Monday, October 9, 2017
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Tuesday, September 19, 2017
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Sunday, February 19, 2012
Monday, August 22, 2011
This summer I left behind Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution by Holly Tucker, which I hated to do because she is a friendly and bright presence in historical science and social media. She's also a clear, engaging writer, and picked a unique subject: the competition among European scientists (particularly the rivalry between academies in France and England) to perform the first blood transfusions between humans. My problems with that book, though, are largely matters of personal taste. Firstly, as a pet owner, it was too hard for me to deal with the images of dogs (among other mammals) being used as guinea pigs in the first blood transfusion experiments. For some reason the tales of human subjects didn't bother me, but it was hard to look my dog in the eye after reading about these procedures. The second problem was that the "murder" referred to in the title clearly wasn't going to happen in a typical linear true crime-narrative manner.
Friday, April 29, 2011
There weren't any when I finished The Secret History in 2 days. That novel, like the one I'm reading now, is a mystery. I fell in love with mysteries a few years earlier, when my father bought me a seminal Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None. It became clear to me that when one of these books was good, everything in life felt like time between finding out more. I never want to guess who the killer is, and I never want to be able to put together the whole story. When it happens on Law & Order (RIP), guessing correctly disappoints. With a book it devastates. And a book has time to do something huge.
Jo Nesbø goes big in The Redbreast. He goes to the Eastern Front during WWII, he goes to the Neo-Nazi elements of modern Oslo, and makes side trips to Vienna and Johannesburg. My man Henning Mankell goes international once in a while. The ominous global and historical nature of The Redbreast dwarfs Mankell's, and Nesser's, efforts to expand into a truly epic idea, one that dives back into history and explodes onto the page. The Redbreast has heft, it teaches the reader about a hidden chapter of European history, and the pacing - despite jumps through time and space, and shifting narrators, so often ingredients for distraction and disaster - is pitch-perfect. I could not put it down.
Friday, April 22, 2011
One, Thomas Silverstein, killed a guard while at an even more infamous federal prison in Marion, Illinois. He lives in a cage in Leavenworth's basement that inspired Hannibal Lecter's Tennessee digs in Silence of the Lambs. Another, Dallas Scott, thought nothing of threatening an inmate's life to induce his girlfriend to smuggle heroin into the prison. William Post looks after the cats at the prison. It's revealed far into the book that he married a girl from the outside while serving time in a penitentiary in California, and when denied parole, cut off all contact with no explanation. Post did this because he gave up hope; there's a lot of that going around in Hot House, even among the guards, who by and large hold a lot of contempt for the inmates, and for their new warden, not least because of his race. Robert Matthews, extensively profiled by Earley, faces an uphill battle as he replaces a popular (and white) warden named Jerry O'Brien and makes unusual managerial changes.