April 21, 2012 · 8:14 am
No Mark Upon Her: A Novel by Deborah Crombie (William Morrow, $25.99, 384 pages)
I know you remember. But I will make you forget…
Anglophiles, mystery lovers and rowing fans – this is a book for you! Author Deborah Crombie has added a fourteenth book to her impressive list of mysteries with the February 2012 release of No Mark Upon Her. The tale focuses on the intersection of two activities, work at Scotland Yard and rowing on the River Thames. The first victim is Rebecca Meredith who was a high-ranking member of the force and an Olympic class rower on the comeback trail. The discovery of her body along the banks of the river jump-starts the search for her killer.
Although Crombie is a native of Texas, she flaunts knowledge of Great Britain that she acquired while living in England and Scotland. The narrative is filled with British phrases that were not familiar to this reviewer. A Kindle or Nook e-book version would provide easy access to definitions. Regardless, the language is not so far-fetched that a reader would lose the meaning of what’s being said. The locations for the action are nearly cinema graphic which gives the reader the sense of having visited the locale without the burden of jet lag.
The good guy characters are warm and knowable and the bad guys are thoroughly despicable. Figuring out which group each of the characters falls into is a bit of a challenge. While married members of the Scotland Yard force, Gemma and Duncan Kincaid, are clearly in the good guys group, their fellow officers are not so strongly portrayed. Interestingly, Crombie has set up pairs of characters, both couples and work partners which make for an engaging read. Some folks are just working, others are falling in love and a few are plotting the removal of obstacles in their evil path of greed.
There are crimes galore, rape, murder, arson and theft. One of these crimes seems to lead to another, almost logically!
A review copy was provided by the publisher. In Great Britian/Europe, this book has been released with the title No Mark Upon Her: A Kincaid and James Mystery.
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Tagged as 14th book, A Kincaid and James Mystery, a novel, Anglophiles, arson, audio book, book review, British phrases, Clipper audiobook, crime novel, crimes, Deborah Crombie, England, February books, fiction, Gemma and Duncan Kincaid, good versus evil, greed, hardbound release, Jenny Sterlin, Joseph's Reviews, KIndle e-reader, Kindle Edition, murder, Necessary As Blood, No Mark Upon Her, Nook Book, Nook e-reader, rape, recommended books, Row, Row Your Boat, rowers, Ruta Arellano, Scotland, Scotland Yard, Texas, theft, unabridged audiobook, William Morrw, Wm. Morrow
April 19, 2011 · 9:10 pm
Guilt by Association: A Novel by Marcia Clark (Mulholland Books; $25.99; 368 pages)
It may be a shame that Marcia Clark spent so many years as a prosecutor for the County of Los Angeles. I say this because she’s such a talented writer, as is made clear by this fun romp of a criminal justice novel. Because the book’s protagonist, Rachel Knight, just happens to be a Deputy District Attorney who works in the L.A. County Criminal Courts Building (the beloved CCB) one would think that there’s a bit of Ms. Clark in the character. Maybe, maybe not… Rachel Knight may be a bit more daring than Clark was in real life.
One surprise is to be noted up front. This is not a courtroom novel. No scenes take place inside of a courtroom, so this is not a Scott Turow-style read. Basically, this is the story of a prosecutor who decides to become a criminal investigator, off of the time sheets and without the approval of her supervisors. As Guilt by Association begins, Knight is celebrating a victory with fellow DDA Jake Pahlmeyer and LAPD Detective Bailey Keller. It’s not long before Pahlmeyer is found dead downtown, in a seedy hotel room with a 17-year-old boy; and there’s a nude photo of the boy in his suit jacket pocket. Knight’s supervisors quickly tell her to keep her “hands off” of the murder investigation involving her best friend in the criminal justice system.
Being a bit of a rogue, Knight involves Bailey in her effort to clear the late Pahlmeyer’s name in a city where scandals are less than a dime a dozen. And as she does so, she also has to take over one of Jake’s cases – one that involves the rape of a 15-year-old girl, the daughter of a very prominent physician. Are the two cases somehow related? Maybe, maybe not… You’ll have to read this criminal justice system mystery to find out, and to learn the meaning of the rather intriguing title.
You never know what’s coming around the curve… Reading Guilt by Association is like taking a ride down the virtually mythical Mulholland Drive in a new Tesla roadster.
This reviewer does offer a prediction for the future of this protagonist. My money is on Rachel Knight’s getting fired by the D.A.’s office, and working as an embittered newly licensed private investigator who uses every contact in her address book to solve some of the county’s toughest and meanest crimes. Not only will it make a series of great reads, but quite possibly a new hit TV show. Rachel Knight, PI – it somehow sounds just right!
A review copy was provided by the publisher. Guilt by Association will be released on April 20, 2011.
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Tagged as a novel, abrasive character, Biltmore Hotel, CCB, courtroom novels, crime mystery, crimes, Criminal Courts Building, criminal justice system, criminal law, female protagonist, fiction, Guilt by Association, hardbound, Johnny Cash, Joseph Arellano, Joseph's Reviews, Kindle Edition, L.A. law, LAPD detective, legal thriller, Los Angeles, Mulholland Books, Mulholland Drive, murder, murder investigation, new release, Nook Book, PI, Private Investigator, Rachel Knight, rape, recommended books, Ring of Fire, Scott Turow, Tesla roadster, TV, twists and turns
December 22, 2010 · 3:14 pm
“I feel like the 1960’s is about to happen. It feels like a period in the future to me, rather than a period in the past.” Paul McCartney, 1994
After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties – A Memoir by Catherine Gildiner (Viking; $25.95; 368 pages)
This is a memoir that I simply didn’t understand, and let me try to explain why. Memoirs – literally, a telling of personal memories – generally fall into one of two categories. In the first, the writer self-examines his or her own life very closely (if not microscopically) and critically. These generally conclude with life lessons and the writer’s unflinching willingness to accept responsibility for the mistakes he or she has made. With the second category, the writer plays it for laughs. Basically, he/she says, “I was young and irresponsible. I know that now, but back then I was such a fool. Oh, well, such is life!”
In After the Falls, Catherine Gildiner refuses to place herself in either category. She writes here about a life filled with errors and omissions but then declines to accept responsibility for her own role in it. (She’s shocked when a crime happens in front of her very eyes; a boyfriend lies to her – actually he simply fails to tell her the truth; she acts hatefully toward her parents, etc.) In a sense she commits one of the worst offenses imaginable in life, which is to be a mere observer of her actions and inactions.
Let me give a specific example of her disclaiming of responsibility. At one point, she writes about observing the gang rape of a presumably underage girl while hiding in the closet of a female friend’s house. The rape is instigated by the friend’s older brother. Does Gildiner report the crime to anyone? No. Does it even make her angry? Apparently not, although she thinks now and then about the girl who was repeatedly violated, but… But she rejects any responsibility on not one, but multiple instances within the pages of After the Falls. This raises a key question that must be asked: If one does not want to accept responsibility for things that happened decades earlier, why write a book that tells the entire world about those actions? (In other words, what is the point of all this?)
I did not read Gildiner’s earlier memoir Too Close to the Falls, but I did notice one person’s comment to the effect that this memoir is darker and more depressing than Too Close. Well, yeah. Frankly, I found it a bit dangerous as well as depressing.
It’s also, sadly, in this reviewer’s eyes a bit of a distortion of what it was like to grow up in the 1960s. There was a lot of excitement about human potential and about the leaders who later fell – beginning with John Kennedy and extending through Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. There was also the Civil Rights Movement (touched upon tangentially in these pages), and great music. But this memoir would lead one to think that the entire decade was, in the words of one notable rock band, “a drag…”, as in “What a drag it is getting up.”
To her credit, Gildiner concludes this unconventional account with an admission of how belatedly she grew to love and appreciate her parents – especially her father who lived for six years with a cancer that eventually turned his brain into “an empty honeycomb.” But it seems to be too little too late.
Missing most of all is a sense of the joyousness of growing up in what was truly a unique and energizing time. We may not be able to go back to those times, but we can certainly treat the decade more kindly that it has been portrayed here. A bit of gratitude might have been in order.
This review was written by Joseph Arellano. A review copy was received from the publisher.
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Tagged as 1960's, A Memoir, After the Falls, autobiography, Canadian authors, Carnaby Street, Catherine Gildiner, Civil Rights Movement, Coming of Age in the Sixties, coming of age tale, crimes, dark account, death, depression, drugs, equality, family, father and daughter, forgiveness, gang rape, Graditude, gratitude, grief, growing up, human potential, JFK, John F. Kennedy, John Lennon, Joseph Arellano, Joseph's Reviews, Kindle Edition, life lessons, Love, Martin Luther King, memoirs, morality, mother and daughter, Mother's Little Helper, mourning, Niagra Falls, nonfiction, nostalgia, one's youth, Oxford College, Paul McCartney, personal responsibility, politics, rape, relationships, retrospective account, Revolver, RFK, Robert F. Kennedy, rock music, teenagers, The Beatles, the best of times, the future, the past, The Rolling Stones, Too Close to the Falls, Viking
September 7, 2010 · 4:44 pm
I’d Know You Anywhere: A Novel by Laura Lippman (William Morrow)
There are writers who, like certain songwriters, can be admired more than they can be enjoyed. In the field of songwriting, the team of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen – collectively known as Steely Dan – has often been praised for their tunes steeped in irony even if their songs are more clever (more intellectual) than charmingly fun. I kept thinking of Steely Dan and, especially, the song “Reeling in the Years” as I read this latest novel from the prolific writer Laura Lippman.
Lippman’s skills are to be recognized as she persuades a reader to turn over 370 pages of a story that does not amount to a lot. There are two protagonists. There’s the now-38-year-old Eliza Benedict, who was kidnapped and raped and held for 39 days by Walter Bowman, who sits on death row in Virginia awaiting his execution. Bowman is a spree-killer convicted of two murders in two states, but he may have killed as many as eight young girls. Why he didn’t kill Eliza (then known as Elizabeth) when she was 15 is supposed to be a question that puzzles everyone. Except that Bowman was captured after a simple traffic stop. The notion that he might have killed Eliza had he not been taken into custody when he was seems to elude everyone here.
Although Lippman gives her readers a lot of twists and turns and feints, there’s not much drama in this crime drama, and not much thrill in this psychological thriller. It is interesting enough, but just enough.
Eliza never comes to life, especially as she displays no anger against Bowman. When Bowman contacts her just weeks before his scheduled death, she becomes his strangely witting accomplice without much effort. Eliza is a character that’s simply not present in her own life: “Her time with Walter – it existed in some odd space in her brain, which was neither memory or not memory. It was like a story she knew about someone else.”
A character in the book, a hack writer who wrote a “fact crime” book about Bowman, complains that he’s just simply not as interesting a criminal as, say, Ted Bundy. That’s certainly the case as we never come to know what it is that made Bowman a killer, nor how it is that this man with a said-to-be just average IQ is suddenly cunning enough to use his victim Eliza in a last-minute plan to gain his freedom. Something key is missing here as the author admits: “(Her) mother had long believed that Walter had experienced something particularly wounding in his youth.”
Since neither of the two characters ever becomes fully realized, it’s hard to care about whether Eliza will, in the end, forgive Walter and/or help him avoid execution. The reader will, however, wonder why this now happily married woman is willing to risk her contented life for someone who harmed her. Since Eliza does not know herself, she certainly will never come to know or constructively forgive her former captor.
A significant flaw in this crime drama is that the interactions with participants in the criminal justice system feel like flyovers, neither grounded nor concrete. The lawyers seem to be portrayed more as actors (attention being given to how they look and dress) than as advisors.
In the end, this reader admires Lippman’s skills, her persistence and her success. However, reading this novel was a bit like trying to listen to that Steely Dan song “Reeling in the Years” as it plays in another room, down the hall, too far removed to be heard clearly.
This review was written by Joseph Arellano. A review copy was provided by the publisher.
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Tagged as a novel, admiration, black cards, book review, books, Can't Buy a Thrill, capital punishment, crime drama, crimes, criminal justice, death penalty, Death Row, Donald Fagen, Eliza Benedict, enjoyment, executions, fiction, forgiveness, gambling, hardbound release, I'd Know You Anywhere, irony, Joseph Arellano, Joseph's Reviews, Kindle Edition, Laura Lippman, lawyers, low character development, lyrics, murders, popular fiction, psychological thriller, rape, Reeling in the Years, revenge, rock music, serial killers, songwriters, songwriting, spree killer, Steely Dan, Ted Bundy, true crime books, victim, Virginia, Walter Becker, What the Dead Know, William Morrow, writers