A Monstrous Regiment of Women;Laurie R. King
     Great news: Mary Russell, the Beekeeper's Apprentice, is back, and in a good story! I add the latter because my experience is that sequels to superb initial novels are often disappointing. In fact, I started the story with some misgivings; how could she match the first? She does it neatly by simply unfolding a much more mature but still developing Mary Russel, and involving her in an interesting environment and a dangerous mystery. Mary reaches 21, becomes a very wealthy young woman, and finishes her Oxford studies as a brilliant scholar, fluent in languages, and an expert on the Old Testament- part of her heritage as a Jew! In this story she meets a friend in London, and through her meets a remarkable female charismatic lay preacher who operates The New Temple of God; the latter is a sect that has a feminist approach to Christianity. Several murders occur among the wealthy young volunteers at the Temple, and Mary gets involved in investigating the murders and the Temple. Holmes is present in the background and a key player at crucial times, but the story is Mary's. The mystery is not all that profound, but the reader (at least this one) is happily unaware of this fact until well along in the story. Mary's encounters with people, events, dangers, and emotions holds the reader securely. There are touching incidents, distressing incidents, and funny incidents as Mary continues to grow up. The day that she goes from rags (on a penurious allowance) to great riches and finds that "cost is no object" is a magical phrase that overcomes all difficulties, is a thorough delight. And a brief description of the moment, during a long tiring lesson in reading for several illiterates, when one of the women looks up with joy and reads a complete sentence with ecstatic comprehension, will wrench the heart of anyone who has ever that that wonderfully rewarding experience. The title is a quotation from the title of a diatribe by John Knox who (in attacking Mary Stewart) methodically castigated all women. (Regiment is here used in the 16th century meaning of "regime"). Each of the main sections has, at the beginning, another infuriating put-down of women by some other famous male, except for three exceptions -- where the quotations are by women! And each of the put-down sections has Mary putting the lie to the quotation. It all fits with feminist concerns of the time and place -- England in 1920-21. Another neat story about a delightful woman -- and an interesting man, of course! King,L.R.;A Monstrous Regiment of Women

Bloodstream; P.M. Carlson
     Ms. Carlson is the prolific, prize winning writer of a mystery series involving a female sleuth named Maggie Ryan. This book is the second in a new series, in which the protagonist is another female, Marty Hopkins, a deputy sheriff in a small town in Indiana. Carlson has created a very likeable woman, good at her job, but with a troubled personal life: her marriage is coming apart and she is concerned about the effect on her adolescent daughter. The story starts with the discovery of some old bones tossed up by the local river, then moves to the disappearance of a young local boy who is ultimately found murdered. A second killing involves another young man who is part of a church camp group, which is encamped on a local riverfront working farm. The author deftly intertwines the police procedural with an account of the troubles of her deputy sheriff, and mixes in a cast of interesting people to produce a very interesting, unusual, and good story. Female deputy sheriffs are beginning to sprout like mushrooms in crime fiction, but this is one of the really good stories of the genre. Carlson,P.M.;Bloodstream
 

Code Name: Gentkill: A Novel of the FBI; Paul Lindsay
     A very good one of the type: dedicated law enforcement officer, very good at his business, is handicapped by the bureaucracy, but by defying orders and following his own line of deduction and action, helps his own sense of justice along. This is the second of retired FBI agent Lindsay's rogue-FBI-agent novels starring Mike Devlin (the first was the enjoyable Witness to the Truth; see above). This is a somewhat more polished piece of storytelling than the first one, but after all that was his first novel. In this one there are two parallel crimes: someone is executing FBI agents, and an extortionist is extracting 5 million bucks from a corporation by threatening to bomb a hospital. Devlin, being punished by his incompetent SAC (Special Agent in Charge), is not part of either investigation. However he decides to make the 2 first his business, and then gets ordered into the second. With the help of a few like-minded friends (including some on the wrong side of the law), he begins to unravel the problems while almost everyone else has to follow the orders of the Bureau managers and gets nowhere. Devlin has a few problems on the home front as well as at work. This is again (as in the first one), a version of Lindsay's wish fulfillment fantasy, which I STRONGLY suspect was generated by his 20 years as an agent: lone, dedicated FBI agent (with some good colleagues) triumphs over the bureaucracy and humiliates the managerial types as well. It is an interesting, well told, and surprising police procedural that I enjoyed very much. Lindsay,P.;Code Name:Gentkill

Death in Still Waters: A Chesapeake Bay Mystery;Barbara Lee
    This is the first novel by the author, and it won a 1994 Best First Traditional Mystery award by St. Martin's Press -- but I read it anyway. It is laid in an imaginary town on the Magothy river in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay area. Eve Elliot who is splitting up with her husband is in the advertising business in New York, but is having second thoughts about advertising products like cigarettes, and has begged some time off to visit in Anne Arundel county with her aunt who is in the real estate business. She comes in contact with a death: she finds the body of a drowned elderly man who had lived on an expensive piece of land with his two dogs. There is at least one suspicious fact about the drowning, and Eve starts to look into that and into the drowning death of a young woman 25 years before at the same place. And she tries to determine what sort of difficulty her aunt is having. She moves into the deceased's house and becomes intimate with the younger man who lives in another house on the property and who seems to be concerned with the old drowning. She finally resolves all the problems. This is a quiet, leisurely paced story that is an interesting read but doesn't QUITE work for me; and I am not sure why. The Chesapeake Bay location is not significant, and adds nothing. Lee,B.;Death in Still Waters

The Memory Cathedral: A Secret History of Leonardo Da Vinci; Jack Dann
    This is an interesting historical fantasy, with a great deal of factual material on Da Vinci's life and imagined material as well. There are lots of historical characters as well as imaginary ones. Christopher Columbus makes a cameo appearance, and the author juggles time a bit to place Niccolo Machiavelli as a young apprentice of Leonardo's! The author covers Da Vinci's life as an apprentice in Renaissance Italy, in Florence, which was ruled by the Medici -- Lorenzo in charge of course. He is in love with a young woman who has to marry some one else, and he becomes involved with another woman who is a favorite of Lorenzo's. We follow him through the period when he is falsely accused of sodomy and has his reputation ruined, and then into his secret life in the Middle East. It is quite possible that, in fact, Leonardo spent up to four years from 1482 to 1486 in Syria. In Egypt and Syria, he is an engineer in charge of designing and producing new war machines for the Caliph, who, with the Persians, is involved in a war with the Turks. There is basis in Da Vinci's drawings and accomplishments for many of the war innovations described -- except for the glider. In this story, Leonardo invents what today we would call a hang glider, and it is used effectively in the wars. It is an interesting fantasy, which I did not enjoy nearly as much as I expected. I think that was because the extended description of the Middle East period is one of unrelieved war, brutal killing, torture, and anguish, and because Leonardo is completely at the mercy of the cruel despotic rulers for whom he is working, and is thus powerless. I do not like protagonists in novels to be in that situation! My empathy with Leonardo aroused feelings of great anger on his behalf -- I was slightly startled to realize that suddenly! Try the book; your reaction might well be different from mine. The title comes from the type of memory aid taught by Giordano Bruno many years after Leonardo, but which the author assumes to be known to and used by his hero. Dann,J.;The Memory Cathedral

Fugitive Colors: A Sigrid Harald Mystery; Margaret Maron
     I found this to be a very good and interesting murder mystery that has a fair amount of police procedural in it. Lieutenant Sigrid Harald is the commander of a New York City detective squad. Before the book opens, Harald has come close to a nervous breakdown and has been on leave for several months. One night, in a shoot out in which she was involved, she lost one of her squad -- and when she arrived home, in shock, feeling guilty, she learned that the famous older artist, Oscar Nauman, with whom she was deeply in love, and who had become her lover less than a year before, had been killed in a car crash. He left her all his posessions, including paintings; his estate is worth many millions. She is overcome with grief, and as the book opens she is just about to shakily re-enter the world, to return to her job, and to get involved in the world of art and art dealers in order to honor commitments that Nauman had made. She is an interesting, complicated, very likeable person, and the story is an enthralling account of her dealing with grief, re-entering the world, and dealing with two crimes: one of the latter is the murder of an art dealer, whose body she finds in Nauman's apartment; the other is the death of a man who was believed to have comitted suicide, but whose death may have been murder. The author deftly weaves the work and private life of her protagonist into a very good tale. The story is populated with very interesting characters. I liked it very much. I note that this is in fact the ninth story starring this character, but the first in five years. I THINK that I have read one of the older ones, although I did not list it in these notes; but this story stands alone. Maron,M.;Fugitive Colors

Enigma; Robert Harris
     ENIGMA was the name of the encryption machine used by the Germans in WWII. They were convinced that the code produced by the machine was totally secure and could not be broken. That firm belief was a large factor in their defeat, because in fact the British were able to crack the code, and were reading the German military traffic via the unusual group (which included the remarkable Alan Turing) at Bletchley Park (the Allied Forces called the codebreaking program ULTRA). Probably the most important traffic was that involving the U-boats, and that is the setting for this interesting and intriguing story. We meet young mathematician, Tom Jericho, an analyst at Bletchly, who discovered the flaw that permitted the British to read the encrypted Kriegsmarine submarine traffic, and who suffered a nervous breakdown. He is recuperating at his old haunts in Cambridge, when he is asked to return to Bletchley -- the Germans have changed the code, Bletchley can no longer read the traffic, and the size and number of the convoys are increasing. Jericho returns and wants to find the young blonde Claire with whom he had an affair. She has vanished. The story involves Tom's attempt to discover what Claire was doing -- he discovers that she had stolen some cryptograms -- and what has happened to her; and his parallel attempts to find a way of breaking the new cipher -- with the urgency of the latter escalating all the time. It appears gradually that Claire has been murdered, and that there is an informer at Bletchley who has given information to the Germans. The final solution is of a complicated, multi-layer problem, which the expert pattern-finder Jericho manages to unravel. It is neatly tied into codebreaking. I enjoyed the story very much, but I know something about the Bletchley work and I am not sure that everyone would find it as interesting. The author seems to be trying to educate the reader in the concepts of codebreaking and the history of Bletchly Park, and that may be redundant given the number of good factual books on the subject. Harris,R.;Enigma

Simisola: An Inspector Wexford Mystery; Ruth Rendell
     Regardless of the name she writes under, Rendell is VERY good at what she does -- and what she does is write English mysteries. The Wexford series (of which this is the 17th) are police procedurals starring Wexford as the Chief Inspector in the town of Kingsmarkham. In this one, a young black woman vanishes, and the police try to find her. They finally find the beaten body of a young black woman -- but it is not the woman they are looking for, and there seems to be no other such person missing! In the meantime, there is a murder -- a young woman who works at the government job-finding shop is found strangled. Wexford works his way through an interesting, cleverly plotted novel, which vividly portrays the racial attitudes and social problems related to race in England at the present time. I recalled, with some wry amusement, my experience while living in England in the sixties, when Martin Luther King was asassinated in the USA, and riots broke out. My British friends were quite supercilious about the poor attitude of "you Americans" about "negroes", and I was quite irritated, to put it politely. I suggested that they would only wait a few years to have their own problems; and that is one of the few times in my life when I was really right! This book deftly uses the current problems as a major part of the structure of the novel. Good as always. The title will remain a mystery until the last sentence! Rendell,R.;Simisola

Beach Music; Pat Conroy
      A book about very strong emotions. Jack McCall, a Catholic from North Carolina, married Shyla Fox, a lovely but disturbed Jew. When their daughter Leah was young, Shyla comitted suicide. Jack collapsed. While he was hospitalized, Leah stayed with the Foxes, who sued Jack for custody of the child and accused him of beating his wife and being an unfit husband and father. This was untrue, and the farewell suicide letter from Shyla to Jack was read in court and disposed of the suit immediately. Jack, in desperation, flees to Rome with his daughter, cutting off all communication with his family, and carrying an implacable hatred for the Foxes. When Jack's mother is found to be dying from leukemia, Jack returns to the USA and later brings his daughter. The story is a staggered story of Jack's dysfunctional family, Shyla's dysfunctional family, growing up, falling in love, boyhood friends, peace demonstrations in the 60s, betrayal, hatred, rage, and love. Jack hates his father, his mother, his in-laws, the father of one of his good friends, and one of his old boyhood friends. And he is absolutely right! In fact, as a part Irishman, I found his deep Irish hatred (and that is the quintessential kind) to be totally justified! As part of the events that take place while his mother is dying, these feelings are ameliorated. He learns the WWII history of the Foxes, for example, and sees how that led to Schyla's disturbed personality. In the end, there is redemption; and that gave me some problems. I found myself thinking "I sure as hell wouldn't forgive so & so...". Jack was surrounded with eminently dislikeable characters, including an old boy-hood friend whom he likes, but who, given the actions in the story, I would have booted out the door. The General, father of Jack's best friend, is almost psychotic in his hatred for his son, and I think I would have killed him off instead of converting him, but I guess I shouldn't try to tell Conroy's characters how to live their lives; Jack is a better man than I. The book is powerful emotional reading. I liked it very much in places, but I think, overall, I did not really like it. Conroy,P.;Beach Music

The Last Housewife: A Suburban Detective Mystery; Jon Katz
     This is the third detective story in a series that stars Kit Deleeuw, the "Suburban Detective". If you are not familiar with this series, rectify that immediately! Katz is a very perceptive writer, a good teller of tales, and a good creator of interesting people and good plots; and I think he is getting better as he goes. Mind you, I thought when the series started that it had not many places to go in a small town without running into cliches -- I was wrong. You see, Deleeuw is an ex Wall Street type, who, although innocent of wrongdoing in a financial scandal, was forced to give up the Street. He now lives in Rochambeaux, a small town in New Jersey, with his career wife and son and daughter. He has become a private detective, and has been involved with two major murder mysteries, from which he has achieved recognition and some degree of fame. His wife works full time, and Kit takes care of the housework and the children -- a house husband. That is becoming increasingly difficult as his reputation spreads and his case load increases. In this story, the local school principal is found shot to death, and a well known housewife is charged with the killing. She retains Kit to help prove her innocence. The accusation was made because the principal had determined to bring the housewife's son (a teenager) up on charges of sexual harassment, and the housewife, Shelly, had a stormy altercation with the principal and threatened to kill her. As the story proceeds, it appears that the principal was getting deeper into a much more serious problem of possible widespread gang sexual harassment by teen age boys against teen age girls. Kit finds himself caught between two groups, one wants Shelly exonorated, the other wants her guilty -- and despises Kit for helping her. Kit finds himself accused of possible child molestation after questioning a thirteen year old boy. His children are injured and his dog is poisoned. He is scared, but continues. He enlists the help of Shelly supporters into a sort of "Baker Street Irregulars" group, and with their aid, and that of a computer expert, finally resolves the case. It is a somewhat frightening picture of viciousness in teenagers, and has uncomfortable vignettes of contemporary family life in suburbia. The changing roles of women - and men - in raising children, and the problems of raising children in these days all play a role. Very good yarn. NOTE: A while ago I read an interesting book about the detective story. The author noted that in stories about a private detective, the author almost always realized that it was necessary to have the detective have a friend on the police force in order to have access to police informtion. In this book, I think that the author has now made that connection by introducing a young female detective, who becomes a friend of Kit. The introduction of the group of women helpers, the "Rochambeau Harpies", as covert gatherers of local information and gossip, is a clever idea. These new bits are paving the way, I guess, for more more novels to come.
Katz,J.;The Last Housewife

The Reckless Decade: America in the 1890s; H.W. Brands
     Brands is a young professor of history at Texas A&M, and has written, it seems, nine earlier histories. This one is a fascinating exposition of the turbulent end of the last century in America. I was generally aware of many of the events of that decade, although I would not have been able to specify that they all happened during that period. There are *lots* of important things that I did not know happened then. Brands lays them all out in a history that is well organized and well told. It covers the concerns with the frontier, the plight of the poor and the immigrants, the industrial barons, labor unions and their bitter strikes, politics - including the great silver-gold controversies, race relationships and problems, Coxey's Army, the Spanish American War, and US imperialism - as well as other things! It is shocking to read again what a disaster the war with Spain was - for the American troops; all due to total incompetence of Washington and the Army. It is a fascinating book, and the epilogue discusses the present fin-de-siècle compared to the last. It is, in fact, a hopeful epilogue! There is a really excellent bibliography, and a good index. Very nice piece of work, and very interesting indeed. Brands,H.W.;The Reckless Decade

RookeryBlues; Jon Hassler
     This is Hassler's eight novel. All eight are different. In this one, the locale is Rookery, Minnesota, wherein is Rookery State College -- which is NOT one of the big players in college education and is the home of pretty bad instructors as well as terrible administrators. The place is a disaster! It is in the 1960s. Male students are anxious to keep draft deferments, and the teachers are hurting because the State keeps making capital improvements with the money that was to provide pay raises. We meet five members of the faculty: Peggy Benoit, lovely divorced music instructor; Connor, an alcoholic artist with a mentally unstable wife and a teen age daughter; Neil Novotny, a wannabe novelist who is teaching English (badly); Leland Edwards, another English teacher who lives with his overpowering mother; and Victor Dash, a former labor organizer, currently teaching Business English. As it happens, the five can play musical instruments -- and Peggy has a superb voice; and by chance, one snowy day, the Icejam Quintet comes into existence. We follow the fortunes and interactions of the five through five parts (of course!), each bearing the title of a song - a title that describes the part quite well. The pivotal event is a strike -- the faculty votes to strike if the administration will not negotiate pay raises. We follow the characters before and during the strike, as they lead somewhat desperate lives but come together from time to time to play almost therapeutic music. The characters are humanly flawed, but they are interesting, and mostly likeable. The story is anguishing in spots, and touching in others. It is a nice piece of work. Hassler,J.;Rookery Blues

The Island of the Day Before; Umberto Eco (translated from the Italian)
     This is a complex and confusing book -- for me. I found it difficult to read, and I find it hard to describe except to say that it has large elements of romantic fantasy. In it the author tells us that he is writing a tale of Roberto della Griva, compiled and imagined from letters that Roberto wrote aboard the derelict, grounded ship Daphne, in the South Pacific, in 1643. He was swept from the ship he was on, and was washed to the derelict, which is aground on a reef off an island. Roberto cannot swim; thus he cannot leave the ship. The ship is well provisioned, there is lots of water, and there is in fact another occupant: an old Jesuit priest, who is finally found by Roberto. In the story, via fantasies of Roberto's, recollections, dreams, and hallucinations, we learn of his childhood, his growing up, his involvement in the 30 years war, his time in Paris, his love (Lilia), and his imaginary evil brother Ferrante (psychologically his other side). These are intertwined with the major sea-faring problem of the day: the accurate determination of longitude. The latter was a MAJOR problem, and any and all approaches were classified SECRET by all governments. In the story, attention is paid to a magical solution based on the Powder of Sympathy. In fact there actually was a realm of sympathetic magic by that title (perpetrated by the crank Sir Kenelm Digby), and the concept of longitude determination could have been possible IF the magic had really worked! We are treated to long philosophical discourses and interesting views of the technical and "scientific" knowledge of the time, especially on the concepts of what are known today as Greenwich time and the International Date Line.* The latter is the concept behind the title. You'll have to try it, because this is the best I can do. Eco writes complicated ponderous novels, and I enjoyed Foucault's Pendulum; but this one has me stumped in attempting to describe it. Also, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as the other. *NOTE: There is a very good recent book Longitude:The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Diva Sobel, that details the fascinating history of the search for a way of determining longitude. Eco,U.;The Island of the Day Before

GrowingUp: A Novel; Angela Thirkell
     I purchased this because it was touted by a small mail order purveyor of out-of-the-ordinary books (A COMMON READER); and found it to be an old anglophile's delight, by an author whom I had never heard of and who died thirty years ago. She was a prolific novelist, who, the frontispiece says, produced comedies of manners set in country England in the thirties and later. I had almost forgot the term -- and indeed Trollope (until reading the back cover) -- but that is exactly what this novel is, a comedy of manners. And what charming manners they were. It is laid (pretty much) in the imaginary world of Winter Overcotes, (near Winter Overshews of course) in Barsetshire, England (England is, of course, not imaginary). The time is during WWII, after Dunkirk. The Squire is Lord Harry (Henry) Waring, who, with Lady Waring, lives in the manor -- Belors Priory -- most of which has been taken over by the government for a convalescent home. We enter the world of Winter Overcotes and the Manor, and meet a myriad of individuals who are enduring, and keeping the war at bay. It was a time of growing up for young people -- hence the title of the book. These are nice, good people, and this is a nice, good, utterly charming story, with wonderfully hilarious, casual, almost throw-away lines that had me chuckling out loud. I was reminded of Miss Read -- and I do hope the reader knows HER comedies of manners set (frequently) in "Fairacre", in England, in modern times. This is a very perceptive novel and has very poignant moments -- as for example when Lydia notes sadly, with resignation, that WHEN her brother (in the Army) IS killed, she will not have known what sort of activities he had been involved with. If you want to see why the English would never have lost the war even without USA help (I'm convinced that only shortened it!), read this. The way of life was already passing, but for those decreasingly few who were lucky enough to know the 40's in England this will ring absolutely true. I was intrigued to find, ten years later, that in rural areas not all that much had changed, and that even in the sixties when we went to live there for a while, there was at least one isolated pocket where it seemed that time had stood still. It should be noted that the book will provide bits of bewilderment for those who are not familiar with English colloquial nouns and adjectives and English literature and trends of the 30s and 40s. I am pretty familiar with English English (as contrasted with American English), but a few things threw me. I note also that, surprisingly, a number of obvious typographical errors slipped by the proofreader! NOTE: It appears that there is a vigorous program of reprinting Thirkell's books. I intend to buy more. Even though the English really do not like Americans -- I like them; and I really like Thirkill's portrayal of them. Thirkill,A.;Growing Up

A Light in the Window; Jan Karon
     This is the second in the saga "The Mitford Years", of which the first was the charming At Home in Mitford. In this one, Father Tim, the 61 year old, diabetic, batchelor Episcopal priest, is back from the trip to Ireland that he was headed for at the end of the first book. We meet again all the characters of Mitford, going about their daily lives. They include the priest's neighbor, Cynthia, the successful author of childrens books, and the female interest in the priests life. We again meet Dooley, the 13 year old living with Father Tim, and the dog Barnabus. Construction of the nursing home donated by the eccentric rich Miss Sadie is underway, and the construction honcho is a newcomer: the irascible Buck Leeper - a man with an attitude. Father Tim is being pursued by a ferocious local widow, and his mysterious cousin Meg, whom he can't remember from Ireland, comes to visit and stay on. All the various problems and activities in this story simply swirl around the main theme: the rocky road to love between Father Tim and Cynthia. In fact the book is really the lengthy story of the misunderstandings and tribulations of the developing love, and Tim's difficulty with committment to marriage. That is why I did not like this book nearly as much as the first one. This is, I believe, essentially a long love story (a Romance perhaps?), replete with a whole chapter of love letters exchanged by the two protagonists. Unfortunately that is not for me. I like comedies of manners, but Romances leave me cold -- generally. This was totally charming, and almost totally uninteresting -- to me. Karon,J.;A Light in the Window

The Odd Job; Charlotte MacLeod
      Seventeen years ago, MacCleod wrote her first mystery story involving Sarah Kelling, of the Boston Kellings. It was The Family Vault, and it was a good story. She followed it with others, and in them married off Sarah to Max Bittersohn, an art detective, gave her a child, and peopled the stories with interestingly offbeat (or VERY odd) relatives and friends. The quality of the tales decreased with time however, and this latest is probably of interest only to those who already know and are interested in the cast of characters. In this, Max is in South America and Sarah gets involved in a current murder that is tied up to affairs in the past. An acquaintance, an art forger, is murdered, and Sarah finds that she is the executor of the artist's small estate. This leads to attempts on her life, and she has to find the murderer to stay alive. I was interested to meet some of the characters again, but found the yarn to be a trifle forced in humour, and not too interesting. Read the good early ones. MacLeod,C.;The Odd Job

Murder in Grub Street; Bruce Alexander
     This is the second in a murder mystery-police procedural (sort of) series being written by Alexander, which, the jacket says, is a nom de plume for "a well known author of fiction and non-fiction." The scene is 18th century London, and the protagonist is the blind, legendary, Sir John Fielding, Bow Street Magistrate and cofounder of the Bow Street Runners -- London's first police force. [The other co-founder was his half-brother, the novelist, Henry Fielding (remember "Tom Jones"?). Henry was a magistrate as well as an author, and John helped him as a magistrate; then, as a magistrate himself, extended and expanded Henry's work. John (blinded at 19 in an accident), who was known to London miscreants as "The Blind Beak," started the publication Gazette: The Quarterly Pursuit, which became Police Gazette in 1772, and was the first attempt at circulating information that would be helpful to police]. The tale is told in the first person by Jeremy Proctor, who at the time of the story is 13, orphaned, and residing in the widowed Sir John's household. Jeremy is to be apprenticed to a publisher as a printer, but when he reports for work he finds that the publisher, the publisher's wife, and four others have been hacked to death. On the scene is found a blood-spattered man with an axe in his hand. Sir John is automatically involved: he is the one to hold a preliminary hearing, and has the responsibility and the authority to carry out an investigation of the murders in order to determine whether the suspect should be indicted for trial in His Majesty's courts. Since Jeremy's employer is dead, Sir John attaches Jeremy to his household, and he becomes involved too as he helps Sir John. Sir John comes to believe that the suspect is innocent, and the story is of the attempt to determine that and to find the real murderers. We meet historical figures e.g, Sam Johnson and Earl Mansfield - the Lord Chief Justice - as well as fictional ones. The story involves multiple personalities and anti-semitism in a pretty well sketched out, but somewhat deodorized, period London. I was reminded of the "early London" stories by John Dickson Carr. It is a good tale, although it is written more in the style of the Victorian period, and it does not really quite capture the grimy world of 18th century London (as I have read of it elsewhere.) The mystery is not all that mysterious either. However, I enjoyed the story, and I shall read others in the series. Alexander,B.;Murder in Grub Street

Act of Betrayal; Edna Buchanan
      Buchanan continues to write of the adventures and mystery-solving activities of her half-Cuban, Miami crime reporter, Britt Montero. In this one Britt looks into the two-year-old case of a missing boy, and gradually finds other missing boy cases that seem similar. She also is assigned to interview a prominant ex-Cuban, Juan Carlos Reyes, who is planning to be the major player in Cuba when Castro is finished. Montero's father was killed in Cuba when she was a toddler; he was betrayed to Castro. She knows nothing of the affair, but gradually begins to find out details from an anti-Castro fanatic who fought with her father and hates Reyes. It seems that her father left a diary, which is now supposed to be in Miami, and which tells of how her father was betrayed to his death. The story details the reporter's activities in both cases. The limitations of the plot will make the reader aware of the final "solutions" well before the end, but it is a good tale, with a considerable number of interesting sidebars involving Montero's emotions, friendships, work problems, and family. Buchanan,E.;Act of Betrayal

An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales; Oliver Sacks
      Sacks is a clinical neurologist who has written about a half dozen books related to neurology; books that are aimed at the layperson. He does a good job, and this one is no exception. He tells of seven people who, with one exception, are patients of his or people whom he has seen professionally. All are SERIOUSLY impaired, yet their strange modes of perception may have caused the development of other abilities or capabilities that are not available to the more normal individual. He covers the rare phenomenon of brain damage that removed an artist's sense of color perception -- the world is seen only in shades of gray. In the course of the tale, he provides a glimpse of the current theory of visual color perception in the brain. Another patient has severe frontal lobe damage, and that leads Sacks into the history of the subject -- including lobotomy. There is a fascinating account of a highly successful surgeon who suffers (unbelievably) from the strange Tourette's Syndrome, and of course we learn of that malady in detail. The same sort of coverage is provided for an artist with obsessional memories of the infinite details of the structures of an Italian village that was his home as a child; and for a man who had never had vision, and was then relieved of his blindness as an adult. Patients such as the latter seem never able to really develop the perceptions of those who could see at an early age. Although Sacks does not comment on it, the same seems to be true for those who have not learned to speak before the age of 6 or so -- they are severely handicapped in learning language after that! He discusses idiots savant and autistic individuals, noting that the two conditions are frequently combined. He concludes with a fascinating (and very touching) description of an autistic woman who has a PhD, is a University teacher and a highly regarded businesswoman! There are many footnotes, chapter notes, a good bibliography, and a good index. It is a thoroughly fascinating look at the human mind and at the strange abnormalities that can occur there. I started a little afraid that it would be depressing -- but it was not. It was fascinating, and encouraging! Sacks,O.;An Anthropologist on Mars

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4; Sue Townsend
      This was published 14 years ago, and I read it then. I just re-read it when we were housesitting for some bookloving friends, and found it on their shelves. It is the diary of an English adolescent who is struggling with all the usual problems of that age, and with the fracturing of his parents marriage. He is smitten with a 14 year old feminist, has a lousy best friend, is plagued by a miserable dog, is picked on by a bully, etc.; it is no wonder that he feels pretty gloomy much of the time. He writes poetry, and sends material to the BBC. He reads voraciously -- at a surprising level -- and feels he is an intellectual. The book is a funny, touching, poignant and delightful look at three generations through a youngster's eyes (one of Adrian's friends is a ninety year old, chain-smoking, old age pensioner). The real problems are, however, those of a more innocent period; today they would probably be compounded by darker ones. So in a way the book is an escape. The jacket relates this book to "Catcher in the Rye," and that struck me too. I liked it, and I do not think it is only because of being an anglophile. From the printing history, many others have liked it too. Townsend,S.;The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole

The Kingdom by the Sea; Paul Theroux
      In 1982, Paul Theroux, an American travel writer, spent three months traveling along the coast of Britain. He had been living in -- and traveling out of -- London for 11 years. He was sick and tired of London, and realized that he knew little of Britain. He would travel Britain and write about it. The way he would travel was along the coast. This is the book. It is an interesting, depressing account of a country with severe and increasing social problems. One of the brief review blurbs in the paperback version I read indicates it is a funny book; not so. It is a perceptive one, and not, I think, an unbiased one. I got tenuous impressions that Theroux harbors some degree of dislike for the Brits -- at least the English. In this book he proceeds chronologically on his trip; telling us of encounters with individuals, cultures, predjudices, and fears, and describing places, scenes, hotels, trains, and buses. This was the time when Britain had already ceased to run many of the erstwhile local trains, and was in the process of removing many more. The result, as he saw it on this trip, was that areas were becoming increasingly isolated, and in an eery way were regressing to local cultures of the type that preceded the train network. When this was combined with the terrible level of unemployment, another eery perception of his is that the areas were becoming increasingly like third world countries. I am glad that I read this book; as an old anglophile, I did not enjoy it. Theroux,P.;The Kingdom by the Sea

Child of Silence; Abigail Padgett
     I found this book in the lovely San Diego home of friends for whom my wife and I were housesitting. It is laid in San Diego -- which seemed fitting! It is a first novel, and the second I have read that has a protagonist who is mentally ill! The other, "The Caveman's Valentine," was also a first novel. In that one the main character was a psychotic. In this one the main character suffers from bipolar disorder -- she is a manic-depressive. She is also a child-abuse investigator for San Diego County's Juvenile Court. She gets the case of a four year old caucasian child found on the Paiute Indian reservation by Annie Garcia -- an aged Indian woman. The hospital to which the child was taken believes him to be retarded, but Bo Bradley realizes he is in fact deaf. Bradley gets emotionally involved -- she had a young sister (now dead) who was deaf. An attempt is made to kill the child in the hospital, and it becomes obvious that this is more than just a case of an abandoned abused child. The story is an adventure suspense story in which Bradley attempts to unravel the mystery of the child and keep him from being killed, while trying to fend off a full blown manic episode. She is aided by a reporter, a pediatrician who specializes in abused children, and the old Paiute Indian woman. There are elements of mysticism and borderline madness in the story, and it is in fact a very gripping tale. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite an awareness that the author was somewhat new at the art. Padgett,A.;Child of Silence

Managing in a Time of Change; Peter Drucker
    I found enough interesting and provocative comments to make it worth while for the average reader to skim through. Of course I may well be predjudiced: Drucker is one of my heros (from my long term as a technical manager). He is the doyen of writers on management, and has written, over the years, some of the most pertinant original comments about that arcane art. This 1995 book is somewhat disappointing in that it is a collection of articles that he wrote and published elsewhere in 1992 and 1993 (mostly). Although each article is related to the title, there is no continuity (or not much) and some redundancy, and even some slight contradictions -- it seems to me. It is also somewhat dismaying to realize gradually that Drucker is essentially saying that our whole world is undergoing a major change on a par with the Industrial Revolution, and because of that we is all got BIG troubles, and that frequently no one really knows what management decisions should be made, or even (in many cases) what it is that managers will do! The unifying theme is that the post-capitalist society is upon us, and that it is an information society. The author examines the nature of the information world and its involvement with business, organizations, the economy, politics, foreign policy and society. Although the material is somewhat sketchy and broad-brush in places, I found much of what the man says to be interesting, provocative, and sound. Some of it is echoes from earlier books of course. I must say that I was startled to find a shrewd comparison of the welfare disaster (he believes that welfare is not only a failure, but it is responsible for the deterioration of much of the fabric of our society), with foreign aid -- which he classifies (correctly, it seems to me) as international welfare, and which has generally had exactly the same negative results internationally as the at-home variety in the USA! Some of the book is just a sounding board for personal opinions like the latter, but not all of it. Try dipping into some of it; you can always skip the stuff you find uninteresting. There are some good observations about the drastically changing nature of management requirements -- changes that most organizations will not believe! Dilbert lives! Drucker,P.;Managing in a Time of Change; Peter Drucker

Shock Wave; Clive Cussler
     This is the thirteenth novel that Cussler has written about his alter ego Dirk Pitt. Cussler is an adventurer, a successful finder of lost ships and aircraft with the help of an organization, NUMA, that he founded, and an avid collector of rare antique cars. His hero, Dirk Pitt, is the same. In addition, Pitt works for ADM. Sandecker, USN RET, who heads a government agency, NUMA, which is concerned with the oceans. The Dirk Pitt yarns are essentially slightly-science-fiction adventure yarns, in which the fearless, unkillable, macho Pitt is pitted against dark powerful forces that threaten large parts of the world or society. With the aid of a small group of friends, he always overcomes the odds, destroys the evil ones, and finds a lovely young woman along the way. The plot and derring do are essentially the same in each book; what makes them quite readable is the (usually) fantastic, global sized, strange, elaborate situation that Pitt and his happy band of brothers have to right. There is almost always some very interesting old event that serves as a forunner for the story. Cussler is a good teller of tales (or the same tale altered in various ways), and his stories are great for the beach. I realized that although I have read all the stories, I had not noted any of his yarns in these notes, so I thought I would at least note one in case the reader is unacquainted with this author. Cussler,C.;Shock Wave

Corruption of Blood; Robert Tanenbaum
     Tanenbaum is writing a series about "Butch" Karp, a New York prosecuting attorney and Jew, and his wife, Marlene, another prosecutor, who is of Sicilian descent. I enjoyed them greatly up till the last before this one. I got the feeling that either Tanenbaum had not written it, or that he was tired of his characters. Maybe it was sort of the latter -- maybe he was tired of Butch working in New York; because in this one he detaches him from New York and brings him to Washington, to participate as investigating staff to the House Select Committee on Assasinations (this is 1976) looking into the asassination of John F. Kennedy. We are led into the complex morass of the investigation, with the author mixing fact and fiction as only one who actually participated in the REAL Select Committee investigation in 1976 could do (Tanenbaum was counsel to the committee). It is, in fact, more material than the reader really wants to know, especially because one cannot separate fact from fiction without doing a lot more reading (at least that is my hang up). Otherwise it is a good yarn. Marlene and their child also come to Washington to help untangle the conspiracy (yes, that is what it was - in this story at least), and there are some delightful glimpses of Marlene and the precocious pre-school Lucy, who is no mean boxer it turns out. The author realized that he had to give up the cooperative colleagues of Karp's, so he arranged for Karp to "take along" two of them on detached duty. I enjoyed the story, although it was a tad tedius in spots. I note that in the next book, Karp is in private practice in New York. We shall see. Also, it was a surprise to me to find that the stories are set in the seventies; I had thought them to be in current time. Tanenbaum,R.;Corruption of Blood; Robert Tanenbaum

The Web; Jonathan Kellerman
     Side by side on the new book shelf I found this novel and one by the author's wife Faye Kellerman! This is the latest Alex Delaware novel by Jonathan Kellerman, who is a child psychologist. Delaware is the consulting psychologist who stars in a series of first-person psychological thrillers. In this, he and his lover Robin (she is a maker of acoustic stringed instruments) arrive at a tiny island in Micronesia, where Alex is to help a resident aging MD, Woodrow Moreland, organize his medical files, and probably get a published paper out of the effort while being paid for it and enjoying a vacation on Moreland's vast estate, a South Pacific paradise. Things don't quite work out that way. There are clearly things being concealed by Moreland, a developing abnormal tide of deaths and violence appears, mysterious secrets seem to involve the various people on the island. etc. The mystery, danger and tension are ratcheted more and more tight by the author, and of course the fact that the island is essentially isolated adds to the growing suspense. The final ending is a tad preposterous however. You need to suspend belief somewhat. If you do, you will find this yarn to be as intriguing as the others in the series -- albeit less believable. Kellerman,J.;The Web

Justice; Faye Kellerman
     This is the latest of Faye Kellerman's good stories about LAPD detective sergeant Peter Decker. It is a change of pace too. In this story, for the first time I believe, the third person narrative is interspersed with a first person narrative in which the speaker is a young woman, one emotionally involved with a major suspect in a murder case. Also, in this story Decker's female partner is not present, his home life with his beautiful wife Rena enters only briefly, and his Judaism essentially doesn't enter. These major changes make this story far less appealing and interesting than the earlier ones -- to me. The story is a very interesting police procedural, no more. The interjection of the parallel narrative is very important to the story, but doesn't quite work -- for me. The story involves the murder of a high school prom queen. The prime suspect is a young man, a student, who is the son of a prominent east coast mafiosa don. The young man, Chris Whitman, is in love with another young woman, Terry McLaughlin -- the auxiliary narrator, through whose eyes we view their encounters. In order to shield the woman he loves from scandal, Whitman pleads guilty to manslaughter in the murder case. Decker feels there is something wrong with the case, and Terry pleads with him to re-open the case; she is sure that Chris was not the murderer. On his own time Decker does so; and he discovers that there is a lot of department pressure to avoid rocking the boat. But he continues, finally ties up all the loose ends, and solves two murders - and squeezes a promotion. Whether justice is done is a little debatable -- hence the title, I suppose. Clearly Kellerman has decided to shift her narrative style and the structure of her stories. This may well have been necessary, but it remains to be seen if she can find a way of making the future yarns as compelling as the earlier ones. I bet she can't. She didn't this time! Kellerman,F.;Justice

The Stone Diaries; Carol Shields
     This novel was the 1995 Pulitzer Prize winner, won two other prestigious awards, and was nominated for the Booker Prize. Therefore I avoided it. A friend persuaded me to try it however. It is certainly a very unusual structure, and I am not sure what it is! I suppose the closest I can come is to say it is sort of an autobiography, written frequently as a biography, but frequently involving knowledge that the writer could not have known in either state! It is the story of Daisy Stone Goodwell. It begins with her very unexpected birth in Canada and the simultaneous death of her mother. It follows her (episodically) through her life with a woman neighbor who, running away from her husband, snatched the newborn and took the child to live with her and her son; through her life with her father after the death of the neighbor; an unconsummated marriage; a second successful marriage with children; her busy years as a garden column writer; a nervous breakdown; her life in retirement in Florida; and her death. In short -- it is Daisy's life story. But it is not told like any other life story that I have read. It is also the only book in which I frequently consulted the genealogy chart in the front, not out of confusion, but from interest! It is rife with keen observations about manners, mores, and emotions that seem to be universal. It started out not too grippingly for me, but I gradually got swept up in Daisy's life. She is a complex person whom it is a pleasure to know. And the book manages to give you just the right amount of satisfactory insight into and information about almost anyone of importance in Daisy's life -- including "the Old Jew" who was present at her birth. I was particularly pleased to find in a cleverly inserted, casually presented paragraph a few pages from the end, after Daisy's death, that the SOB who was responsible for Daisy's breakdown was later killed -- by having a vending machine fall on him! And the old lady who reveals this to Daisy's daughter notes seriously the statistics of such an event in North America! I burst out laughing. I think this is a wonderful book. I should note however that the other prolific reader in my house is not so taken with it. She too has not read anything similar, but would not recommend it. So..... Shields,C.;The Stone Diaries

Family Business; Michael Z. Lewin
     This is the beginning of the third series of detective stories that Lewin has created. It stars the most unusual detective agency that I have ever encountered: an Italian family living in Bath, in England. The family consists of the Old Man, grandfather Lunghi, now retired, and his wife, their three children, a daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. I mean this IS a family business -- kids included. The story is great fun. It is sort of a tongue-in-cheek take-off on private-detective stories and Italian family sagas. In this story there are several seemingly unrelated tiny mysteries that gradually reveal threads that tie them together to a bigger mystery. There are also a lot of family concerns and relationships. The story is episodic, jumping from episode to episode, and that style is a tad irritating, but it's a delightful, light yarn.I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lewin,M.Z.;Family Business

Come, Tell Me How You Live; Agatha Christie Mallowan
     A truly unusual surprise. First, it mysteriously appeared in the house while Bette and I were away. Mark insists it is not his, and I am sure it was not here when we left! Second, it is a hard cover, recently published book written in 1945 by Agatha Christie (Mallowan), identified as part of "The Agatha Christie Mystery Collection", and is not a mystery at all! Instead it is a delightful book started by Agatha Christie before World War II, then dropped for four years, then finished after the war was over. It is the story of archeological digs by Max Mallowan in Syria, digs in which his wife, Agatha Christie, took part. She wrote it,she tells us, because when people found out that she in fact spent long periods in Syria they wanted to know how she lived there. It is a thoroughly delightful recounting of seasons in Syria, the environment, the people, the hardships, the pleasures, and the adventures in a mid-east world that has vanished. She loved it, and in the nostalgic epilogue she notes: "For I love that gentle fertile country and its simple people, who know how to laugh and how to enjoy life; who are idle and gay, and who have dignity, good manners, and a great sense of humour, and to whom death is not terrible." I suppose it is fortunate that she never lived to see the current situation there. Christie(Malloran),A.;Come, Tell Me How You Live

Dinosaur in a Haystack:Reflections in Natural History, Stephen J. Gould
     Gould is a zoologist, a geologist, and a paleontologist -- and holds august academic positions in ALL of those fields! He is also an essayist, one of the best I have read. Much of his essays is science writing -- about natural history and evolution -- and I doubt if there has been a better such writer since Huxley. As you can gather, I am truly impressed by this writer -- who has not come to my attention before this. The latter is truly surprising, because this seems to be his SEVENTH book of essays on natural history! The 34 essays here have appeared in Natural History, for which journal he has been writing monthly essays since 1947! Thus he can append notes about reactions to the original publication of the essays; e.g. an epilogue to a very serious essay entitled The Most Unkindest Cut of All (a grim essay about Hitler's misuse of genetics and evolution) is an absolute gem - one of the most satisfying put-downs (to a pompous critic) that I have encountered. The essays range over a mind-boggling panorama of subjects, but the subjects -- all intriguing -- always have a message about natural history and evolution. The writing is sparkling, the humour is wonderful, the story telling is great, and the author doesn't talk down to the reader. THAT can make some of the going difficult for the average reader, and ANY reader may (at times) find herself IMMERSED in more details of geology, paleontology, taxonomy, evolution, history, etc, than she ever contracted for. I found my eyes crossing at times at the complexity of technical sentences and the arcana of taxonomy. It aint easy in places, and you will certainly skip over many paragraphs. But read it anyway. There are gems of detective work, great nuggets of delightful information, wonderfully intricate patterns woven together, all told by a charming, erudite, widely read man who has total recall as well as boundless enthusiasm for his work- which he wants the reader to share. I shall try this on my wife -- to whom I have been reading bits; I am dying to know how she finds it. Gould,S.J.;Dinosaur in a Haystack

All Souls Rising; Madison Smartt Bell
     This is part of the story of the bloody period in Haiti from about 1790 to about 1805, the period frequently described as the slave revolt against a very brutal white rule. However, the latter description is a vast simplification of a very complex period. The culture in the colony, French Domingue, included blacks and mulattos, and also whites - who were indeed brutal. The blacks and many mulattos were slaves, but some were free. The whites were either Creoles (born there) or immigrants. The situation was complicated greatly by: the French Revolution and the presence of Royalists and Jacobins in San Domingue, war between French and Spanish Domingue, British and French war, invasion by the British,etc. The present historical novel covers the period, episodically, from mid '91 to mid '92, with "flash ahead" episodes to 1802. The very complex situation makes it difficult to spin a story, and in fact the author doesn't quite handle all the material to the comfort of this reader. There is an indispensable chronological table of events at the end, which will also make the reader aware of earlier and later periods. The conversations in the story are sprinkeled liberally with French words and names that (often) are related to the Voudon (Voodoo) religion, and the glossary at the end is necessary, but it is also irritating to have to consult it so often. The story is tied together by following the visiting Frenchman, Dr. Antoine Hebert, an ordinary nice guy, who is trying to find his sister, whom he has not seen for many years and who has recently been widowed. He has no idea where she is, and he travels around looking for her. He encounters Toussaint, the legendary self educated second generation slave who develops into a military leader in this interval, and others who thread through the story. We see another, inside view, through the eyes of Riau, an enslaved African who was taught as a youngster by Toussaint, but who differs with him at times, and who recounts his experiences in the first person. The story seems to me to be somewhat jerky, and it is horribly cruel and bloody. That is not just for shock value I think; that is probably exactly how things were. It is a very good story, probably a good picture of the times, and one very worth reading. Toussaint is pictured here as one who deplored the bloody excesses, and that seems historically correct. However it is by no means clear that he completely deserves the sympathetic picture presented here. He later (after this story period) cold bloodedly massacred a fair number of white Spanish troops under his command! Bell,M.S.;All Souls Rising

NOT Out Of Africa:How Afrocentrism Became An Excuse To Teach Myth As History; Mary Lefkowitz
     Mary Lefkowitz is the Andrew Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Wellesley, and a well-published expert in pseudo-history among other things. Since 1991, she has been in the forefront of the bitter battle in academia that rages over the historical quality of the material that the Afro-Centrist school provides as history; material that purports to prove that the Greeks got their knowledge from the Egyptians, that the Egyptians were black, and thus the Greeks-Europeans got or stole their knowledge from African blacks. Lefkowitz does not believe the Greeks were so influenced; and she finds that she has a hot fight on her own campus, colleagues who run for shelter, and a dean who told her that any person's version of history is just as good as anyone else's. Lefkowitz refuses to accept this. She believes that universities have a responsibility to not give students false information, and she believes that careful research reveals the Afro-Centrist material to be either false or deliberately misleading. In this book she produces a methodical demonstration of why she feels that the things being taught by the Afro-Centrists about Egypt as the source of Greek ideas do not stand up to scrutiny; and that, in fact, what has been created is a series of myths, posing as history, that have been created solely as a social or political "empowering" pacifier for African-Americans: feel-good "history". It is a fascinating book by a feisty woman who has been attacked for being white and for being a Jew -- by black proponents of Afro-Centrism. She credits George G.M. James with inventing (in the fifties, in a book on the current subject) a new school of historical research in which, to quote Lefkowitz: "...anyone can claim anything about the past. The first step is to downplay contradictory evidence; then to deduce from the limited facts one has assembled only those conclusions that support one's central thesis, or (if necessary) to invent evidence that suits one's particular purposes. In order to establish similarity, one needs to begin from the assumption of a direct connection, and then make the evidence fit the facts by omitting details and by overlooking significant differences." She seems to feel that the later Afro-Centrists are carefully following James's procedure. A fascinating -- and scary book. Scary in the sense that she puts forth: that a creation of pseudo ethnic history can work two ways -- that is exactly what Hitler did when he created the Aryan myth as history and used it to justify extermination of Jews! Lefkowitz,M.;NOT Out Of Africa

Shinju; Laura Joh Rowland
     A detective-mystery-adventure story laid in feudal Japan in 1689 during the Tokugawa Shoganate. Our hero is Yoriki, Sano Ichito, Edo's newest police commander with no experience whatsoever in the job, which he got as a favor to an old friend of his father's. He is a samurai, very skilled in the martial arts. His boss gives him a small matter to handle with discretion: to handle details associated with a shinju, a double lovers suicide. The young woman is from a high-born family, and the man is a peasant; their bodies have been found in the water. Sano finds that in fact the two seem to have been murdered, and begins to investigate. His boss orders him to stop. He doesn't. He gets caught in the conflict of personal honor and the obligations that he owes to superiors. The story is of Sano's covert and insubordinate investigation of the two murders, for which a high-level cover-up seems to be in place. He gradually pieces together the story, and in so doing wanders through many parts of Edo, travels part of the Tokaido road, fights off assasination, gets fired, gets framed for murder, and all in all has quite an adventure. He finally uncovers treason and manages to save the Shogun from asassination. It is a good yarn. Feudal Japan seems to be good place for detecting (see The Tokaido Road above), and the author has created an interesting detective and a rattling good yarn. At the end, Sano accepts a position as a special investigator for the Shogun, so I suppose that we shall meet him again. Rowland,L.J.;Shinju

Watch Me; A.J.Holt
     I decided a while ago that I did not care to read anymore about serial killers, and when I found out this was a book about several such, I decided to quit reading. I went back to it, however, because I got interested in the author's concept of vigilante justice. In the book we meet Janet Louise Fletcher, known as Jay. She is an expert computer hacker and an FBI agent. She is not adverse to illegal "cracking" (unauthorized entry into private files) via computer to get information for catching felons. One of her illegal forays is spotted, a serial killer gets off easy because of her action, and she is exiled to the boondocks - Santa Fe - to help a fire investigator. In the course of her work there (with more illegal cracking) she becomes aware of the local police's concern with a grisly series of serial murders, and again uses illegal methods to actually locate the killer -- and kills him! While in his house she finds he is a computer freak, and involved in a computer fantasy run by a sysop: the WIZ; the fantasy involves real serial murderers who participate in the program! She takes leave, tracks down two other killers who are participants in the computer fantasy, and kills them too! While all this is going on, an ex-FBI agent, Bill Hawkins, retired on disability, is asked by the FBI to try to find the ICEMAN, a serial killer who for over twenty years has been killing, and taunting Hawkins. The story interweaves the cracking and killing exploits of Jay, the skillful detective work of Hawkins as he begins to home in on the ICEMAN, and the doings of the ICEMAN himself. The ICEMAN is the final stop for Jay - and indeed she ices him too. The serial murderers in this book are very sick and revolting people (beware), so the reader wants to come down on the side of Jay -- kill em all! But Jay herself is just this side of mad -- or perhaps has crossed the line. If you like track-down-the-killer-while-we-watch-the-killer-at-work novels, this is a very good one of the type, with the added fillip of sudden justice. The latter seems to be catching on in novels; can this be some expression of frustration at our judicial procedures? I have got to the point where I don't care for these stories, so although it is actually VERY good for the type, I didn't enjoy it. Holt,A.J.;Watch Me

The Moor's Last Sigh; Salmon Rushdie
     A mesmerising exercise in language and story telling. The first person narrator is Moraes Zogoiby, called "Moor." His mother was a Christian, nee DeGama, his father was a Jew, and the family was the DeGama-Zogoiby dynasty of spice merchants in India -- the locale of the yarn. They are always "foreign" although Indian. Moor is writing the history of his family -- and of himself. His family -- and he starts with his great grandparents -- is one of the most fascinating set of dysfunctional characters that you will ever meet. Besides being stuck with the family, Moor has an uncurable metabolic disorder that causes him to age at twice the normal rate. When we meet him, he is beginning to die of old age at about the age of 40. He tells us of the peculiar family that produced his mother, Aurora, -- a brilliant artist and STRANGE woman -- and of his father's family and their strange background. The story is far too involved to reproduce here, but Moor is set up by his love to be disowned by his parents, goes to work for a major criminal as an enforcer, is finally, after the death of his mother, approached by his aging father who has himself become a major well-concealed criminal. He becomes reconciled with his father, then flees India in the aftermath of a bombing campaign that kills his father and destroys most of his mother's works. He flees to Spain to try to regain 4 of the works that had been stolen by an old friend of his mother's. This, and far more, is woven into the political and ethnic turmoil in India. It is an engrossing book that is perceptive, understanding, poignant, unpleasant, startling, and darkly funny. The prose is scintillating, with many plays on words, but with one moderately irritating quirk in which extra o's are added into words by a number of speakers. This reader was also a little bewildered by occasional strange language gyrations in the conversations. I, however, was charmed by an early scene where Moor imagines the local plants & trees talking to him, but decides he really doesn't want to hear any more "chlorophyllosophy"! I was delighted with the book, and I liked Moor. Rushdie;S.;The Moor's Last Sigh

Cetaganda; Lois McMaster Bujold
     This is the twelfth in a science fiction space opera series that Bujold has been writing. It started with two really good stories: Shards of Honor, and Barrayar. The subsequent ones are - I think - not quite as good, and are somewhat uneven in quality, although always interesting. This is one of the better ones. After the first two, the stories revolve around the Barrayaran Empire and high-born young Lord Miles Vorkosigan, who was born stunted, with brittle bones and other physical problems -- but with a brilliant clever mind, good intuition, and ambition. The books follow Miles and his career before, during, and after his stint in the service academy, and the early ones in this "Miles" series are very good too. Miles becomes an officer and a personal sort of secret service operative for his emperor (a personal friend from childhood). The novels are not chronologically in order. This one is inserted in a period about four or five novels back! Miles and his cousin Ivan are dispatched to Cetaganda to be diplomatic representatives at the funeral of the Empress. Cetaganda and Barrayar have come to blows in the past, and Miles's mission is to pick up what information he can. They are attacked the moment they land on the planet, and Miles gradually learns that the attack was part of a plot to set him up as the fall guy for what is really a high-level treasonous plot in Cetaganda. There are a series of adventures in the very strange society that is Cetaganda, and it is good space opera adventure. Bujold,L.M.;Cetaganda

Love Thy Neighbor:A Story of War; Peter Maass
     A bitter book, with an ironically bitter title, by a bitter man who writes of his stay in the Balkans while covering the Bosnian war and the Serbian atrocities. He has written this as an inside view of the situation, and as therapy -- the events there devastated him -- and as an attempt to tell people of the terrible consequences of the official policy of appeasement. Maass was appalled by the fact that the Christian Serbs and the Muslims were friends, neighbors, visually identical, and were really all Serbs -- the Muslims were Serbs who converted during the bloody Turkish conquest 500 years ago; and yet the Serbs were now determined to kill their neighbors in the name of Serb nationalism, which was stirred up by one man as a way to attain and keep power. The book is a recounting of Maass's reporting activities, of his encounters with individuals, of the various individual tragedies and disasters that he saw happening, of the vast genocide carried out, of the "ethnic cleansing", of what appears to him to have been a shameful connivance of the United Nations and the US State Department in Serb activities, and of what he sees as the key role of President Clinton in the fostering the appeasement policy that encouraged genocide. It induces great anger in the empathic reader, and is emotionally exhausting to read. One cannot help but feel the rage of the man, and indeed feel that it was probably justified. I found myself thinking that if one could only find a good hit man, there are a series of Serbs in the book who would be justifiable targets. And I may vote for Dole because of this book. Mind you, this is Maass's perspective, and he is NOT objective; but I must say that his picture of the design and execution of the US and European policy is just about what I had concluded before I read this bitter indictment. Maass,P.;Love Thy Neighbor

Blood and Rubles; Stuart M. Kaminsky
     I cannot believe it, but it seems to be true that I have not made any notes concerning the (at least) 25 books written by Kaminsky, who has three great series going. Please forgive my laxity, and if you have not already done so, immediately make the acquaintance of Kaminsky's fascinating heros! The one in this book is Inspector Porfiry Rostinkov, of The Department of Special Investigations of the Metropolitan Police in Moskow. The book also involves the fascinating and unusual members of his team. You really should go back and read the preceding nine novels involving Rostinkov, but this one stands alone -- albeit one misses quite a bit by not knowing the others. Rostinkov is a policeman who has a shattered leg, a tremendous physique, a loving family, fluent English, a love for American police and detective novels, a fascination with American jazz, a sense of humor, great integrity, and great empathy -- a wonderful protagonist. In this story he and his staff are concerned with a shooting spree that ultimately involves nuclear materials (and the death of a lover of one of his staff), a kidnapping, and killings by young children. A black American FBI agent is assigned to Rostikov's team, and helps in the crime solutions. I am fascinated by the interesting members of the team --they seem like old friends from the peceding novels -- and by the picture of current Russian society and the complex situation with the police and security organizations. Friends indicate that the latter picture is essentially valid, although they do not know how Kaminsky could know such things - given that he seems not to have been in Russia! A fascinating picture of ordinary people, extraordinary people, and bureaucrats in modern Russia -- and the slippery idea of justice in that shattered society. Wonderful. NOTE: Be sure to buy into the author's series involving the aged, American police detective: Abe Lieberman; almost but not QUITE as interesting as Rostinkov, but in a much more familiar environment. Kaminsky, S.M.;Blood and Rubles

The Messiah Stones; Irving Benig
     I am a sucker for yarns about the finding of ancient things in the Middle East; things that may change our ideas of Christianity - Judaism etc. In this one the ancient things are the three "Messiah Stones" which tell of the coming of a new Messiah -- in the year 2000. So the story had all the elements, but I didn't finish it -- although I did read some pages here and there to see if it was all bad - it was. It turns out the ancient stones (which glow with an eerie light) are written in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin. There is an extra fillip however: on each of the stones is the name "McGowan" - written there about the time of Moses! That, it happens, is the name of the protagonist in the story, and of course the name of his father who disappeared forty years before the present story. Since near the stones there was a "mysterious" sphere with the name "Sarah" carved on it, and since Sarah is the name of the McGowan's wife -- it is CLEAR that the God of the Old Testament intends them to do big things (in Jerusalem of course). This is really a terrible story -- I think. It has some resemblance to The Celestine Prophecy in that regard. It is full of mysterious Angels dropping hints and guidance, chosen people, reincarnation, revelatory but mysterious dreams, "deep" discussions of God's intent, etc. I quit at the sentence which concludes an episode where Sarah and her husband have visited someone who reveals part of the Mystery. The sentence is "We did leave though, and like pilgrims of old, took the flight back to Pennsylvania." Cheez! Benig, I.;The Messiah Stones

Piano Lessons:Music, Love & True Adventures; Noah Adams
     What a very different, interesting, delightful book; and I am not a pianist! It is possible, I suppose, that someone who is a pianist -- even an amateur -- might find it even more interesting than I did, but that is hard to believe. Adams is the Noah Adams of All Things Considered on National Public Radio, and he has written an autobiographical account of his 52nd year -- the year he took up piano! The chronicle is divided into the twelve months of that year, and the author tells us of his experiences with keyboards and pianos, and his attempts to learn to play -- without a teacher (or at least no steady one). But the book is far more than that -- interesting as that is. Adams weaves in stories and information about pianos and pianists, about styles of playing, about inspiration, and about the thrills and pleasures of music. We also see him and his wife in various aspects of their busy and interesting lives, hectic times, quiet pastoral moments, fascinating professional activities, introspective moods, thinking about priorities in life, and more. The book is gentle, well written, and almost lyrical at times. The reader comes to like very much the Noah Adams depicted here -- and Neenah, his wife. They are nice people. And anyone who knows of Pine Top Smith as well as Pine Top Perkins, who knows Jess Stacy's fabulous two minutes with Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall, and who likes George Shearing, is definitely a good guy! However, the author photo on the back jacket flap seems a tad too cute. Adams,N.;Piano Lessons

Task Force Blue; Richard Marcinko and John Weisman
     Picked it up out of curiousity; couldn't read it. Marcinko seems to be an ex Navy SEAL who has written an autobiography called Rogue Warrior in which he supposedly tells of his actions in Special Warfare activities, which are indicated as highly covert, anti-terrorist, commando operations. Since then, he and Weisman appear to have been writing fictionalized versions of such operations. This is the latest. Macho stuff: stalwart, dedicated, ruthless killers working for God and Country, are caught up in plots by high ranking government officials, and have to kill a lot of people out of patriotic duty -- and self protection. Very arcane detail -- very boring -- and not very interesting. Marcinko,R.& Weisman,J,;Task Force Blue

Fatal Defect: Chasing Killer Computer Bugs; Ivars Peterson
     Somewhat of a specialty book; but if you are at all interested in computers, this will prove very interesting. Peterson is concerned with the difficulties that "bugs" in software (the instructions for the computer) can cause, and with the essential impossibility of producing a major program that does NOT have bugs! He gives interesting examples to back up the thesis, and provides persuasive comments on the virtual impossibility of developing a testing procedure! Peterson,I.;Fatal Defect

The Fires of Midnight; Jon Land
     A violent and somewhat far-fetched thriller. It is of the big-secret ruthless-federal-DOD organization is taken on by a small band of highly skilled and equally ruthless good guys. A secret government program operated to breed geniuses in order to use them to provide new types of weapons. One of these is a boy named Joshua. Josh creates a vial of stuff that is to clear up air pollution and looses it in a shopping mall(!). 2000 or so people are found dead. "Group Six" wants the formula! So they set out to find Josh. On Josh's side is Dr. Susan Lyle, infectious disease expert, and Blaine McCracken, very tough ex-CIA type. McCracken gets aid from his seven foot Indian pal, and tough Sal Belamo. They have shoot-em-up encounters with the soldiers from Group Six, and mow down scores of villains without taking much more than a scratch (well - one bite), and kill all the nasty honchos. Big chase and shoot-em-up climax in Disney World! OK to while away the time on a rainy day at the beach -- if you like this kind of stuff. Land,J.;The Fires of Midnight

The Two Georges; Richard Dreyfuss & Harry Turtledove
     Beats me. This is a Science Fiction, alternative history yarn. Dreyfuss seems to be a big Hollywod actor, and Turtledove seems to be an "alternative history" writer. The latter term means :"what might have been". The two have produced a story about Col. Thomas Bushell, of the Royal American Mounted Police, concerned with the theft of an extremely valuable painting,in a 1996 world where America is a colony of England -- ruled by Charles III. The automobiles are coal fired steamers, there are airplanes but air travel is by dirigible; there is gunpowder and there are explosives. The whole mileau is of a Victorian or slightly later world that has some anachronistic later scientific discoveries. I couldn't read it. I skipped through it, pausing to see if anything had changed, It hadn't. I shall not go into detail about this really dull book with a dull plot. I shall, instead, append a personal (but clearly appropriate!) insight. Alternative history is a valid SF idea. One produces a story that assumes that in the past there was a point when time became bifurcate and there was an alternative time line: e.g the locale of the yarn. The good approach is to assume the real scientific and technological advances of the past 100 years exist in a different world, and to use the difference in the yarn. This yarn does not. It is a somewhat juvenile, pedestrian yarn about wooden characters, written by Anglophiles (I presume) who present the "Sons of Liberty" - those who would mount a revolution to separate from England -as BAD revolutionaries. The technology of the world is retarded beyond belief. Dreyfuss, R. & Turtledove,H.;The Two Georges

The Summons; Peter Lovesey
     This is the third in Lovesey's new British detective series involving Peter Diamond, who was once head of the Murder Squad at the Avon and Somerset division, and is now an ex-policeman scratching hard for a living. He quit the force (see the preceding books The Last Detective; Diamond Solitaire).In this one, two cops show up at his door, and practically force him to accompany them back to Diamond's old police headquarters. There he finds that a prisoner has escaped from an escape-proof prison, has kidnapped the daughter of one of the local police, and demands that a meeting be arranged with Diamond. Diamond was the officer who established the case of murder, four years earlier, that caused the man to be sent to prison. The cops who summoned Diamond want him to agree; the whole thing is to be kept secret because they do not want the escapee to know that Diamond is no longer a cop. Despite his thorough dislike of the head police, Diamond does get involved. He finds that the man insists he is innocent, and that he wants Diamond to re-open the case and find the real murderer. Diamond begins to wonder about whether he was right four years ago, and browbeats the police into letting him re-open the case with a young female police officer assigned to help and to do all the police stuff that Diamond - as a civilian - can't do. The story is about the early murder case and the new investigation, and this is in parallel with the hunt for the escapee. A crackerjack story. Lovesey, P.; The Summons

Mind Hunter; John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
     Quantico Virginia houses the National Academy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which in turn houses the four units that comprise the FBI Behavorial Science group. One is the Behavorial Science Investigative Support Units which carries out the activities to which John Douglas devoted most of his career -- the profiling of criminals. That is the development of a description of the criminal based on the activities and behavior of the criminal. The most well known of the criminals they have dealt with are serial killers. In fact, the story (and movie) The Silence of the Lambs is based on a real serial killer the Behavorial Sciences dealt with, and the FBI character was in fact modeled on Douglas. This book is a truly morbid but utterly fascinating account of the development of the profiling art, and the successful application of the technique to a large number of cases that are here detailed. It also includes the development of interview techniques designed to get a suspect to confess. It is interestingly written (by Olshaker), and is suspenseful at times. It is not a book to be read through at one setting. The recounting of case after case needs to be broken up, so plan to read it in installments, otherwise a numbness sets in. I note that almost all the profiles mentioned turned out to be on the money; but I suspect that there were some (many?) that were in fact wrong. THOSE do not appear. The authors are scheduled to attend (this September, 96) an Author Dinner at a club that I belong to, and I think I shall attend and ask the question! Douglas,J.,& Olshaker,M.;Mind Hunter

Beyond the Grave:The Right Way and the Wrong Way of Leaving Money to Your Children(and Others); Gerald M. Condon, Esq. & Jeffrey L. Condon, Esq.
     This book, by two attorneys (father and son), is one that I think every person who is concerned about making a will, or who has made a will, should read. My wife and I made wills some years ago, and we are at an age when the execution of those are getting closer, so I read the book. It is easily the best of such books that I have read. In fact, I found it fascinating, and VERY informative. For the first time I understand what a living trust really is! And in fact what I thought was a complicated thing is absolutely simple! One does not have to be in the bracket where the $600,000 estate limit is involved -- heaven knows we are not; even those with much more modest estates will find enlightening pages. One of our friends made several of the mistakes mentioned, and the result was that all that was intended for the will to accomplish backfired completely. This book is not one to skim through -- although it is arranged so that one can generally locate the matter of interest -- and there is an index (which could be somewhat better, I think). The authors' structure is to pose questions that clients (or you) might ask, and then to answer them. It is fairly dense, but extremely lucid; and I was really surprised at some of the material. In fact, we shall be changing our wills! The dedication(s) did give me a minute's pause -- but I guess that is Southern California culture shining through. Condon,G.M. & Condon,J.L.;Beyond the Grave

Pastwatch:the Redemption of Christopher Columbus; Orson Scott Card
 A fascinating story of time travel and changing the history of the world. In the future, a relatively small population is attempting to renew the earth after years of famine, war, and natural disasters brought on by man's doings. In this future world is a group of individuals who are part of a group called the "Pastwatch" project -- a group that posesses machines that permit them to look back in time. These scientists and sociologists and historians are studying the past for a variety of separate reasons. We meet several, including the woman Tagiri who is obsessed with the development of slavery, and Hassan, who is studying the culture of the Antilles before and after the Spanish arrive. The two discover, to their amazement, that one group of people they are watching seem, suddenly, aware of THEM! This is a whole new and unexpected thing, and leads to the thought that perhaps the past can be altered to change the terrible disasters that the world has gone through. It is argued that Christopher Columbus was the pivotal man in history, and a team studies Columbus in detail to find out what drove him to his voyage. It is Diko, the daughter of Tagiri and Hassam who finds the unbelievable reason: Columbus believes that he has been visited by God, and charged with making the voyage that led him to Hispaniola -- but as the watchers view the moment, they realize that the vision is in fact a hologram provided by some other future "Interveners" to convince Columbus to make the trip! They now know that technically it is possible to at least transmit things to the past, and that the Interveners must have seen some horrendous future if Columbus did NOT make the trip! They set out to find out what the latter might be, and how to implement the former. They are successful in both. When it becomes clear that their present world is in fact becoming untenable despite their efforts, they decide to change history for the better by preparing the peoples of the Americas for the coming of the Spanish, and by preventing Columbus from returning. They dispatch three people into the Americas to carry out the mission. The story is a rattling good yarn, with alternating views of Columbus and the Pastwatch individuals. The people are all real, and the story is persuasively convincing. I have decided that I MUST go back and read the history of Columbus and the Indians of Hispaniola and the peoples of Central America. Card has produced a great yarn. Card, O.S.; Pastwatch

The Fatal Partner; Jake Page
     This is the third murder mystery novel in which Page uses the locale of Santa Fe and his protagonist big Mo Bowdre, a blind sculptor. The owner of a local art gallery -- Elijah Potts -- who spends part of each year in Key West, where his wife lives, reveals that he has found seven Georgia O'Keefe paintings. Bowdre's Hopi girlfriend was with Potts and another woman when Potts found them. They seem to be authentic - an expert from Chicago, a friend of Potts pronounces them genuine. Then the woman who runs the gallery is found murdered, and the paintings disappear. Sargeant Ramirez of the Sante Fe Police Department is involved with the homocide, which now brings to three the number of young white female Anglos found murdered. Bowdre gets involved via his Hopi friend and a request for help from Potts. He and Ramirez finally trace through a labyrinthine plot of murder,fraud, and doublecross. Interesting story, but Bowdre doesn't seem to work for me. Perhaps the earlier two are different. I'll see. Page,J.;The Fatal Partner

The Rector's Wife; Joanna Trollope
     A beautifully told story about Anna Bouverie, the wife of Peter Bouverie who has been the Rector in the village of Loxgford for 20 years. Anna is indeed "the Rector's wife" - she is involved deeply in all the subsidiary things about the church. She has subsisted on Peter's tiny salary, buys clothes at jumble (garage) sales, and has in all ways been a dutiful wife. Then two things happen: Peter is turned down for the job of archdeacon, and Flora, their young daughter, wants desperately to leave her school and attend the local Catholic school - where a fee is required. Peter slides into despair about when he fails to get the job, and Anna takes on a job in a grocery store to get money for Flora's schooling. The latter is bitterly resented by Peter, and the church members feel that Anna's job is somehow inapropriate for the Rector's wife. Anna finds herself caught in a tightening web, being crushed as an individual, and finding her marriage coming apart. In addition she has an adolescent son -- a problem for any parent! A new neighbor tries to put the make on her. It's a mess. The story follows Anna in her courageous fight against the parish - and her husband. It is a touching and encouraging story, and another lovely vignette by Trollope of a tiny but complicated little British world -- another wonderful comedy of manners. Trollope,J.;The Rector's Wife

A Dog's Life; Peter Mayle
     This is the story of "Boy", supposedly the dog of Peter Mayle (while he was -- or still is -- living in Provence). It is told by the dog. It is too cute for words. In essence "Boy" is a dog posessed of the vocabulary, literary background, and writing ability of Mayle. He uses it to discuss a dog's life with Mayle and his wife. Cheez. Mayle,P.;A Dog's Life

Arabian Nights & Days; Naguib Mahfouz; translated by Denys Johnson-Davies
     Mahfouz is of course the Egyptian winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature, and that alone would tend to keep me away from this book; but the cover and the jacket blurb lured me on. Turns out I was NOT conned - I enjoyed it! It is a series of stories about individuals, jinn, and one angel, who exist in a medieval Muslim village. The Sultan is Shahriyar [usually anglicized as Shahriah], and of course his wife is Shahrzad [Scheherazade, as we generally know her]. As the book begins, the Sultan has decided to give up killing his wives - he will keep Shahrzad, the daughter of the Vizier of the Indies - Dandan. What follows is a series of almost hypnotic stories revolving about the village inhabitants and concerning love, temptation, betrayal, corruption, honor, and magic. Interestingly, a current Muslim problem with fundamentalist Muslim sects appears to have been there in medieval times! Jinn [surprisingly, the word used is "genie"; I would have expected "jinni"] appear, and tempt, mislead, and sometimes help individuals in the stories [it will be remembered that there are good jinn as well as evil jinn]. One man - the chief of police - is actually twice switched in bodies, to his great advantage! The stories are mostly parables, sometimes mini-tragedies - and are usually concerned with human motivations and weaknesses; and there is a certain level of brooding and darkness in the stories: a LOT of people get their heads chopped off, and not always with justification! Mahfouz has used the background and structure (including boxes-within-boxes) of A Thousand and One Nights to produce a gripping series of tales; Sindbad (in a guest appearance) plays an interesting part at the end. The story telling is great, and the translation is spectacular (but: genie?). Mahfouz,N.;Arabian Nights & Days

The First Man; Albert Camus; translated by David Hapgood
         I had never read any of Camus's works. He was publishing at a time when I was beginning my career and doing very little reading. I knew that he died around 1960, so I was a bit startled to see this new book described on the jacket face as "his final work". Turns out that it was basically an unfinished, handwritten manuscript that Camus's daughter witheld for all these years (for good reason), then decided to have it published (for good reason). It is a raw, unfinished work that is replete with appended with the author's marginal notes, notes by the translator, a set of interleaves, and pages from a diary that Camus kept, and which indicates a bit of what might have been written later. It is an autobiography that Camus was putting forth as a novel. It is the utterly spellbinding story of a French boy growing up, fatherless, in Algeria in a very poor household. It is a beautiful description of his everyday life in that culture between the two world wars, and the feelings, so vividly remembered, of the bright little boy and the splitting of his world. He was an outstanding student in elementary school, with a wise, concerned schoolteacher who changed his life by arranging for a scholarship to the lycee for a secondary education. This became another world, vastly different from his home, and there were no connections between the two worlds - each so foreign to the other. I found very great emotional tugs; my small town life was also changed utterly, and split in two, by a scholarship arranged by a concerned educator. I read some of this with tears in my eyes. It is a powerful, passionate narrative, and at the very end are two letters: one of thanks and appreciation written by Camus - after he won the Nobel prize - to that concerned schoolmaster; and the utterly lovely reply. Camus, A.;The First Man

MOO; Jane Smiley
     A book which I found interesting and entertaining for about half way, then it seemed much less interesting - and entertaining. Smiley gives us the DETAILED inner and outer workings of a large midwestern agricultural university (known as "MOO") at the beginning of the nineties. We meet typical students, typical professors, typical administrators, typical wives, typical politicians, along with very atypical members of the same groups; and the large number of characters, and the bouncing around among them, can be a bit taxing on the reader. They are interesting however; in the atypical set, for example, is Mrs Lorraine Walker, secretary in the Provost's office for 22 years; she knows where the bodies are buried, and occasionally casually diverts money from the athletic budget for better purposes! Another is Professor Bo Jones, who is obsessed by "hogs", and is carrying out a secret project of growing a SUPER fat hog, the delightful Earl Butz, in an closed building "Old Meats.". Another is Dr. Lionel Gift, true believer in a free market economy, and involved as a consultant with a secret plan to tear up a Costa Rican rain forest for gold; and there is Chairman X, who was the original dedicated marxist who has never got around to marrying the woman everyone thinks is his wife, etc. Smiley manages to caricature everything about the university, and do a pretty good job of it. Surely she has spent time in an establishment of this sort! I was fascinated to meet the LARGE cast of interestingly different characters, but gradually I got the feeling that Smiley did not quite know what to do with them. The end of the book seems to be patched up with partially contrived endings for the various problems that she introduced in the lives of the people and in the university. All in all, I enjoyed it - as a beach read. Smiley,J.;MOO

The Death of an Ardent Bibliophile; Bartholomew Gill
     I wondered which books of Gill's I had included in these notes, so I looked back through them to find, to my amazement, that I had noted none! And this is the 11th book in his impressive crime series about Peter McGarr, head of the Garda Serious Crimes Unit in Dublin! Gill is, of course, a writer of wonderful prose and a GOOD story teller, and in this series he has combined intriguing murders with intriguing and very interesting characters - not the least of whom is McGarr's younger wife Noreen - and with incisive and wry looks at modern Irish society. The reader of the series will find the characters developing through the stories as very real ones with whom the reader becomes friends. If you like different police stories, start at the beginning of this series, Death on a Cold Wide River, and liesurely wend your way through the stories to this one. You will not regret it -- but do not try to read too many at a time. In this one, McGarr investigates the death of Brian Herrick, keeper of Marsch's Library in Dublin, who is found, naked, in his scrumptious home, poisoned by a VERY nasty poison. The room is equipped with a video camera which recorded his death, and the sexual peccadillos that preceded it. Turns out Herrick produced home-made pornographic records of his sexual "frolliks." The writings and behaviour of Jonathan Swift seem intertwined with the mystery and the victim, and McGarr invokes the help of his scholarly and talented wife. The other regular members of the "Murder Squad" play out roles too. The background of the victim and his antics are bizarre, and may be described too vividly for the squeamish, but again Gill has produced a literate, witty, perceptive mystery. Good show. Gill,B.;The Death of an Ardent Bibliophile

The Christmas Box; Richard Paul Evans
     This is a small sized, 125 page book, that seems to have been originally published by the author "on his own"; but this volume is by Simon and Schuster. It is in the genre of "inspirational" tales. The author tells of moving, with his wife and 3 year old daughter, into the mansion of an elderly woman who advertised for a couple to do cooking, light housework, and grass cutting in exchange for living quarters; and of the development of a close loving relationship between the woman and him and his family. When moving in, the author discovered, in the attic, an elaborate box with a nativity scene on the lid. It was a container for an old bible displayed in the living room, but the author always described it as the "Christmas Box". The box is intimately involved with the close relationship that developed, and with the revelation to the author of the true gift of Christmas. It is a sentimental, emotional, touching story that provides yet another setting for a lesson that is often told in story form - and frequently associated with Christmas. It is nicely done; it may in fact be true, but that is irrelevant. It would make a lovely gift to a young couple. Evans,R.P.;The Christmas Box

The Sixth Extinction:Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind; Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin
     A very interesting - and depressing - book that verges on a specialty book: it is a somewhat recondite discussion of evolution and the five great geological "moments" of extinction - the periods when up to 95% of living species vanished. It is the opinion of the authors (and I believe they are correct) that we - humankind - are now bringing about the SIXTH great extinction of species. They passionately believe that this extinction is totally and ethically wrong, and that it must be stopped. They are of course, right; but I do not believe it will be stopped. They adduce several arguments, of which one is the ethical one. Another is that we need all those species -or at least many of them - for aesthetic value for the soul. It is clear that these arguments will get no where. Another is that since we do not know how the biotic sphere really functions, it is possible that in our wholesale extinction of species and bio-communities we shall lay the seeds for the destruction of homo sapiens. When you stack these against the rabid, cold- blooded economic arguments of people like the arch anti-conservationist Professor Julien Simon, they will carry little weight.In addition to presenting an argument that will not be persuasive to the developers and developing nations of the world, the book also provides a VERY interesting discussion of the history of species in geological time, and the principles and conclusions of evolutionary biology. It is (I think) understandable by reasonably well-read intelligent people who are NOT experts on biology, although a few technical terms are less than thoroughly explained. It is also a fascinating exposition of the seeming fact that we humans are actually here only because of sheer blind luck! (Evolutionary speaking). *NOTE:Simon, a real economist at the University of Maryland,is the spitting image (philosophically speaking) of the imaginary character Dr. Lionel Gift in the book Moo above! Leakey,R.& Lewin,R.;the Sixth Extinction

Days of Drums; Philip Shelby
 This is a good thriller, which will remind you of many others. It is the laid-in-Washington with high-level conspiracy, lone law enforcement agent vs. high-level traitors, super assassin etc. Famous Senator Charles Westbourne is viciously murdered at his extensive Virginia hunt-country estate, after a meeting with the "Cardinals" - a set of his Senate friends. Holland Tylo, a young female Secret Service agent has the duty when it happens, and she gets the blame for failing to follow the book on security. When she last saw the Senator, he gave her a floppy disk, to be delivered to his office, but she forgets the disk when the asassination happens. Later she discovers that the disk is full of political dirt, used by the Senator for political blackmail, and that there are two of the disks. The professional asassin, a former Secret Service agent, aided and abetted by high-level politicos, is charged with getting it back. The rest of the story is the asassin chasing the girl, and the girl and a few trusted friends chasing the asassin and his sponsors. You've read it before with the names changed - but it is still a good one of the type. A good beach read. There are a few things that strike the reader: it is hard to believe that the disks are not copied somewhere along the line, by Tylo if not someone else; and Tylo seems to have lots of dying bad guys whisper key confessions into her ear just as they die. Picky.... Shelby,P.;Days of Drums

Range of Motion; Elizabeth Berg
     Hard to put down; emotionally gripping to read. Lainey Berman has two daughters, aged 10 and 4, and a husband, Jay, who is in the hospital, then in a nursing home, in a coma from an accidental head injury months before. She also has a wonderful neighbor, Alice,in the duplex. Alice has a boy of her own, and takes care of Lainey's kids while Lainey spends as much time as possible with Jay. "Range of motion" is the term describing the passive physical exercise given to Jay. Lainey provides her own passive stimulation: she talks to Jay, clothes him in familiar clothes, brings bags of spices for him to smell, etc. And she takes the children to visit him, and even takes the little dog of the neighbor's. She is surviving, with the invaluable help of Alice, who gradually reveals that she feels her husband is having an affair. Suddenly, Lainey begins having visits from the ghost of Evie - who used to live in the house in the forties! The story is simply the first person, touching, narrative of Lainey, living her life in hope and desperation, but with courage. It is an immensely rewarding, not depressing, love story; do not miss it. Berg, E.; Range of Motion