Friday, March 27, 2015
61 Hours by Lee Child has Jack Reacher wondering about he wishes for. Jack is stranded in a town after a bus accident. Of course there are complications in the town. They have a high risk prison facility five miles out of town and well things happen. Don’t they always when Reacher is around. Greek philosophy is the central theme with a guy named Plato and other characters, Jack has his hands full and he loves it, especially the lady who has taken over his old job at the 110th. It’s exactly as I suspected and enjoyed the reading experience. Seeing the patterns and with the third eye will discern the formula in the next installment of Jack Reacher, one man against them all. There is no future, he is the universal soldier.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Let Me be Frank With You by Richard Ford continues the dialogue Frank Bascombe has with himself as he strolls and ambles through life. This four-vignette novel begins with a horrendous story about an Indian war and the devastation of Sandy to a NJ shore town. The common thread is that “I’m Here.” Frank, at 68, wants to remind himself that he is here, relevant maybe, but definitely here.
Not sure why HLM is an appropriate pen name for Frank the author. He reads lots and then reports on these articles in his column. In the part titled “Everything Could Be Worse” he constant refrain after reading some of this stuff is: “WHAT MAKES THAT NEWS?” Visiting old homes I used to live in was fun once upon a time to me, now it’s not. In fact it seems kind of weird now that I think about it. Walking up to the front door of a house in which I used to live with the expectation of being invited in is preposterous today. I wouldn’t let anyone into my house that claims to have previously lived here. How do I know he isn’t casing the joint for a future robbery or just looking for a squat that night or beyond? This is where my mind went when Frank invited a woman, Ms. Pines, a black woman who teaches history in a nearby town. When she lived there in the 50’s her dad was the first black to work at Bell Labs. Her mom was an Italian Opera singer. She hadn’t been in the house since she moved out in 1979 after the tragedy, which is News to Frank. Yes, it could be worse.
“The New Normal” is the title of the third part and hovers around a new community living paradigm not old age homes for sure, but a more specialty or designer kind of home now for the aging but yet infirmed, a new social community, real, not virtual. Frank’s former wife, Ann, mother of their two children is in one of these enclaves for Parkinson’s. “She is brave to have me here, since I record the progress of her ailment like one of the sensors charting her decline from the prime that seemed always to be hers. The world gets smaller and more focused the longer we stay on it.” (p 160) The conversations are more about such things as “to whether suicide is a religious issue or a medical one.” Jacques’ seven ages speech echoes in these pages.
Ann’s study of the death of others is the title of the fourth part. The “Death of Others” begins yesterday, two days before Christmas. A visit to a friend in a hospice, a chat with the oil delivery man bring back memories of his now divorced wife, his dead son of thirty years, whom he thinks of every day precedes the Christmas visit to his son in KC. It’s another Christmas and more knowledge of the past is revealed as he narrows in on his own end of life path.
Monday, March 23, 2015
Chilled to the Bone by Quentin Bates returns me to Iceland and a grizzly murder and set of catastrophes sparked by the financial crisis and terrorism. Human rights will always win out as we see in this intricate and complex tale of sexual urges that begin the cascading events about to unfold. Acting hasn’t been good enough so she turns tricks sort of. Ex cons, politicians, hackers, and reporters make for an entertaining journey. And of course there is that perfect cop. In this case Gunna, who has plenty of her own personal problems. It’s good to be back in Iceland.
Friday, March 20, 2015
Murder by Sarah Pinborough concludes the two-volume journey into the unsolved murders of the late 1800’s. Remnants of the Ripper case linger with announcements of the death of purported Rippers. Juliana has given birth to little James who will become the center of attention. Dr. Bond’s mind is racing as he wrestles with the unsolved former mysteries and is interrupted by a new set of bizarre murders: that of little children who are left in boxes in the Thames. More little souls for the Upir?
The priest is found dead. Dr. Bond visits Aaron. Tag you’re it.
What we have here is “the ends justifies the means” kind of tale. How our murderer justifies the killing sis astonishing. We are dragged into this opium-induced hallucination of a life or a dream. Which is it? Whatever it is the metallic taste that visits our palate once in a while and that is creepy. It makes me wonder about my own justifications and “monkeys” on my back.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough begins a two-volume journey into the unsolved Thames Torso murders of the late 1800’s. One curiosity is that the narrator, Dr. Thomas Bond uses “half-past ten” instead of the traditional “half ten.” Dr. Bond has been having trouble sleeping as news of Jack the Ripper spreads through Whitechapel and he now has his own Torso case starting up. He uses opium to help him sleep or just get by in 1888.
Back to 1881 to meet a fifteen-year-old Aaron Kosminski, a Jew, running from his dreams, his gift of vision he received from his grandmother. Fleeing to London stops his dreams. They flee because as Jews and as the pogroms in Europe continue, they will be blamed for the death of Tsar Alexander II. Then in 1886, in London, the visions come back and he portends evil, which takes the form of Jack and this other murderer, the Torso murderer.
Finally there is the priest, the mysterious Jesuit priest seeking the evil force. He uses high-grade opium to finely tune his senses and ability to feel and sense the evil.
The first intersection of our heroes is when Dr. Bond and Aaron meet. “I shall have an adventure” is the call of the day as the trio goes monster hunting. “He (Aaron) was a monster seeking a monster.” Finally the two decide they must find the priest. The monster they seek flows into the victim through water since it resides on the river’s bottom until it is hungry and then it surfaces. Love the metaphor? The evil is named upir.
London is in mayhem as Jack the Ripper terrorizes Whitechapel and the Torso Murder is silently dismembering women and collecting heads. This is the goal of terror, mayhem and we have it in spades. The evil hunters are on the trail as we watch them approach the ultimate goal. Now Juliana will have her baby in peace, we think. As Aaron aptly wondered, “who was the hunted and who was the hunter.”
Now from Mayhem to Murder, how delicious.
Monday, March 16, 2015
The Disappearance Boy by Neil Bartlett is about that boy you don’t see when a magician and assistant take a bow at the end of the show. This young boy makes the magician real in his allusions and is not real in real life; he is invisible. Misdirection can take the magician just so far. Love is an elusive imp. Our narrator, Reggie, has a club foot, is an orphan, goes to cemeteries to speak to his dead mother, and needs to find his own lover and wake up with him in the morning, cause that is how it is to be done. Not like his boss, Teddy Brookes who is happy to have evening dalliance leave before he wakes. The magician likes for his ladies to disappear. That is after all his act, “The Vanishing Lady.” His new lady, Pam, is new to the act and she too, falls into the trap of sleeping with the magician. The question Reggie asks Pam is how she is going to get out of this one. That becomes the fun part of our story that takes place at the time of Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in 1953 in the theaters of Brighton. A right good tale of deception, misdirection, and love finally realized as we learn how it’s done, remembering magicians never reveal the truth.
Friday, March 13, 2015
Nothing to Lose by Lee Child introduces me to Jack Reacher, which is long overdue. Reacher is crossing the USA diagonally from Calais, ME to San Diego, CA. He is in Colorado when we meet him as he crosses from the town of Despair into the town of Hope. The symbolism is not missed. “Reacher had long ago quit carrying things he didn’t need. There was nothing in his pockets except paper money and an expired passport and an ATM card and a clip-together toothbrush. There was nothing waiting for him anywhere else, either. No storage unit in a distant city, nothing stashed with friends. He owned the things in his pockets and the clothes on his back and the shoes on his feet. That was all, ant that was enough. Everything he needed, and nothing he didn’t.” (p 5) Now this is a simple man. I’d suggest he carry a Swiss Army knife, but that’s me and I always have one of my knives with me, sometimes two. I do like the simplicity of it all, though. Something to aspire to, methinks. Reacher was a major with the MP’s when he retired ten years ago. Since then he has wandered. Now his “spidey” senses are tingling in the towns of Hope and Despair.
A dead body, a missing man, a sick officer who throws up, a metal extracting plant, an airplane that leaves at seven every night and returns at 2:30 every morning, patrols, police who throw visitors out, a new combat MP unit nearby sends all the wrong messages to brother Jack. And since he has nothing else to do, he gets involved. The town of Despair is a company town and Reacher is trying to reach them to free themselves from the yoke of Mr. Thurman the owner of the metal recycle plant that is using chemicals that are slowing killing the townsfolk. Jack’s moral conundrum is saving the world. Jack Reacher is a road warrior, a good one. When you have nothing to lose, you can do anything.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
The Replacements by David Putnam is the second novel about the ex LA Cop Bruno Bad Boy Johnson. He had left for Costa Rica with his girlfriend, Marie, a nurse and eight children they saved from abusive lives. How did he get to this place? Our tale begins with Bruno in his rookie year as an LA cop and he discovers the bodies of four people in a murder/suicide event. A mother shot her three young children and then turned the gun on herself. “Dispatch hadn’t told me this was a hostage exchange – the term used for child custody conflicts. The adults never acted like adults, and the losers were always the children caught between parents they loved, with their petty conflicts and wounded egos. The parents’ bitter emotions were the worst to deal with in these incidents. People became irrational. Child custody calls tore at my gut. I couldn’t stand to see children cry and I always had to suppress the urge to do something about it.” (p 2) After reading The Disposables, we know he finally succumbed with the aid of Maria and his father to save eight abused children. We find our clan in Costa Rica in this new tale from Putnam.
On the news, Bruno sees a former friend and now a deputy chief speaking about two kidnapped girls. This former friend was Barbara Wicks the wife of his former partner, Robby, who is now dead. The kidnapper will only speak to Bruno. The kidnapper of the girls is Jonas, the little boy Bruno rushed to the hospital that fateful day 20 years ago. So Jonas is replacing his dead sisters. But why?
Lots of twists and turns and weaving in and out of FBI surveillance, local cop chatter, and of course being on the lamb back in the LA area makes moving around and solving another heinous crime involving kidnapped and abused children. Putnam keeps pointing out hos the justice system doesn’t help abused children and how the criminal system is useless in rehabilitation. He is making a strong social statement using his personal knowledge and weaving a sorrowful tale for us to consider. A good story with a moral conundrum, what’s better on a snowy day in the middle of the winter.
Monday, March 9, 2015
The Disposables by David Putnam is his first novel and it is a moral conundrum. This new series introduces us to Big Bad Johnson, a black cop from LA who did time and is on parole. He killed a man: “Derek Sams ruined more lives than he would’ve ever know; my daughter, my grandson, my father, and now Wicks and his wife, Barbara. The insidious tentacles of narcotics burrow deep into the fabric of society.” (p 240) The moral conundrum is what he and his new girlfriend, Marie, are doing. They are kidnapping children. Not for ransom but to save them from their abusive parents. Marie works in a hospital and has seen too many abused children returned to the wrong parents. She took her first child by accident and then they continued until they had 7 children. One child was taken from a diplomat who used lots of power to retrieve his son.
The moral conundrum is about taking the law into your own hands, even when you are right. Bruno Johnson is a good character and Putnam has addressed some touchy issues in an interesting way by telling a story, a good story that leaves the reader questioning things. Putnam is dealing with sensitive and explosive issues.
Friday, March 6, 2015
Murder on the Mediterranean by Alexander Campion reacquaints me with Capucine, the pretty French detective, her adorable food critic husband Alexandre, and her impish uncle, Jacques. What is supposed to be a luxurious vacation on a yacht in the Mediterranean with ten others turns into a nightmare. Sex and political power are at the core of this mystery and our victim, Nathalie, would have done well to be in Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk than in this book as evidenced by the last thing we hear her speak after a rather vulgar and disappointing sexual encounter with another man on the boat other than her lover: “Wouldn’t life be perfect without the need for men.” (p 52)
The treat of a Capucine Culinary Mystery is the eating. The meals are always detailed and delicious. The conversation entertaining as we learn more about food prep and important cooking and procurement tips for the kitchen. For me the solution to the mystery is secondary to the menu for the next meal. And of course it is a lesson in wine.
As for the political intrigue, it is intriguing, infuriating, and always ends the worst way.
This is the most complex of the series and hints of a baby were very strong. I can’t wait for the next installment of a Capucine Culinary Mystery.
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Sins of Our Fathers by Shawn Lawrence Otto returns me to Minnesota and a different encounter Indians on a different level. This time a banker, JW, runs into all sorts of trouble in life and work. Personal loss, separation/divorce, alienation from family and all loss of any moral compass at work, as a banker is what drives JW into the casinos. Bankers already have a skewed compass and his problems make it worse. In addition to family loss, he is now being evicted and losing all services in his lousy apartment. As bankers in this area are trying to discover a new way to make money in a faltering economy, he becomes good at tapping the native Casinos and community to dig himself out of this hole. When a man is down and out like this, he is an easy mark for another who wants and needs someone like JW to do some nasty business. Another moral conundrum, this time for a banker, in deep yogurt, involved with those Indian casinos and trying to get out from under his personal problems and his evil boss. His conundrum: he must throw another man under the bus to save his own worthless life. But there is a problem: the victim’s young son. Not a moral conundrum, instead a maze in which JW must find his way out without hurting anyone except maybe his evil boss and save the day with a correct moral decision and a few well played actions. A climactic moment occurs when Carol, JW’s estranged wife, emerges from church, a place of conflict for the two because of the moral authority Pastor Rick didn’t lord over JW. As part of JW’s recover from gambling is his admission and following The Big Book for the steps to recovering from gambling. Oh it’s so complicated for JW: his extorting boss, his exiting wife, all the community, Johnny Eagle seeming to crush JW in his new home on the rez, an old dilapidated trailer. This is the bottom.
Rising from the bottom isn’t easy. Just as JW begins to get up outside forces come along and knock him down again. Sometimes he does it to himself. The gang though is the way to go not alone. JW has solved his moral conundrum his way.