Monthly Archives: March 2003

Lawrence Block – The Burglar in the Library

Bernie Rhodenbarr takes a weekend break at an English country house hotel in the remote backwaters of Massachusetts. He has an ulterior motive, of course: he suspects there is a rare and extremely valuable book in their extensive library. Of course, the theft doesn’t go as planned. One of the guests is murdered, and then the hotel finds itself snowed in, and cut off from the outside world. A classic whodunnit that parodies Christie-style country house mysteries as much as it is one itself.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Absolutely stunning film about the life of Chuck Barris. By day he was a successful TV producer, and by night he was a CIA assassin. Or was he? The film (which is based on his autobiography) plays along with the notion. It is a clever, gritty spy story, a sympathetic portrait of a deeply troubled man’s descent into paranoia and madness, and a very dry, back comedy all at the same time. Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore and George Clooney all give magnificent performances. Clooney’s direction is heavily influenced by Soderbergh, but he has an inventive touch all of his own. The film hasn’t been hyped much on TV or in the cinemas, but this is definitely a must-see.

Azzurro (Clerk St., Edinburgh)

Lovely little Italian café that is just as happy to serve you a cup of coffee and a slice of panettone as a full meal. I had melanzane parmigiana as a starter, and duck in a pepper sauce for my main course. The parmigiana was delicious, but the pepper sauce overpowered the duck completely. Not that that will stop us from coming back, mind. The atmosphere is fantastic, and it really does feel like a slice of Italy in the middle of Edinburgh. Conveniently close to the Odeon cinema, too…

Lawrence Block – The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart

Bernie Rhodenbarr, bookstore owner and expert burglar gets caught up in a spot of murder and intrigue surrounding some missing documents he had been commissioned to steal. At the same time, he is busy falling in love with a beautiful Anatrurian woman who takes him to a Bogart double-bill every night. Is she somehow involved? A nice little mystery in the classic mold. Erudite, funny, and romantic, but the cleverness sometimes feels a bit forced.

Gosford Park

Beautifully written and filmed period drama/black comedy/murder mystery set in a country house in 1930s England. It features an ensemble cast to die for, and every last bit part contains enough meat for a full-blown starring role. Even the props are impeccably placed, and work hard for their screen time. The pacing may be slower than your average blockbuster, but it’s never less than intriguing and entertaining. The emotional wallop at the end of the film carries all the more power for it. Absolutely spellbinding.

George P. Pelecanos – Right as Rain

Black policeman Chris Wilson was off-duty and out of uniform when he was shot by a white officer, Terry Quinn. Wilson’s mother hires private investigator Derek Strange to look at his death more closely, and find out what really happened. Pelecanos develops the characters nicely, and manages to ask some probing questions about friendship and racism at the same time as telling a tight detective story. This was my first Pelecanos book, and it makes me want to read more.

The Tuxedo

About as good/bad as you’d expect. A taxi driver (Chan) gets a job as chauffeur for a super-rich secret agent, then takes on the his mantle (or ultra-tech tuxedo) when the agent is injured in an explosion. This could have been saved by a better villain, but I guess they didn’t have the budget for any imagination. The fight scenes are rubbish by Chan standards, too. Still, Jennifer Love Hewitt looks nice.