Saturday, January 30, 2016

How To Rob An Armored Car by Iain Levison (Soho Press 2009)

Mitch was staring at a case of auto air fresheners.

Really staring at them. He was having some deep thoughts, wondering who came up with the idea of freshening the interior of a car. Mitch’s own car smelled like gas and pot smoke and mold, which was fair enough, because the roof leaked and the carpet was always damp, and he hotboxed a joint out there every day during his lunch break, and the car ran on gas. That was what an old car should smell like. He knew if he put an air freshener in it, it would smell like gas and pot smoke and mold and a chemical approximation of a pine tree, which wouldn’t really be better, just different.

He and Charles had gone out at lunch and fired up a joint and Charles had told him that he had nine brothers and sisters back in Lagos, Nigeria, and two of them had been killed by the secret police. Mitch hadn’t known what to say. In a way he envied Charles for having had a life so shitty that working at Accu-mart was a slice of heaven. He wished he had stories about having come from somewhere merciless and tragic. Instead, he had stories about living with a distant father while attending public school in Queens, and by comparison those stories shrieked of insignificance. Even he found them dull, and because of this, working at Accu-mart was even duller, a mind-numbing slow torture that was turning his brain into lifeless putty. Work, cable TV, smoke a bowl, sleep. Try to hide from suffering in all its many forms and wind up envying people whose families were getting killed by the secret police.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Maigret and the Loner by Georges Simenon (A Harvest/HBJ Book 1971)

The door was so rotten that it would no longer serve even as firewood. It was Maigret who pushed it open. Standing on the threshold, he could see what the Police Superintendent had meant when he had promised him a surprise.

It was a fair-sized room, and the panes of both windows had been replaced with cardboard or stiff paper. The uneven floor, with gaps of more than an inch between the boards, was covered with an incredible litter of bric-a-brac, most of it broken, all of it useless.

Dominating the room was an iron bedstead on which lay, fully dressed, on an old straw mattress, a man who was unmistakably dead. His chest was covered with clotted blood, but his face was serene.
His clothes were those of a tramp, but the face and hands suggested something very different. He was elderly, with long silvery hair shot through with bluish highlights. His eyes, too, were blue. Maigret was beginning to feel uneasy under their fixed gaze, when the Superintendent closed them.

The man had a white moustache, slightly turned up at the ends, and a short Vandyke beard, also white.

Apart from this, he was close-shaven, and Maigret saw, with renewed surprise, that his hands were carefully manicured.

“He looks like an elderly actor got up as a tramp,” he murmured. “Did he have any papers on him?”

“None. No identity card, no old letters, nothing. Several of my inspectors, all assigned to this district at one time or another, came and had a look at him, but none of them recognized him, though one thought he might have seen him once or twice rummaging in trash cans.”

The man was very tall and exceptionally broad-shouldered. His trousers, which had a tear over the left knee, were too short for him. His tattered jacket, fit only for the rag bag, was lying crumpled on the filthy floor.

“Has the police doctor seen him?”

“Not yet. I’m expecting him any minute. I was hoping you’d get here before anything had been touched.”