At the end of the reviews are indexes with links by title and author

A Beautiful Mind; Sylvia Nasar                                                                                      NF (pb)
          The mind is that of John Nash, a wizard in mathematics, and a paranoid schizophrenic. The book is his biography, authorized in the sense that the 76 year old Nash - currently in remission with his illness -has not objected to it. The author is a former economics correspondent, currently a professor of journalism at Columbia. The book tells, in great detail, of an individual who comes across to me as a very unpleasant person - whether he is showing his insanity or not. His mind may be beautiful (when he is not mad) but he certainly is not. The tale is far too long, filled with more detail that this reader wanted to know. There are wonderful pictures of various institutions, e.g. Columbia, Princeton, MIT, The Institute for Advanced Study, and especially the RAND Corporation, in its early days. Those of us who knew the latter organization in those days can vouch for the excellent description of the people, the problems, the organization and the attitudes. Nash’s life story follows him through his early triumphs, when it became clear that he really was a mathematical genius, through his love affairs - male and female, his illegitimate son, his marriage and his legitimate son, his falling into the dementia associated with his condition, the treatments he had, some of the ghastly places where he was hospitalized, the breakup of his marriage, and his gradual recovery into a remission of his illness. He and his long suffering wife have remarried a few years ago, and perhaps he is now better in his treatment of her. The author is not able to explain to the reader the complex mathematics and reasoning that Nash was (is?) capable of, and in fact makes what I think are a few errors - although they are certainly ones that could have been caught. Nash won a Nobel prize - in Economics of all things, and it was won by the skin of his nose - or something. I liked a lot of the book, I didn’t like a lot of the book, and I never found anything to like in Nash. There is an extensive set of notes, a long bibliography of suggested reading, and references, and a fairly good index. It does not, however, strike me as a scholarly work. There is a very excellent 20 page prologue, that sketches the pattern of the following biography. The book is dedicated to Nash’s wife - and she certainly deserves it.
 Nasar,S.; A Beautiful Mind; $?; 461pp;Simon & Schuster;NY; 2001(copyright 1998); ISBN 0-684-81906-6

A Hole in Texas: A Novel; Herman Wouk     
           Surprising. This is NOT vintage Wouk. Wouk must be in his nineties, and I think has not written anything for quite some years. Here he has written a light novel that is, of all things, sort of based on particle physics! The “hole in Texas” is the [real] abandoned tunnel that was to house the Superconducting Super Collider, a [real] project that had spent quite a few taxpayer dollars, and was killed by Congress before the Collider was ever constructed. The fictional story stars physicist Guy Carpenter, who had worked on the Super Collider, and is now at NASA, and has a brilliant wife, and two children - one of whom is an adult, and the other is a baby! The worlds of physics and politics are suddenly thrust into the spotlight of the media when China announces that it has detected the Higgs boson [ the latter is a real, scientific postulate.] Sudden panic ensues in the US. How could the Chinese have discovered this - and beat the US to it? What is happening to research in the US? Why did the US ever kill the Texas Super Collider which might have allowed discovery of the boson in The US? and what happened in Texas to kill the project?  What are the chances that China may develop a “boson bomb?” etc.. Carpenter gets caught in the middle. Turns out he had once been in love with the female Chinese scientist who is credited with the discovery, and has been corresponding secretly with her. He is corralled by a vigorous Congresswoman who wants him to tell her all about the Higgs boson, The story follows Carpenter as he educates the Congresswoman in science, and begins to fall for her. And it watches Carpenter as his wife learns about his earlier affair with the Chinese scientist, and the divisiveness that develops in their marriage. Carpenter is brilliant as a scientist, but a dolt about women. The Chinese woman comes to the USA, sees Carpenter again, and testifies before Congress. Carpenter is called to testify also, and it seems that he will be chopped up in public. With the help of powerful friends, Carpenter is shielded from trouble before Congress. There is a great deal about the Higgs boson and about the Super Collider  - they are real things, and Wouk has done a phenomenal job of research on them. There is also a great deal about political machinations, and how the world of Capitol Hill operates. The jacket suggests that this is a satire, but it all sounds right-on to me!, and the media and congressional types sound like real people! An interesting story - to me. Oh yes, a black cat plays a passing role!
  NOTE: As of now, the Higgs boson - which presumably explains how and why particles have mass, has not been seen. CERN, in Switzerland, thought they had seen some a year or so ago, but that seems to have been an error. The science in the book is good and accurate, although a current, developing idea that the concept of “force” should vanish from physics, is not mentioned.
 Wouk,H.; A Hole in Texas;$25;278pp;Little, Brown, &Co.;NY;2004; ISBN 0-316-52590-1

A Popular History of Witchcraft; Montague Summers
           In 1936, Summers wrote this book as a popularization of  his more “scholarly” book on the same subject. The latter he had written in 1926. I have not read the first one, but the quotation marks are  based on what I see in the current book: an absolute, unquestioning belief that there really is witchcraft, that there are witches, and that both are alive and flourishing today. Since I do not believe that, [the  current “witchcraft” organization, WICCA, is basically similar to THE RED HAT LADIES - fun and costumes for women,] I appended the quotation marks! I knew of the current book, but had never encountered it, till I found this old copy on the shelves of the retirement community in which my wife and I now live. Summers was indeed a strange person it seems. He was a graduate of Oxford, an authority on Restoration Literature and Drama, and Gothic novelists. He studied Anglican theology, and became a Roman Catholic. He dressed in the garb of a Catholic Priest, but no record of his ordination exists. This book suggests that he believed every tale of witchcraft he ever heard, and he cites “case” after “case.” He notes for example, that is has been “proven beyond doubt” that Oliver Cromwell was a witch, and that is how he got his power. He is livid about efforts that curtailed the prosecution of witches, especially the repeal, under George II, of the statutes that called for prosecution and execution of witches. It was “fatuous” legislation he says, and  led to the widespread development of witchcraft. The book was difficult for me to read, because I finally tired of all the vague anecdotal “examples” of witchcraft cited. I am left with the impression that the man was a nut. Of course, if he should be right....        
 Summers,M.; A Popular History of Witchcraft;276pp;Causeway Books;NY;1973; ISBN 0-88356-001-1

A Short History of Nearly Everything; Bill Bryson                                     (NF)
        The title tells it all. Bryson spent three years reading into various sciences, and has written this 544 page book to explain the stuff to lay people - in seven chapters. He starts with the cosmos, the Earth, physics, earth science, and life - including Evolution and the development of Man. There is a good set of notes, an extensive bibliography, and a good index. I have not read all of it, but I have enjoyed what I read, and I have learned things. My background is science, so I’m not sure how this would appear to those with little background in science. Bette quit when she ran into atomic physics! This is a book that one can pick up and read for a while, then put down, and pick up at another time. And of course one can skip anything she doesn’t care to read. It is actually a pretty good explanative, reference book, although I’m not sure at what audience it’s aimed. It is well written, and well told. As an ex-scientist, I found nothing with which I could take exception. And it is certainly interesting.
 Bryson,B; A Short History of Nearly Everything;$27.50; 544pp; Broadway Books; NY; 2003; ISBN

Blood Retribution; David and Aimée Thurlo                                                      (series)
          Talk about a shock! I am an enthusiastic reader of the Ella Klah novels written by the Thurlos. These are laid on the Navajo reservation where Ella is a police investigator. I had not realized that they have started another series known as the Lee Nez novels. This one is a Lee Nez novel - noted in almost invisible type on the cover; so when I grabbed it at the Library I didn’t notice. When I started to read it I was thrown for a loop. The “hero,” Lee Nez is a vampire - well, half a vampire - and he is also a New Mexico State Police officer! He never ages, he drinks blood, he can’t tolerate sunlight, and he is tremendously powerful. Among the enemies that he is especially good at taking out are “skinwalkers,” shapechangers who are evil, and can change from human to animal, and back! In the Klah novels, as I recall, shapeshifters are never shown as real - they appear as beliefs of the Navajo. Here they are real! In the book, Lee Nez is teamed with a female FBI field agent who knows Nez’s real nature, and together they hunt and kill skinwalkers and evil vampires! The novel is fantasy, and I skimmed through the last third or so. Much fantasy I enjoy - not this, for some reason. At any rate, I shall not read more in this series (this is the third in the series, it appears.) Ellah - where are you?
Thurlo, D.&A.; Blood Retribution; $23.95; 271pp; Tom Dougherty Associates; NY; 2004; ISBN 0-765-30442-1

Blow Out: An FBI THriller; Catherine Coulter                                                                Series
         The subtitle is present because Coulter has also published a lot of Romances, but this series concerns, primarily, well told and gripping police procedurals that star two FBI agents: Dillon Savitch, and his wife Lacie Sherlock. The latter is known simply as Sherlock. There is often some degree of paranormal happenings in the tales. This story is two stories. One is Savitch’s concern with a 30 year old murder, a concern that is brought about by his “meeting” a woman who has been dead 30 years! This paranormal event gets him concerned - and the murder is, in fact, solved by him. That is a small part of the story however. Mostly the tale is about the killing of a Supreme Court Justice, and the subsequent murders of several of his staff. The Washington police force, and the FBI launch a major effort to find the killer who seems to be a very powerful, sadistic murderer. The stepdaughter of the Justice works for the Washington Post,  takes leave to help with the investigation, and is assigned to Washington Detective Ben Raven, who is most unhappy at being saddled with her. However, the Romantic streak of Coulter’s gets to work on these two through the story! It is a dandy yarn, although to me the killer and the reasons for the killings seem somewhat far fetched. Although it is basically a procedural, it is a good, attention holding story. I enjoyed it.
 Coulter,C.; Blow Out;$25.95;386pp; G.P. Putnam’s Sons; NY; 2004; ISBN 0-399-15187-7

Capital Crimes; Stuart Woods                                                                       series
         This, the cover says, is the third novel featuring Will Lee, currently President of the USA, and his wife Kate, currently the Director of Central Intelligence, and head of the CIA. I have read none of the others. A very clever, and highly skilled assassin begins killing some of the country’s high level political types. A variety of actions take place to find out who the assassin is. The FBI director is not a very sharp type, but the problem is being handled by his deputy, Kinney, Director for Criminal Investigations, who is a long time expert, and who tells the Director to buzz off. Lee’s wife is moving the CIA to help. The story follows “Ted”, the killer, and the good guys who are trying to catch him. It is, to some extent a police procedural - but there are other elements. For example, there is a felon, in prison, who tells Kate that he knows who the killer is. It is another cat and mouse story, with a very smart mouse - or rat, perhaps, and a bunch of very smart cats. We follow the ratiocination and the actions as the cats gradually hem in the mouse. It is an interesting, and a bit unusual detection/action story, that has a very ironic surprise at the end, one that takes the reader unaware. Good yarn.   
 Woods,S.; Capital Crimes; $25.95; 288pp; G.P. Putnam’s Sons;NY; 2003; ISBN0-399-15090-0

Cracking More Cases: The Forensic Science of Solving Crimes; Dr. Henry C. Lee with Thomas W. O’Neill                                                                                                     NF   
           Dr. Lee, born in Korea is a recognized and distinguished forensic scientist who is also a jim dandy self promoter! He was born in Taiwan, where he became a police officer, then he and his wife came to the US in 1960. The jacket notes he has authored, or co-authored, ten books, and has a TV series going. I suspect O’Neill wrote the book, but the interesting, dark, jacket cover presents Lee’s name in big white letters, and O’Neils name in small black print on a dark red background - almost illegible in fact. They seem to have produced an earlier book called “Cracking Cases,” and this another of the same. This is Lee’s comments on solving crimes by means of science - which I think is a definition of forensic science. He presents five cases involving death, two of which were very “cold” cases. One of the others is the JonBenet Ramsey case. In several of the cases the police thoroughly fouled up the investigation, contaminated the crime scene, and made dramatic mistakes. The forensic scientist must, of course try hard to make up for the police blunders. The cases are unusual, and quite interesting - especially if you are interested in detective work. The longest essay is that regarding 6 year old JonBenet Ramsey, and Lee concludes that it is unlikely that the case will ever be solved. If you like painstaking detective work, you will like this. Lee is not the main player in all of them, but he was personally involved in some way. Four of the stories have many references to books about the crime, and Lee takes his details about the crime from those. There is a good index.
 Lee,H. & O’Neil,T.W.; Cracking More Cases;$?; 313pp;Promethius Books; Amherst,NY; ISBN 1-59102-199-5

Debunked: ESP, Telekinesis, and Other Pseudoscience; Georges Charpak and Henri Broch; translated by Bart K. Holland                                                                                       NF    
             This is a very small book for such a large topic. Charpak is a Nobel Laureate in Physics, and Broch is a University teacher of Physics. The translator (from the French) is a medical school professor who specializes in statistics. The translator notes that he has modified and rewritten various parts! The book is a sort of hodgepodge. There are very illustrative examples that explain, for example, how astrology really works - by simply telling people empty statements that could apply to anyone. And there is an explanation of how one example of mental telepathy can be worked to vastly impress people. Then there is a section on levitation that leaves the reader more confused than enlightened. There is a too-long section on dowsing, and a VERY long article on how water gets into a sarcophagus in a tiny town in the Pyrenees! An ax is ground on the dangers of low level radiation, and there is an interesting exposition of how seemingly amazing things can actually occur quite easily. The latter things are intimately related to probability theory, and may be hard for the casual reader to follow. All in all, I suggest that a reader who is interested in the subject look elsewhere. There are a number of things that suggest either the book was not well written, or was not well translated in places, or both. There is an interesting ending piece that tries to sum up the situation at the present time, and how pseudo science may affect the world we live in, but it is not worth reading the book for.
 Charpak,G. & Broch,H.; Debunked;$?;136pp;Johns Hopkins University Press; Baltimore;2004; ISBN 0-8018-7867-5  [ NOTE: The original book was published in French in 2002]         

Double Homicide: Santa Fe; Jonathon & Faye Kellerman  
Double Homicide: Boston

         I truly did a double take on this book. I like to read the Kellerman’s novels, so I picked this up. I was surprised to see that it was written by both. Then, as I sat down to read it, I discovered that it was in fact two stories, with the book opening on one story, then, when I reversed the  book, and turned it upside down, I found another jacket cover, and another story! The Kellermans have written two stories, novellas perhaps - since they are quite short: 130 pages. Each is a police procedural, murder story. The protagonists are different in the stories, as is the locale. The characters are new ones, and somewhat unusual. I shall not try to review the stories; they are good, but I think the authors are better individually than as a duet.   
 Kellerman; Double Homicide;$23.95; Warner Books;NY; 2004; ISBN 0-446-53296-7

First Test; Tamora Pierce                                                                                   (FAN) (Series)(pb)
     Page; Tamora Pierce                                                                                                (Series)(pb)
         Squire; Tamara Pierce                                                                                         (Series))pb)
        These are three books of a series of four that the author has called “Protector of the Small Quartet,” and are written as fantasies for “Young Adults.” I don’t really know what Young Adults are, and I had never heard of the author until our 12 year old, precocious granddaughter brought the books for me to read. She has discovered fantasy, and is avidly reading all she can find. She knows that I too read fantasy, so she brought these with the eager promise to give me the last one as soon as she can get it and read it. I was underwhelmed to say the least - teen age fantasies are NOT what I read. However I accepted them with a show of enthusiasm. Some weeks later I had to move the books to make room for holiday decorations, and I realized I could not tell Leah that I hadn’t even looked at them! So I picked up the first one, read about the author, noted the covers, and decided that if I skimmed through a few pages I could probably waffle around in comments to Leah. So I started. I was a bit startled to discover, about a half hour later, that I was in fact reading, not skimming! The interest increased, until I had read all three novels. Now I am anxious to get the final one! The setting is the magical/medieval world of Tortall that has all the feudal characteristics of Europe in the age of chivalry, complete with Knights, Squires, Kings, Lords of the Realm, etc. However it is also occupied by griffins, centaurs, ogres, and a number of giant, evil magical creatures against which the knights must strive, as well as villainous tribes of bandits, etc.. There is also magic in the world. Into the world of chivalry steps 10 year old Kiladry of Mindelan, the tall daughter of Baron Piers and Lady Ilane, of Mindelan. Kil wishes to become a Knight, and presents herself for training as a page; the only female to do so since the king had announced, ten years earlier, that females could be accepted.  The only existing female in the knighthood world had got there with the help of magic, and Kil has no magic - only determination to succeed in the male world. However, she has also spent six years with her parents in the Yamini Islands, where her father had been an ambassador, and she learned much of that culture, including training in emotional control, and martial arts. Her mother is not only a Lady of the Tortall peerage, she is also an accomplished, Yamini-trained  warrior.  With excellent narration, the author beautifully outlines difficulties of  a female in a male world, especially a world of youngsters, and her great trials and triumphs, her mistakes and her successes, her friends and her enemies, her integrity, and her grim determination, as she goes through trials, contests, and warfare. She is a first class protagonist, and the fantasy surround is tailored to permit the complex story to unfold. The fantasy is not really important - the girl’s story is. And it is a dandy one, as she struggles into womanhood, and struggles her way to acceptance in the male world. At the end of the third book she is knighted, and dubbed Lady Knight. See what your Young Adult daughters think of these stories. And then you might have them read Cokie Roberts (e.g. We Are Our Mother’s Daughters) to see that OUR world too can give females a hard time. I have thoroughly enjoyed these three tales, and I shall indeed read the last one (Lady Knight.)  I will  look at some of the other stories written by this winner of multiple prizes for younger readers. I note that she has written at least one earlier series about this imaginary world, and I think it included some of the current characters.   
 NOTE: The books have a cast-of-characters appendix, and a glossary. They are very interesting and helpful. As I read the story, I was intrigued to note that the Yamini Islands, and their people, appear very Japanese, and indeed if one slurs the words a bit, Yamini and Japanese actually sound a bit alike! (I think.) By the way, my wife is as enthralled by these stories as I am.
 Pierce,T.; First Test, Page, Squire; Random House; NY; 1999, 2000,2001

Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem; Simon Singh                                                                            NF
            Not for the casual reader - it is what I call here a “specialist’s” book. It is for those interested in, and somewhat knowledgeable about mathematics. Those who, in fact, know what Fermat’s Last Theorem is, are the readers who will enjoy this very interesting book. The author tries very hard to make the book intelligible to the “average” reader, but my above comment stands. The famous Pierre de Fermat (died 1665)  left, on the pages of one of his notebooks, a very simple looking equation  xn + yn = zn   which he said has no solutions for n equal to any integer other than 2 (the Pythagorian Theorem), and that he had discovered an elegant proof of his statement. Makes you catch your breath, doesn’t it? Well, OK - maybe not. Fermat did not present his proof, and mathematicians have been attempting to prove the statement ever since then. The theorem was finally proved in 1994 by Andrew Wiles, who had earlier announced a proof, but then discovered that he had made an error. The second time he was right. The book covers all the mathematical history that bears on the problem, and outlines the general ideas that Wiles used. The proof involves complicated, radically new concepts in mathematics, and could not have been the proof cited by Fermat. In fact, there is growing a considerable doubt about whether Fermat ever really had a  proof at all! The last third of the book is NOT easy to understand, despite the author’s best efforts. Still, it is a fascinating book. And Andrew Wiles is a very strange guy!
  NOTE: there are a series of appendices that are attempts to have the reader understand some of the logic. There are suggestions for further reading, and a reasonable index. The author directed and coproduced a film on Fermat’s Last Theorem. It was on PBS “Nova” series.
  Singh,S.; Fermat’s Enigma; $12; 315pp; Anchor Books; NY; 1998; IBSN 0-385-49362-2

Haunted Ground; Erin Hart
          This is the first novel Hart has written, and she has certainly done a good job. It is a mystery/detective story, with an unusual plot, laid in a strange Irish surround, with quite unusual protagonists. Thelatter are an American, Nora Gavin, a Trinity College lecturer in anatomy, and a pathologist; and Cormac Maguire, an archaeologist at University College in Dublin. The key locale is an Irish peat bog, where two men cutting peat unearth the face of a “bog body” that has been buried and preserved for hundreds of years. Gavin and Maguire are the two charged with excavating, preserving, and studying the body and its surroundings. As they start to unearth the body, they discover there is no body - only the head of a red-haired female. She had been decapitated. One of the local landed gentry hears of the find, and appears suddenly on the scene to find out if it might be his wife, who vanished with his son two years earlier. He sees it is not his wife. A local detective is convinced that the landowner did away with his wife and daughter; he is determined to find enough evidence to prove it, and gets involved with the two scientists.  Gavin takes on the task, abetted by Maguire, to determine the identity of the bog head, and finds that the mouth of the head has in it a piece of metal. It is a ring with a date and an inscription. Two stories form the tale: Gradually the mystery of the vanished woman and child is resolved by the efforts of the detective and the scientists, and the identity of the head is determined, and the head’s skeleton is found. And the mystery of the decapitation is explained. This is a very different, very good tale, and well told. I look forward to reading her second book - with the same characters. Characters who have their own set of mysteries!
 Hart,E.; Haunted Ground;$7.50;471pp;Pocket Books; NY; 2003; ISBN 0-7437-7099-0

In the Kingdom of Mists; Jane Jakeman   
         This is  a “historical crime fiction” murder mystery, set in London in 1900, starring Oscar-Claude Monet; his son Michael; Oliver Craston, a Foreign Office diplomat, and a serial murderer. I didn’t finish it. I found the book very confusing in time and place - both of which seem mixed up to me. Each chapter is written from the point of view of one of the characters - including the murderer. I shall avoid this author in the future.
 NOTE: There is a Claude Monet chronology at the end of the book. I found some things I was totally unaware of!
 Jakeman,J.; In the Kingdom of Mists;$23.95;351pp;Berkley;NY;2002;ISBN 0-425-19512-0

Killer Smile; Lisa Scottoline   
          My usual warning: I’m a sucker for quest stories, and this is one, by an author who seems to be a well known, and honored, teller of mystery and legal tales. This is her eleventh book, and the first I’ve read. I am also an avoider of books about attorneys, and the protagonist in this one is an attorney, but fortunately there is very little courtroom activity, and I was taken by the protagonist - and the story. Mary DiNunzio, the attorney, is of Italian parents, and is involved in researching the records of WWII in a case that involves an Italian POW, Amadeo Brandolini, who had immigrated to Philadelphia, USA, started a family, and ran a small fishing business. When war broke out, Amadeo was arrested as part of an internment of Italian Americans, and sent to an internment camp in Montana, where he finally committed suicide. His son’s estate has hired Mary to sue the government for reparations, and Mary must determine what happened 60 years ago. And that is what the book is about: Mary’s quest for information on what happened to Amadeo. As it happens, unknown to Mary at first, there are individuals who do not want that situation explored, and set out to stop it.  It is a dandy story of detective work in archives, tracing down old people and information, of clever ratiocination, and discovering that there is deadly opposition.  And there is action, suspense, and adventure. It is a attention holding tale, that gathers momentum as it goes. The ending is satisfactory, if somewhat deus ex machina. I shall certainly read more of this writer’s work. By the way, the writing is excellent, and there are some great throwaway lines.
 NOTE: Be sure to read the author’s note at the end. She notes that the idea for this story came from her family. Her mother and father had to register as enemy aliens, as did  other Italian Americans, or Italians in America. Many of these people were placed in internment camps. No reparations have ever been claimed or paid. I was unaware of this action against Italian Americans
  Scottoline,L.; Killer Smile;$25.95;360pp;Harper Collins;NY;2004; ISBN 0-06-051495-7

Lake of Sorrows; Erin Hart   
         This is the second novel by Hart. The first was Haunted Ground (see above.) The locale is the same: Ireland; and the main characters are the same: American forensic pathologist, Nora Gavin, and Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire. And of course the vast peat bog is again involved. This time there are two bodies discovered in the peat. One of the bodies is of the Iron Age, the other is only 26 years old - as the investigators discover. Both were killed in the same way, a “three fold” killing which is believed to be a ritual from the Iron Age! And as information is acquired, it appears that here are other “triple” killings. The complicated tale involves the love affair of Nora and Cormac, and three or so other stories, about buried treasure, misfit workers related to the treasure, a mute woman, and a detective whose wife committed suicide. At the end of the tale, it appears that Nora is headed back to the USA to do something about the man who was the killer (she believes) of her sister. It is complicated, and, I think, not as good as the first in the series. But I enjoyed it.
 Hart,E.; Lake of Sorrows;$24;328pp;Scribner;NY;2004; ISBN 0-7432-4796-5

Mean Woman Blues; Julie Smith                                                                                  series
           Set in New Orleans, starring female detective Skip Langdon. Well, the series stars Skip Langdon, but in this one she plays a lesser role! In fact, much of the story relates the activities of major villain, Errol Jacomine, an evangelical preacher whom Skip has tried to get for years. The man is a very dangerous, somewhat deranged person, and a multiple murderer. In this book he alters his appearance, builds a following in New Orleans, and decides to get rid of Langdon and her friends. We watch the man, and his friends, as he develops his new personality, and we follow his sons. Langdon appears when she realizes that he has returned. It is actually a complex story, and one I read but did not enjoy. Too much time with the evil ones!
 Smith,J.; Mean Woman Blues;$24.95;304pp;Tom Doherty Ass.;NY;2003; ISBN 0-765-30552-6

Old Boys; Charles McCarthy                                                                                      series
           McCarthy has returned to writing “spy” thrillers, and again includes his legendary (now aging) CIA agent, Paul Christopher. Paul, retired from the CIA, is absent from most of the story, but his cousin, Horace Hubbard, also a one time CIA agent, is the first person narrator and the center of the story. Paul and Horace meet regularly, but one day Paul vanishes, and some time later Horace receives, from China, a container that he is told contains Paul’s ashes. Horace checks Paul’s house, finds the safe that Paul said he had, and finds there a note, and a valuable painting. The note indicates that if Horace is reading it, Paul is either dead, or has failed in a quest. The quest is for his 96 year old mother, who was last heard of when she was arrested by the Gestapo in 1940, in Germany. Paul has been looking for her for many years, and tells Horace that he now has new information about her. He also says that a man, Ibn Awad, killed years ago by order of Horace, is in fact still alive. His mother, he says, is said to be carrying a first century manuscript that Ibn Awad wants. The manuscript contains startling information about Jesus, the Christ. In addition, it seems that Awad has a dozen small Soviet atomic bombs that will be used against the USA. Horace is to sell the painting if he decides to go after Awad again. Horace doesn’t think Paul is dead, despite the ashes, and he convenes a half dozen “old boys” as a a group that will set out to find Paul, and to find the bombs that are a serious threat. The group is getting to be elderly, but were expert intelligence agents, and still know almost anyone in the world who can provide little known information. The current CIA is ticked off at the “old boys” whom they feel are obsolete, and interfering. It is a LONG, complicated story, with smaller stories built in. It is not possible to describe it in this space! But it is a good yarn, full of interesting insights into the world of intelligence, and captures the enthusiasm of the “old boys” who are back in action again. I felt empathy for a number of the observations, having experienced similar emotions myself. And I was intrigued to deduce that Horace stayed at a Washington Club to which I belong! Good - albeit long -read.
 McCarthy,C,; Old Boys;$25.95;476pp; The Overlook Express;NY; 2004; ISBN 1-58567-545-8

Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide To The Mysteries Behind The DaVinci Code. Dan Burnstein,[Editor]                                                                     (NF)
           I said I would not read any more commentaries about Dan Brown’s “The Davinci Code.” O.K., so I was wrong. I brought this one home because it was a compilation of essays, not just one person’s gripes and critiques. I skimmed back and forth in the book, and enjoyed the experience. And in fact I learned a great deal - not necessarily about the original novel. Then I went back and began to read in depth. The book is a large collection of small essays by a lot of experts (a few questionable ones) in archaeology, theology, myths, legends, history etc., and has a couple of great appendices. There have been a lot of critiques of Brown’s book; almost all of them based on theology, and decrying the very existence of the novel. I don’t quite understand why the book has caused so many people to worry about it - but that has certainly made Brown a VERY rich author! If you have read Brown’s book - a nifty novel by the way - you will certainly find lots of intriguing stuff about it in this compendium. It has sections on Mary Magdalene and femininity, the Sacred Feminine, the Lost Gospels, Early Christianity, establishing One True Faith, Secret Societies, etc. One of the appendices is listed as “Glossary,” and that it is - but FAR better and more interesting than any other glossary you may have seen! The really interesting thing is that I think this book can be truly fascinating whether you have read Brown’s book or not! So don’t worry if you haven’t read “The Davinci Code,” read this one and have a great time. There is no index - but for some reason that didn’t seem to bother me - the guy who homes in on indexes!
 Burnstein,D.[editor]; Secrets of the Code;$21.95;370pp; CDS Books;NY; 2004; ISBN [none]    

Some Danger Involved; Will Thomas
          Thomas is a librarian who has extensive knowledge about the Victorian novel, and this is his first attempt at writing one. It is 1884, and the title refers to wording in a London advertisement for a job for which Thomas Llewelyn applies. It is for an assistant Enquiry Agent (private detective.) Llewelyn read at Oxford, then spent 8 months in Oxford prison, is penniless, and has decided that if he does not get the job he will jump off a bridge. He gets the job- to his amazement. It is with Cyrus Barker, a large, energetic, enigmatical, expert private eye, who is well known in London, and who has a vast number of good informants. Barker gives Llewellyn  lodgings, several outfits of new clothes, and sets out to teach him the business. The case Barker takes on is one requested by Sir Moses Montefiore, grandfather of Lord Rothschild. It is to investigate the murder and crucifixion of a young Jew. Montefiore is anxious that there does not develop in London any of the anti-Semitic pogroms that have appeared in other countries. It is an interesting story to watch Thomas gradually learn many things, as he and Barker wade through social and cultural problems in tracking down the murderer. It is a dandy story, and the gritty atmosphere of London, and the cultures of the Jews who have been pouring into London to avoid the dangers in other countries, captured this reader. I enjoyed the story, and I presume the author will write others starring his two characters. I shall read them!
 Thomas,W.; Some Danger Involved; $22.95; 291pp;Touchtone;NY; 2004; ISBN0-7432-5618-2

The Autobiography of God: A Novel;  Julius Lester
          I found this a remarkable, powerful, fascinating, fantasy novel that has elements of sly humor in places. My wife did not like it after a certain point. The central character is slightly crippled Rebecca Nachman, a divorced Rabbi, who has resigned from her congregation, and is working as a counselor at John Brown College, in Vermont. She is having a crisis in faith, when, as the story opens, she takes delivery of a Torah; a Torah that had belonged to a congregation of Polish Jews who had been killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust. When she had a congregation, she had ordered the Torah from an organization that collected many old Holocaust Torahs. Now she has it, but no congregation, and is not sure what to do. She is taken aback when she sees the Torah is sealed with a knot - that is never done - then she realizes that the knot was made by the Nazis who murdered the Polish congregation. She lets the Torah sit on her table. In the world outside, she continues her counseling, and encounters a young woman who clearly needs help, but won’t discuss her problems. The story follows her attempts to help the woman, and her encounters with several acquaintances. We are told also of her years of training with a particular Reb. Then she unties the knot on the Torah. This releases the spirits of the Polish Congregation that owned the Torah, and Rebecca finds herself saying Kaddish with the spirits at 3AM. One of the spirits talks with her, and tells her that God has an autobiography that he wants her to read. An autobiography that only one person has ever finished reading! It appears, and she reads it. And her internal, and external world changes. The young woman she is worried about is murdered, and Rebecca discovers the killer. The story is much more coherent than these notes, and there are powerful and thought provoking points of view. For instance: I was struck by the argument that whereas it is really difficult to be good - lots of time and effort are involved - it is utterly simple to be evil. Hardly any effort is required. In fact, often one can do evil by doing nothing! The story moves to a remarkable - and somehow fitting ending. Truly an experience.
 NOTE: The perception and presentation of God in these pages will likely distress and anger some readers. I found my wife was actually startled when she turned a certain page - and did not care for the book from then on.  I confess to having been startled at the same page. And yet - it is a beautifully constructed ploy. Lester, the reader may know, is a black man who converted from Methodist to Judaism. He is a prolific writer, and a truly excellent one - particularly of children’s books. This one is NOT a child’s book.
 Lester,J.; The Autobiography of God;$23.95; 247pp; St. Martin’s Press; NY; 2004; ISBN 0-312-28820-4

The Book of Joe; Jonathan Tropper    
           I cannot recall why I chose this at the Library to bring home. When I picked it up to read, I thought it didn’t really look like one I’d read. Then as I read it, I agreed with that thought. Another first person narration by a 34 year old man who returns to the home town he left - unhappily - 17 tears earlier. He returns because his estranged father is in a coma, and he has a problem because he is a writer who has published one block buster novel - about his home town, and the people in it. He is well hated in the town! He encounters an old childhood friend - who is a homosexual, and dying of aids. His brother’s marriage is on the rocks, etc.. There are flashbacks - which I do not like in a novel As I read, I wondered why in the world I was bothering. Yet, for some reason, I read past my 100 page limit. By page 150 I was beginning to be part of the story, and by page 175 I was captured. The last part of the book was poignant, and gripping. I was impressed. Oh yes, the book ends as the writer’s Mercedes is blown up by a bomb! Not your usual litany of the woes of a returnee. If you try it, don’t be turned off by the first half!
 Tropper,J.; The Book of Joe; $19.95;336pp;Bantom Dell; NY; 2004;ISBN 0-385-33741-8

The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead; David Callahan (NF)  
            A very depressing, and scary book about the “anything goes” attitude in our culture. It is largely an organized summary of material from books and articles that have appeared on the subject, and covers items that will be quite familiar to the reader: large corporation scandals, student cheating, tax cheating, athletic scandals including steroids, etc.. Callahan presents what he sees as the causes of this growing lack of concern about ethics, morals, and honesty, and offers opinions on what could be done to turn this attitude around. Primarily the reason for the development is seen as a strongly increasing difference between the successful and rich, and those who aspire to be so. The difference is aggravated and stimulated by rampant non controlled “capitalism.” The causes seem appropriate, but I leave it to the reader to decide if she is convinced by the author of how all this might be stopped, and turned around. I was not.  
 Callahan,D.; The Cheating Culture;

The Damascened Blade; Barbara Cleverly                                                                Series
           The author appears to be writing a series laid in India in the twenties, and starring an ex British officer, detective Joe Sandilands, seconded to India from Scotland Yard. This book starts with a vignette from 1910, in a battle in the Afghan war between the British and Pathan tribesmen at the Indian Northwest Frontier Province. One of the British troops has been captured, and is being tortured by two tribesmen. A young subaltern goes to rescue him, kills the tribesmen, and kills the horribly mutilated British officer - at the latter’s pleading. This episode lies behind much of the future story, which starts 12 years later in Peshawar, where Sandilands has gone to visit an old friend who in charge of a fort there. To India comes a very wealthy, young American heiress, Lily, whom the British are told to handle carefully, and to see that she gets what she wants. What she wants is to see the “real” India, and she is escorted to Peshawar, and left in the custody of Sandilands - to his great dismay. To the fort comes a contingent of Afghans - currently the British have peace with the Afghans. One of them is killed in the fort, and that must be cleared up rapidly - the British-Afghan peace may well be in jeopardy. Sandilands takes on the investigation, aided by Lily, who turns out to have amazing deductive skills - as well as being an expert marksman, and first class horsewoman, with a sizable ego. The story is well told, and holds the reader to the very unexpected ending. I enjoyed it, even though the native born English author doesn’t seem to have the faintest clue how Americans talk informally. The “Americanisms” that she puts in Lily’s mouth are very amusing at times.
  NOTE: I am not sure where the title comes from. It is possibly an analogy that involves one of the high class Afghans in the story. A Damascened blade is one that has precious metals completely inlaid in the steel blade, and is really a lovely blade - but still deadly (see the book jacket.) The blade need not have been Damascus steel in those days, although it usually was. If the reader has any interest in steel blades, she will find the history of sword making, and the story of Damascus steel, a fascinating one. And one about which there has been much myth! Don’t be misled!      
 Cleverly,B,; The Damascened Blade;$25;287pp;Carroll & Graf;NY; 2003; ISBN: 0-7867-1333-X

The House Sitter; Peter Lovesey                                                                             Series
          Another British mystery involving Lovesey’s non conventional Peter Diamond, a police officer who moves in his own ways. The mystery/detective story starts with the discovery of a woman’s body on a Sussex beach. It appears that she was murdered on the beach when it was full of people on holiday. The senior investigating officer is Henrietta (Hen) Mallin, but Diamond is called , and the two have to cooperate. After working hard to try to identify the victim, they decide they have - except that they are called by the woman whose body they thought they had identified! Then it develops that there is a serial killer on the loose, and that is being kept as a tight secret by the police authorities. Again Lovesey weaves a complicated, enticing mystery, with a literary fling - the killer seems to be working with the “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,” - and again the reader hasn’t a chance of figuring out the real killer. Delightful as always. Diamond’s wife has been dead a year, and the reader begins to suspect that future stories will find Hen Mallin again. If you don’t know Lovesey’s work - start right now to enjoy it. He is a master of the craft.       Lovesey;P.; The House Sitter; $24; 346pp; Soho Press;NY;2003;ISBN 56947-326-9

The Paris Option: A Covert One Novel; Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds                  Series
      Ludlum has written more than twenty novels of the mystery/action type. Recently he has started teaming up with co-authors in writing a new series known as the "Covert One Novels." The first was "The Hades Factor," and his co-author was Lynds. This is the third in the series, and she is again his co-author. Covert One is a small, USA, supersecret, intelligence/action group that is known only to the President. In the first book, the reader was introduced to the series' protagonists: Army Lt. Col. Jonathon (Jon) Smith, an MD who has had combat experience; Randi Russel, a CIA operative, and look-alike sister of Sophia, an MD who was Jon's beloved, and who died of a deliberately spread virus early in the first book; Marty Zellerbach, a computer genius who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a high level autism; and Britisher Peter Howell, retired MI6 agent who gets called back from time as an agent in very special cases. This book centers around an organic super computer that is based on DNA, and far surpasses anything ever built. It has been designed by a French scientist who built a prototype. As the story starts, masked men invade the scientist's lab in Paris, and blow it up - after taking the scientist and his prototype. Zellerbach was working with the scientist, and suffers a concussion that leaves him in a coma. Smith goes to Paris, ostensibly to see his old friend Marty, but with the real task of chasing down the scientist and the computer. It has been used to shut off USA communications, and it appears that it can render the USA completely helpless. The story gallops along while Smith and friends try to determine which bad guys are working for other bad guys, and who is REALLY responsible for the development of attacks against the US facilities. It is complicated, and I found it boring after a while. Smith and his three friends spend page after page defeating large numbers of Arabs, terrorists, and French Foreign Legion troops in pitched gun battles where they kill hundreds without much more than scratches to show for it. The first book had similar elements, but was better.
 Ludlum,R., and Lynds,G.;$15.95;425pp; The Paris Option;St. Martin's Press; NY; 2002; ISBN 0-312-28987-1

The Priestly Sins: A Novel; Andrew M. Greeley    
           Father Greeley again writes of the Catholic Church’s cover-up attitude toward child-molesting priests, its antagonistic approach toward victims and their parents, and its attack on those priests who blow the whistle. Ten years ago he wrote a prescient novel, Fall From Grace, that included the subject, which was almost unknown to the public at that time. This time the book revolves entirely around it. Well, not entirely, because it is also an interesting love story. And Greeley has made a major switch in environment - this time the story centers about a German Catholic, and the Russian-German milieu in which he grew up; rather than the Irish world of Chicago. The story is of Herman Hoffman, from the Great Plains, a young man who gives up his love to become a priest. In his first parish assignment he comes upon a priest molesting a young boy. He stops the thing, and reports it to the pastor, the boy’s father, the police, and the Arch Bishop. Then he finds out what happens to priests like him. The event is completely denied by all, and Hoffman is accused of being a homosexual, and confined for six months in a mental hospital until he is “cured.” The tale begins in a courtroom years later. The victim has brought suit against the Church, and Hoffman is on the stand as a witness to the act of molestation. The priest who committed the act has died of AIDS. The court declares a recess, and the story really begins. We follow Hoffman as he grows up, falls in love, gives up his love, and becomes a priest. He is intellectually an historian, and he gets a degree and works for the University of Chicago. He is disliked by his superiors, and many of his fellow priests because of his reporting of the molestation, and we watch him as he fights “Downtown” - the Arch Bishop’s world. The book ends with the resumption of the court action at the beginning, and Hoffman produces his “secret,” which demolishes the entire Church case, and wrecks the Arch Bishop’s world. The tale is a strong denunciation of the Church, of the many seeming dolts who administer it, and its ghastly actions in molestation cases. Greeley is an insider who must drive the Church hierarchy mad! Good story, well told, and different for this author.      
 Greeley,A.M; The Priestly Sins;$24.95;301pp;Tom Doherty Associates;NY;2004; ISBN 0-765-31052-X

The Ptolemies; Duncan Sprott     
          Couldn’t read to the end; only about half way. This is historical fiction I think, and the uncertainty has to do with how much is fiction, and how much is history; i.e. I can’t tell if it is fictional history! The story starts in the first person as told by the Egyptian God Thoth, the Ibis- headed creator of all things Egyptian. It is to be the story of the Greek, Ptolemy, who becomes the Satrap of Egypt, then the King, and finally, the Pharaoh, a title that identifies the ruler as a God. Thoth is a sort of wise guy in the start, but the story quickly segues into a third person narrative of the first Ptolemy, Ptolemy Soter, one of Alexander’s leaders who takes Egypt after Alexander’s death. The story then follows Ptolemy Soter and all those who are around him, and all developing family of Ptolemies. Not the complete family however, and by no means all the Ptolemies who had power in Egypt. The story is told in VAST detail, with all sorts of psychological analysis both by the teller, and  in some of the occasional side remarks by Thoth. It finally got to be far more than I ever wanted to know about the period from about 300 BC to 200 BC or so. I maintain my interest in the Egypt of a millennium or so earlier, but the Ptolemy period is more that I want to deal with - at least as presented in this book. I got to about the middle, and finally gave up. I was starting to get bored, I think! If you would like detail of the period of the reign of Ptolemy I and his successor, this might be everything you could ask for. Good luck
 Sprott,D.; The Ptolemies; $25.95;463pp;Alfred A. Knopf;NY;2004; ISBN 1-4000-4154-6

The Secret Societies Handbook; Michael Bradley                                                   (pb)  NF(?)
             In the last year I seem to have encountered a number of books that have raised the subject of secret societies, The Da Vinci Code for example. So when I saw this small book on sale at Barnes & Noble, I bought it. I do not know of the author, who seems to have written it in Italy, but he states that he is trying to alert the world to 21 of the world’s most dangerous secret societies. In a paranoid-sounding forward, he notes that his work on this book has revealed to him the “...possibility that we are not free, that we do not control our own destinies, and that we are the puppets, not the masters.” The organizations (at about three pages per) include, for example: The Assassins, The Club of Rome, Freemasonry, Ku Klux Klan, Opus Dei, Order of Skull and Bones, The Illumunati, etc.. Several others are comprised of very high ranking political figures. I found the book interesting. How informative I don’t know - after all, they are secret societies, so I don’t know how accurate the author is! He does imply dark agenda for most of them - sometimes without any evidence. And the Priory of Zion bit is all nonsense - that has been noted elsewhere. I think you will find the book interesting, just don’t buy ALL the statements. There is an index, but unfortunately not a single reference.
 Bradley,M.; The Secret Societies Handbook;$7.95;140pp;Barnes & Nobel;NY;2004; ISBN 0-7607-6276-7

The Trouble With Islam: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith; Irshad Manji  (NF)
           Irshad Manji was born Muslim, in Uganda, and her family fled to the USA in 1972 when Idi Amin declared that Uganda was only for blacks. She is 35 years old, a journalist, does shows on TV, is a writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto, and is a lesbian. She tells of her early experiences in a Christian school, and her very early learning experiences at the Muslim madressa, and her general frustration at having her questions there ignored as she attempted to question and understand the dogmatic points of view of the teacher. She gradually found herself at odds with what she sees as a too rigid Muslim faith, and tells us of her development into a “Muslim Refusenik,” and her serious and developing problems with the Koran and the Muslim world. There are many short, and some not so short, anecdotes that illustrate her confusion and problems. I shall not attempt to cover her very critical review , but I shall make some observations. Hers is a disturbing view of the Muslim world: one with  suppression of women, hate of other religions, unquestioning acceptance of every item in the Koran, and  careful choosing of what Koran statements to quote. Mind you Manji is no scholar - and one should consider this book as a very personal critique. It is not all that well organized, she has her own selection of Koran verses to use, and to a large degree it reflects her feeling of isolation from the Muslim world. I can personally vouch for seemingly confusing and contradictory things in the Koran - out of curiosity I actually struggled through a lot of it in the past years - in a translation.  Muslims, however, will tell you that it can’t be translated, and that if you can’t read Arabic then you should not comment on it! Manji points out the there are conflicts in the Muslim world, and says that Arabs essentially insist that non-Arab Muslims are not part of the REAL Muslim world! Manji provides what may be a brilliant insight: that the Arabs have been developing a world-wide, desert-based, tribal mentality that includes ONLY the Arabs. Other Muslims are “converts,” not of the tribe, and unimportant (Palestinians, for example!) And it is a very persuasive point of view. Read it, and also take a look at other points of view - there is what I think is a relatively unbiased reference section in the book. With all its problems, this is a  distressing read for the non-Muslim. And I suspect that it will be reviled by the Muslim world!     
Manji,I.; The Trouble With Islam;$22.95;225pp;St. Martin’s Press; NY;2003; ISBN 0-312-32699-8

The Truth Behind The Davinci Code; Richard Abanes     
          There is a sort of subtitle on the cover that states “A Challenging Response to the Bestselling Novel.”  Abanes is of the opinion that Dan Brown’s “The Davinci Code” is a nasty, sacrilegious attack on Christianity, centered on lies and misstatements, and he walks the reader through a series of statements in the novel, and stalwartly shows how wrong they are. I gather that he is not the only one who views the novel that way - I just spotted another, bigger book on the same subject, prominently displayed in the local library. The whole problem seems to center on the author’s statement that “...all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals are accurate - as are the hidden codes revealed in some of Da Vinci’s most famous paintings.” Detractors say this just isn’t so. I shall not get involved here with the many arguments. I shall note only two things. One is that the story is a NOVEL, not a history. It is not even an historical novel. The second is that I disagree with Abanes statement near the end of the book that “Christianity is not anti-woman....” That is simply not true. The Catholic Church    has been prejudiced against women since the middle ages - there are histories of that. So... Read this anti-Brown literature if you wish, but be sure to read Brown’s novel. It is a dandy thriller.     
 Abanes,R.; The Truth Behind The Davinci Code;$?; 96pp;Harvest House Publishers; Eugene; 2004; ISBN 0-7369-1439-0

Trojan Odyssey; Clive Cussler                                                                                    series                    
         Ah yes, another full length adventure of the stalwart Dirk Pitt, who is involved in an action filled, science fiction type of story with a side theme of archaeological mystery. A while back, Dirk discovered that his beloved wife, whom he thought had been killed in a disaster, had actually survived, badly crippled and disfigured, and had borne him twins. Dirk found out when the woman died and his twins, a young man and woman, showed up. They too are expert divers and underwater specialists. This reader was somewhat taken aback when the story starts with a pretty good summary of the battle at Troy, including the wooden horse, then segues into a pretty good version of the Odyssey! And I stayed baffled until Dirk’s children, Dirk and Summer, discover some amazing underwater artifacts in relatively shallow water near the Virgin Islands. Those form a story that has to do with the REAL location of Troy which in fact was located in the British Isles! The other story is of Pitt’s efforts for the NUMA oceanic organization, which is trying to determine the reason for a strange brown material that is appearing in the oceans. The story starts (after the Odyssey tale) with a horrendous hurricane and trying to rescue many people who are living in an ocean-moored, luxury hotel complex that is owned by a huge mysterious international Corporation, Odyssey, mostly run by women, and owned by a very mysterious man known as Spector. Spector is visiting the hotel complex when the hurricane occurs, and departs in his jet, leaving the hotel to its own fate. Pitt, and a large NUMA craft finally save all the people. Pitt gets interested in Odyssey, and then finds it is involved in some strange underground tunnel borings. He and his buddies start trying to determine the purpose of Odyssey’s vast underground operations, and finally discover they are the reason for the strange brown ocean material, and that they are designed to divert an ocean current to freeze the European continent! All about this is the derring-do of  Dirk and his buddies. It is, as always, an action story, however the characters actually seem somewhat stilted here,  and don’t seem to interact as they have in the past.  And the book should really have been edited, grammar and syntax take hits from time to time. Dirk decides it is time to start easing up, and finally marries his congressional woman friend. And Clive Cussler has a walk in part at the very end! Perhaps Cussler is calling it quits - the series has been going on for twenty years at least.
 NOTE: I had not realized that there is a set of individuals who are attempting to find out “where Troy was really located,” and where the Odyssey really took place! For this story Cussler has accepted the arguments of one of them. The arguments are really good, but unfortunately, in real life, there are absolutely NO archeological remains that would bear out the theory.
 Cussler,C.; Trojan Odyssey;$27.95;485pp;G.P. Putnam’s Sons;NY;2003; ISBN 0-399-15080-3

Wind Spirit: An Ella Clah Novel; Aimee & David Thurlo                                       Series
          Readers of my annotations will know that I am impressed by these novels that detail the personal, and professional life of Ella Clah, an investigator with the Navaho Reservation police.  The Thurlos tell good stories, and interest the reader (this one at least) in the characters. And one can pick up any of the stories, and enjoy them without having read any others. At the start of this one, Ella is at a ceremony that involves blowing up the uranium mines that had produced material for nuclear weapons [real situation]. The mines are abandoned, and are presumably used by the chindi, or “skinwalkers,” who are essentially workers of evil magic. At the ceremony one of the mines caves in. Ella saves her young nephew from being caught in the cave in, but then gets engulfed by another slide. She has an unusual after-death experience, in which she has the option to return to life - and she chooses that. It happens that she had been pulled from the cave in with no signs of life, then suddenly sat straight up on the stretcher - alive and well. And as far as the Navaho nation is concerned, she came back to life as a chindi , and is now not welcome anywhere in the Nation. She must have a decontamination - a “sing” as the long ceremony is called, and that can only be done by an elderly shaman who has taken off on a journey that he had not mentioned to anyone! The story follows Ella as she gets involved with a case that involves a TV host, the arson murder of an elderly woman, and details the attempts to unravel the murder; and attempts to locate the shaman. We also see Ella’s family - her young daughter, Dawn, her traditional mother Rose, and her brother - another shaman.  As usual, the story is not predictable, and the reader is well led through the events. Good, as always.
 Thurlo,A.&.D; Wind Spirit;$24.95;320pp;Tom Doherty Ass.;NY;2004; ISBN 0-765-30477-3         

 Abanes,R.; The Truth Behind The Davinci Code, 12
 Bradley,M.; The Secret Societies Handbook, 11
 Bryson,B; A Short History of Nearly Everything, 2
 Burnstein;D.(Editor); Secrets of the Code, 8

 Callahan,D.; The Cheating Culture, 9
 Charpak,G. & Broch,H.; Debunked, 4
 Cleverly,B.; A Damascened Blade, 9
 Coulter,C.; Blow Out, 3
 Cussler,C.; Trojan Odyssey, 13

 Greeley,A.M.; The Priestly Sins, 11

 Hart,E.; Haunted Ground, 6
 Hart,E.; Lake of Sorrows, 7

 Jakeman,J.; In the Kingdom of Mists, 6

 Kellerman,J. and F; Double Homicide, 4

 Lee,H. & O’Neil,T.W.; Cracking More Cases, 3
 Lester,J.; The Autobiography of God, 8
 Lovesey;P.; The House Sitter, 10
 Ludlum,R., and Lynds,G.; The Paris Option, 10

 Manji,I.; The Trouble With Islam, 12
 McCarthy,C,; Old Boys, 7

 Nasar,S.; A Beautiful Mind, 1

 Pierce,T.; First Test, 4
 Pierce,T.; Page, 4
 Pierce,T.; Squire, 4

 Scottoline,L.; Killer Smile, 6
 Singh,S.; Fermat’s Enigma, 5
 Smith,J.; Mean Woman Blues, 7
 Sprott,D.; The Ptolemies, 11
 Summers,M.; A Popular History of Witchcraft, 2

 Thomas,W.; Some Danger Involved, 8
 Thurlow, D.&A.; Blood Retribution, 2
 Tropper,J.; The Book of Joe, 9
 Woods,S.; Capital Crimes, 3
 Wouk,H.; A Hole in Texas, 1


A Beautiful Mind; Sylvia Nasar, 1
A Hole in Texas; Herman Wouk, 1
A Popular History of Witchcraft; Montague Summers, 2
A Short History of Nearly Everything; Bill Bryson, 2

Blood Retribution; David and Aimée Thurlow, 2
Blow Out; Catherine Coulter, 3

Capital Crimes; Stuart Woods, 3
Cracking More Cases; Dr. Henry C. Lee & Thomas W. O’Neill, 3

Debunked, Georges Charpak and Henri Broch, 4
Double Homicide; Jonathon & Faye Kellerman, 4

Fermat’s Enigma; Simon Singh, 5
First Test; Tamora Pierce, 4

Haunted Ground; Erin Hart, 6

In the Kingdom of Mists; Jane Jakeman, 6

Killer Smile; Lisa Scottoline, 6

Lake of Sorrows; Erin Hart, 7

Mean Woman Blues; Julie Smith, 7

Old Boys; Charles McCarthy, 7

Page; Tamora Pierce, 4

Secrets of the Code; Dan Burnstein, Editor, 8
Some Danger Involved; Will Thomas, 8
Squire; Tamara Pierce, 4

The Autobiography of God; Julius Lester, 8
The Book of Joe; Jonathan Tropper, 9
The Cheating Culture; David Callahan, 9
The Damascened Blade; Barbara Cleverly, 9
The House Sitter; Peter Lovesey, 10
The Paris Option; Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds, 10
The Priestly Sins, Andrew M. Greeley, 11
The Ptolemies; Duncan Sprott, 11
The Secret Societies Handbook; Michael Bradley, 11
The Trouble With Islam; Irshad Manji, 12
The Truth Behind The Davinci Code; Richard Abanes, 12
Trojan Odyssey; Clive Cussler, 13

Wind Spirit; Aimee & David Thurlo, 13