Before I tell you about Signal to Noise, go have a listen to this playlist of the songs and artists mentioned in the book. It’s a wonderful mix of everything from jazz standards to treacly mid-80s Mexican pop. Perfect.
Now. The book. Signal to Noise is set in Mexico City in both 1988/89 and 2009. As a teenager, Meche is obsessed with music, a behavior she picked up from her father, an alcoholic failed musician and would-be writer. Her best friends are Sebastian, a tall and awkward bookworm, and Daniela, who dresses like a doll and would rather play with her Easy-Bake Oven. First Meche, then her friends, discover that they have the ability to do magic: hexes, glamours, and spells to get them what they’ve always dreamt of. But, as these things so often do, things go much differently than they hoped.
Okay, stop me reading if you’ve heard this before:
In the mid-19th century, the Reverend Sylvester Graham founded the American Vegetarian Society and wrote extensively about the detrimental health effects of consuming meat, dairy, and alcohol. Maybe you know him as the guy who gave Graham crackers their name and millions of cheesecakes their delicious crust. Whether that’s brand-new information to you or not, Graham is probably super disappointed in all of us. Commercialism and sweet snacks of middling-to-no nutritional value are exactly what he didn’t want anyone indulging in!
Well, ignore the order in that post subject because I’m going to talk about the Dublin Murder Squad first.
Tana French’s latest, The Secret Place, came out a few weeks ago, FINALLY. This time, the detective is Stephen Moran, who was such a thorn in Frank Mackey’s side two books back. It took me longer to get through this than any of French’s others; more a lack of free time than anything to do with the story or the writing, which is as tight as ever. French is absolutely a master of psychological suspense—both in the telling of the central murder mystery, and in the building out of complex and banal interpersonal relations. Some of the teenager-centered narrative and characterization can ring a bit false at times (though unlike other reviewers I have seen (and used!) phrases such as “totes amazeballs” and so had far fewer quibbles with the slang), but in a way that seems naturally unnatural for these individual characters. French goes deeper into some of the class and gender themes she’s explored in past books, class especially much more overtly than in any other aside from Faithful Place, but in tone and theme I found it much closer to The Likeness. Over on Goodreads, Elise made a great observation in her review: the central relationship between Moran and Conway is a mirror of sorts to In the Woods, “a making rather than a sundering“. It’s delightful to watch their initial wariness dissolve as their understanding of the case they’re investigating coalesces into a more coherent whole. Another great entry to the series. I highly recommend.
As for Gone Girl, my non-spoilery review is simply: GET YOURSELF TO A THEATER. If Rosamund Pike isn’t nominated for and awarded the Best Actress Oscar for her performance, then it had better be because another actress transcended the limits of the physical realm and actually became a digital element in some other film. I will accept no other possible reason. And Affleck is at the absolute top of his meathead, lunky, variously charming and off-putting form. He oozes casual misogyny and poor-me entitlement as naturally as breathing, something I don’t recall ever being as effective an element in his performances. If his Batman/Bruce Wayne is even half as interesting, I might actually see the new Snyder film.
Now then, a more long-winded review follows. Spoilers ahoy!