPC said...

Not exclusive. Just high-performing. Although obviously I was nattering on last night and it wasn't even from too much alcohol so I have no excuse. Unless one can suffer from Croque Monsieur intoxication.