Tag Archives: House

Mean Mr. Mustard

Devil’s Trill: A Novel by Gerald Elias (Minotaur Books, $14.99, 304 pages)

“…musicians far greater than myself have overcome far greater obstacles in life than losing ridiculous little competitions.”

I’m generally not a huge fan of mysteries but this was one that I could not manage to put down.   Devil’s Trill centers around Daniel Jacobus (who likes to be called Jacobus, never Daniel), who was once a gifted musical child prodigy.   As a thirteen-year-old, Jacobus took second place – the same as coming in last – at the prestigious Grimsely Competition at Carnegie Hall.   He’s always had a grudge about what happened to him at the Grimsely – a unique competition held at 13-year intervals – and he subsequently lost his eyesight due to an infection.   Despite this, Jacobus managed to have a fair to middling career as a classical musician, who could literally play blind, without the need for scores.   In the last few decades, he’s made a living as a musical instructor for young musicians – some of whom, in a sense, he grooms to win the prizes and successful careers that escaped his own grasp.

As we meet Jacobus, he elects to be present – along with his latest student, Yumi Shinagawa of Japan – at the latest edition of the Grimsely, where the winning competitor is granted the honor of performing with a priceless Stradivarius violin.   All is fine except that once the special evening is concluded, its determined that the $8,000,000 Stradivarius has disappeared from the reception held at Carnegie Hall.   There are many suspects, but Jacobus soon comes to realize that the New York City police suspect him most of all.   (Jacobus has often publicly expressed his opinion that the Grimsely uses child prodigies unfairly, and he comes to find that all of its winners ultimately fell short of the brilliant careers they were once promised.)

Since the rare violin was under the protection of two armed guards before it was stolen, it’s clear that whoever took it was a person with a deep knowledge of the classical music business.   Forced to clear his name, Jacobus will join with the intelligent and precocious Yumi and a music-worshipping insurance agent to attempt to solve the crime before the police do.   The effort may require Jacobus to leave the country, cementing the perception that he’s a guilty man.

“Unaccustomed to the idea of happiness…  Jacobus was at a loss how to proceed.”

“Jacobus did not suffer zealots gladly…”

What makes this read especially enjoyable is the character of our protagonist, Jacobus.   He’s brilliant but a self-proclaimed grouchy old man:  “…now we’re all just old farts.”   He may remind some readers of the main character-physician in the current TV series, House.   Jacobus lives by his instincts, but he attempts to rule sighted people by intimidation (only his extremely high I.Q. lets him get away with it the majority of the time.)

Having a basic knowledge of classical music will assist the reader but is not required.   Elias, who is a violinist, concertmaster and professor of music, supplies all of the necessary background on the composers mentioned in the story, such as Jacobus’ idol Ludwig von Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Mendelssohn, and the other great Masters.   Reading Devil’s Trill is like sitting in the audience as a great orchestra plays Beethoven’s classic Fifth Symphony.   Highly recommended.

This reader looks forward to picking up the next novel in the Daniel Jacobus series, Danse Macabre.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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A Book Giveaway: Beat the Reaper

We’re going to give away five (5) trade paperback copies of Beat the Reaper, a fun debut novel from author and M.D. Josh Bazell.   This is a debut thriller “so utterly original you won’t be able to guess what happens next.”   (Google Books)   Beat the Reaper is about Pietro Brnwa, a contract killer for the Mafia, who winds up entering the federal Witness Protection Program.   In order to keep him safe, the feds turn Pietro into Dr. Peter Brown, a reknowned surgeon.   Well, it turns out that mobster Eddy Squillante, who knows Pietro, is scheduled to have surgery for stomach cancer.  When “Dr. Peter Brown” comes to consult with Squillante prior to surgery, the jig may be up.   Or is it?

It seems that Squillante may be willing to bargain with “Dr. Brown,” and keep his identity safe if Pietro/Peter can keep Squillante on planet Earth.  This sounds like a real fun ride…   As per the New York Times, it’s a tale of a person who now “heals people instead of murdering them”!

Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group for providing the giveaway copies.

Are you ready for the simple and easy contest rules?   To enter, you must be a resident of the United States or Canada with a valid street address; not a post office box.   Send your entries to josephsreviews@gmail.com by October 2, 2009.   To be entered once in this contest, send in your name and e-mail address; the latter will only be used to contact you if you are a winner.   To be entered a second time, tell me what identity you would assume if you were to enter the Witness Protection Program – doctor, lawyer, baker, candlestick maker, rock star, book reviewer?   Feel free to have fun and be creative!Beat the Reaper

All entries received by the end of the day on Friday, October 2nd will be placed in a very large and inexpensive plastic container and Munchy the cat will pick out the 5 winners.   The winners will be notified by e-mail on October 3, 2009.   Note:   The winners of our prior two book giveaways are not eligible for this contest; everyone else is.

That’s it.   Good luck and good reading!              

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Animal Crackers in My Soup: Tell Me Where It Hurts

The complete title of this book is Tell Me Where It Hurts:  A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon.   This is about as long as the book itself, which is an easy and fast read.   Such is the good news.   The bad news is that, well, there’s not a lot here…

This is supposed to be a chronicle of a single day in a large animal hospital, but that’s just the pretense.   It’s immediately clear that the book is filled with the stories of animal and panicked owner interactions that occurred months and years earlier.   So why pretend that it’s about “24 hours in a pet hospital”?

The stories are more anecdotes than detailed stories, and often relate to how Dr. Trout assisted some poor young (in experience if not actual years) and confused resident.   There’s not enough detail to create real tension, which makes the reader wonder why this book has been sold as an animal-world version of the television show House?   Perhaps it is because Dr.  Trout appears to be a man of ego.

Another concern is that although it is a Target Bookmarked Breakout selection, there is more than a bit of sexism in how the good Dr. relates to women.   Was this supposed to be humorous or sarcastic or something else?

Instead of spending $14.00 or so for this collection of quick hit-and-miss tales, I’d advise animal lovers to instead consider ordering a classic that was written by a veterinarian back in 1980.   That book is All My Patients Are Under the Bed by the late Dr. Louis J. Camuti, which is full of charming tales and in which the doctor’s love for his feline patients was absolutely and completely transparent.   As a sign of the relevance of All My Patients… it is currently available as a trade paperback (Fireside, $14.00) that can be ordered via Amazon or your independent book seller.

As to Tell Me Where It Hurts, I found it to be not serious enough to be memorable and not humorous enough to be truly enjoyable.   Frankly, it was more than a mystery to me.   I’m still confused…   If I were asked to describe it in 10 words or less, I’d say “Cute, but not cute enough.”

Joseph Arellano

Note:   This book was purchased by the reviewer.

it hurts

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