The Forty Nine reviews that commence below are arranged alphabetically by title. Below is an alphabetical list of the authors.

volume 12

          AUTHOR INDEX

 Ambrose,S.E; To America, 20
 Atwood,M.; Oryx and Crake, 11
 Basbanes,N.A.; Patience & Fortitude, 12
 Brown,D.; The Da Vinci Code, 17
 Bryce,R. Pipe Dreams, 12

 Colt,R.; George Washington Carver, 7
 Connelly,M.; Lost Light, 10
 Cornwall,P.; Isle of Dogs, 9
 Coulter,C.; Eleventh Hour, 5
 Coulter;C.; Blind Side, 1

 Craven,M.; I Heard the Owl Call My Name, 7
 Deaver, Jeffrey; The Vanished Man, 20
 Dirda,M.; An Open Book, 11
 Dumas,F.; Funny in Farsi, 7
 Emerson,G.; Winners & Losers, 21

 Flynn,V.; Separation of Power, 14
 Grafton,S.; Q is for Quarry, 13
 Greeley;A.M.; Second Spring, 14
 Green,T. The Fifth Angel, 17
 Griffen, W.E.B.; Final Justice, 5

 Grimes,M.; Foul Matter, 6
 Harris,C.; Shakespeare’s Counselor, 15
 Herken,G.; Brotherhood of the Bomb, 2
 Hiassen,C.; Sick Puppy, 15
 Hillerman, T.; The Sinister Pig, 20

 Hoffman,A.; The Probable Future, 19
 Karon, J.; In This Mountain, 9
 Kellerman,F.; Street Dreams, 16
 Krakauer,J.; Under the Banner of Heaven, 21
 Lippman,L.; In a Strange City, 8

 Malone,M.; First Lady, 6
 Nafisi; A.; Reading Lolita in Teheran, 13
 Pagels,E.; Beyond Belief, 1
 Parker;R.; Shrink Wrap, 15
 Patterson,J.; The Lake House, 18
 Perry,A.; No Graves As Yet, 10
 Reid,V.; Cordelia Underwood, 4
 Rotella,M.; Stolen Figs, 16
 Sacks,O.; Oaxaca Journal, 12
 Scarborough,E.A.; Channeling Cleopatra, 3

 Smith,A.M., The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, 19
 Smith,A.M.;The Kalahari Typing School For Men, 18
 Smith,S.; Chasing Shakespeares, 3
 Tanenbaum,R.K.; Absolute Rage, 1
 Thurlow,A. & D.; Changing Woman, 2

 Trigiani,A.; Milk Glass Moon, 10
 Volpi,J.; In Search of Klingsor, 8
 Winchester;S.; Krakatoa, 9
 Wiseman,R.; The Luck Factor, 19
 Woods;S.; Dirty Work, 5

Absolute Rage;
Robert K. Tanenbaum                                                               Series
              The latest in the series that follows the lives of Butch Karp, public prosecutor in NY; his wife Marlene, an attorney currently training guard dogs in the country; their daughter Lucy (now 18) who is a super genius at learning languages, and their twin boys. They have a renovated property - house and dog training farm - on Long Island’s north shore, and that is where the story starts. Marlene becomes aquatinted with their neighbor Rose Heeney, whose husband is a West Virginia coal mine, union boss, “Red” Heeney. Later, the neighbor, as well as the neighbor’s husband and daughter are killed in West Virginia, leaving two sons as the remnant of the family. The authorities are charging a retarded man, whom the sons feel had nothing to do with the killings. Marlene goes to West Virginia (WV) to help defend the man. Then the governor of West Virginia asks Butch to take on a job in WV cleaning up the lawlessness in the same area; an area controlled by a family that lives in the mountains in what is essentially a very secure fortified area. Marlene and Butch work their individual problems, while Lucy takes care of the twins, and cycles back and forth. In addition, she and Dan, the youngest of the Heeney sons, become fond of each other. The real killers are finally identified, and trapped into coming to town, where they are arrested. They are members of the controlling family, and thugs from that group break the individuals from jail. In the course of the attack, one of the twins is injured by gunfire, and has to be hospitalized - and is blinded. Marlene develops the absolute rage that is the title. And with her Sicilian heritage fanning the flames, she sets out to wreak a devastating revenge. The characters, and the reader, are left with a very large question of morality. I think there is a certain similarity as to how the Sicilians and the Irish view personal hurts. My Irish uncles explained to me: “Don’t get mad, get even.” I’m with Marlene - but it is a fascinating, and long range problem for Butch and his family. I am impressed with this book, which I think is by far the best of the series in writing, plot, and examination of law, justice, and morality. And there are very touching spots in this story, which is much more involved that I can cover.                        
 NOTE: I continue to be intrigued by the overwhelming thanks that Tanenbaum continues to express (in forwards) for the detailed help that he gets from Michael Gruber. I think Gruber ghosts the stories.
 LATER NOTE: Yep. The Washington Post has noted that indeed Gruber is the one who writes the stories! He has just written a novel of his own.
 Tanenbaum,R.K.; Absolute Rage;$25; 354pp; Atria Books; NY; 2002; ISBN 0-7434-0344-4 An

Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas; Elaine Pagels                                           NF              Pagels is a well known authority and writer on the history of Christianity. The Gospel of Thomas is one of the 50 or so ancient manuscripts discovered at  Nag Hammadi, in Egypt, in the mid forties.  This book title is misleading, in that the content is well beyond the Apocryphal Gospel cited. It is a very fascinating, informative account of the spread and problems of Christianity in the first 500 years or so of the Christian Era. The author explains the difficulties that the early Christians faced in trying to get a coherent set of beliefs in order to stabilize the religion. The Gospel of Thomas proposed a set of beliefs that was at variance with other sets, and Pagels skillfully outlines the various versions of the available creeds, and the several individuals who essentially set the canon that was officially adopted years later. She discusses beliefs, the power of love, transformation, and the world of believers. The reader may be startled to find that Pagels reveals her own situation involving the illness of her young son, and his death. Not an easy read, but a fascinating, unexpected, spellbinding tale. There are about 65 pages of notes, references, and  index. A scholarly as well as a readable book.
  Pagels,E. Beyond Belief; $24.95;241pp; Random House; 2003; NY; ISBN 0-375-50156-8

Blind Side: An FBI Thriller; Catherine Coulter                                                          (Series)
            This is the latest in a series that stars FBI agents Dillon Savitch and his wife, Lacey Sherlock. In this one, they share the stage with Katie Benedict, Sheriff of Washington County, in Eastern Tennessee. Sam, the 6 year old son of Miles Kettering, former FBI agent and friend of the Savitchs, is kidnapped in Virginia, and taken to Tennessee. Sam escapes from his captors, and is floundering along the countryside when he is spotted and picked up by Katie, who shoots at his captors. Katie has her five year old daughter with her. Katie dispatches officers to the cabin where Sam was prisoner, then hauls Sam to a doctor, and then to her home. She notifies the FBI, then calls Kettering to tell him Sam is safe. So starts the story. Kettering, Dillon, and Sherlock come to Tennessee. The kidnappers strike again, and Katie has to kill one of them. The question is, why kidnap Sam, and why bring him to Tennessee? That is the question that underlies the tale. A local fundamentalist preacher and his wife become part of the problem when it is discovered that one of the kidnappers is the brother of the preacher’s wife. Both Bette and I think this is a great yarn, one of the best in the series. I’m not exactly sure why, because there are very unlikely events, somewhat uneven characterization, and some level of confusion at times. But we thoroughly enjoyed it.
 NOTE: The pages in this book seem remarkably thick to me. Makes for a thick book.
 Coulter;C.; Blind Side; $25.95; 370pp; G.P. Putnam’s Sons’ NY; 2003; ISBN 0-399-15056-0

Brotherhood of the Bomb: The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller; Gregg Herken                       NF  
        First, a Warning: this falls in the category that I describe in these notes as a "specialist's" book. Herken is an historian, and a curator at The National Air and Space Museum, and has written several other books, one on The Atomic Bomb and the Cold War. He is good enough at his business to have been granted a McArthur research and writing grant to help with the current book. He appears to have spent ten years doing the mind boggling amount of research that went into it. I suspect that the original manuscript was greatly reduced, but I think the book would probably flow easier if it were only about half as long. As it is, it seems at times a somewhat frantic race through events - a sort of "I MUST get this in too." The reader is warned that the book is filled with an almost stupefying number of names, places and events. I was fortunate to recognize about 30% of the players, and many of the events. I cannot imagine how it would strike someone entering this arcane world for the first time. Even knowing the events (or many of them) I was still occasionally confused about the time of the events being described, and the story is reentrant at times. It would have helped (me) if the margin had noted the year! It is NOT easy to read, and the Index is quite deficient at times - which only helps to leave the reader (this one) in a lurch. It took a lot of my time at the beach to read it. So, after all that, let me note that I was absolutely fascinated by the story, despite periods of irritation. I learned many things I hadn't known, and I got a much better look at many of the players than I ever had before. Mind you, I lived in a fringe part of that world for quite a few years, so I have sort of a vested interest! I knew some of the players (argued with some!), and had met quite a few of the others, and I participated in the testing of many of the weapons discussed. So a LOT of memories were stirred. There are several things that I think the author either just omitted or didn't know; so perhaps I'll dig into the four cartons that are MY version, and records, of some of it. Good project for next year! The content of the book is exactly that described by the subtitle, and there is no way I can add anything significant here. The text is 334 pages. References (he calls them notes) take up  72 pages, the Bibliography occupies 12 pages, and the Index is 18 pages. The voluminous notes are, he says, a fraction of the original, and if the reader wishes more, she can visit the Internet! The notes are beautifully organized, and a given note is easy to find. Ah, if only the Index had had more attention.
 NOTE: Teller has died - so all three are now gone. The reader might like to know that Richard Rhodes has written much about this world, and if this book interests you, try Rhodes too. He is, I think, a better story teller than Herken.   
Herken,G.; Brotherhood of the Bomb;$30;448pp;Henry Holt and Company; NY; 2002; ISBN 0-8050-6588-1

Changing Woman; Aimée & David Thurlo                                                              (series)
          At this moment I don’t know if I  have noted this series in earlier annotations. I should have. It is a series quite reminiscent of Jance’s good series starring the female Arizona sheriff, Brady. In fact, it may be better. The protagonist in this series is Ellah Clah, Navajo Police Special Investigator, who lives on the reservation with her mother, and her two year old daughter, Dawn. It is a good police procedural series that also expertly explores relationships and modern problems in an old culture. The relationships are Navajo, and quite different from those of the Anglo culture. Dawn’s father, Kevin, for example, is a prominent Navajo attorney, who is known and accepted in the community as the father of Ella’s child. No stigma is attached to the child, the mother or the father. Ella’s relationship with her mother is also in the Navajo tradition, one that is interestingly developed, especially in this volume. The tribal problems are intimately related to the increasing poverty on the reservation, and to the clash between traditionalists and modernists in the community. The latter want an increasing acceptance of Anglo customs and business, the former are strongly opposed. The current police problem is a series of acts of vandalism, that may be at the instigation of an outside group that wants to build a casino on the reservation. Woven through this story is the politics of the reservation, the strong feelings about gambling, and the expanding development of Ella, and especially Ella’s mother, Rose. Rose was a once a woman of authority and power, and she feels called upon to once again return to the public world to take action against gambling. We watch Rose as a changing woman, and also Ella trying to understand her mother, and thus also become a changing woman. It is best if one has read earlier books in the series, but this can be enjoyed without that. I’ll bet you will look back for the earlier books if you do read this.
 Thurlow,A. & D.; Changing Woman; $24.95; 384pp; Tom Doherty Ass.; NY; 2002; ISBN 0-312-87059-0

Channeling Cleopatra; Elizabeth Ann Scarborough                                                      (SciFi)
                The very hefty looking Ms. Scarborough is an award winning (NEBULA) writer of science fiction. She has here written a story about some people who discover how to  muddle around with DNA, or some such, and end up with a machine that transfers some DNA codes from one person to another, and thus “blend” the genetic and cellular memories of  the two individuals in one of the two people. The book’s protagonist, U.S. Navy veteran Leda Hubbard, has a PhD in forensic anthropology, and a crush on Egypt; she REALLY wanted to be an Egyptologist. As the story begins she meets two of her very close friends who are now occupying one body. The female of the two died, and her personality was blended with that of the male who survives. Leda seems unperturbed by the situation. It appears that the combined friends have worked out a technique for the “blending” and it is under the control of a corporation. They want Leda to take a job in Egypt looking for some remains of Cleopatra; the remains will be used to blend Cleopatra with the wife of the CEO of the company! Sheez.... I did not find the book very interesting. There is no character development, little plot, and not very good story telling. Surely the author is better than I saw here. Or has the NEBULA award deteriorated?
 Scarborough,E.A.; Channeling Cleopatra; $21.95; 244pp; Ace Books; NY; 2002; ISBN 0-441-00897-6

Chasing Shakespeares; Sarah Smith     
            I found this to be - very unexpectedly - a fascinating, seductive book. It is basically an examination of the world of Shakespeare, a world of places and people. It is about that famous pastime: finding out who Shakespeare “really” was. I did not expect to read it. I was curious about how the author would treat the subject, so I picked it up to skim through. I am the LAST person to be interested in the various theories about the identities of the Bard. And I got seduced! To my utter amazement I read the whole damned thing at a very slow rate. And I almost ended up with a fried mind. Fried with the huge collection of events and facts that enthusiastic Shakespeare hunters deal with all the time. It is a very cleverly structured tale told in the first person by Joe Roper, a young graduate student at Northeastern, and the individual who is cataloging the Kellog collection of texts and manuscripts about Shakespeare. One starts learning about Joe, his background, how he got hooked on Shakespeare, how he ended up working with the Kellog collection, how Cat (a young woman who wants to be a Nun, and can’t get anyone to take her) and he got together to work on the collection, how he finds a letter that purports to be one of Shakespeare’s in which the author denies writing Shakespeare’s plays, and how Posy Gould, a fantastically rich, fantastically lovely Harvard grad shows up to work with the Kellog collection. And that is only the first 30 pages! I was hooked. Then the story starts! Joe and Posy start chasing down various roads to Shakespeare. They end up in London, in the English countryside, in Libraries, and anywhere that the trail leads them. And as Joe develops various theories we watch that development - with various well known Elizabethan families entering stage right. Cheez... What a collection of names and places. Beware, if digging into the mysteries of Shakespeare (with lots of background) is not something you have thought about, you may be unprepared to tackle this book. I found it a lot of fun, and I learned (and forgot) more than I ever wanted to. Apparently the author did too! Read her afterward discussion of her book, and note that she has an Internet page crammed with information that she left out of the book. A jacket blurb is right to the mark: “... a literary shell game, a love story, and a profound meditation on identity and ownership.”
 NOTE: Early on I was suddenly dumped back in time to a vivid high school memory. It was in English Class, and we were studying Shakespeare. I thought the stuff was not only unreadable, but like totally out of date. I was lounging in my seat when the teacher told us to open our books to the first page of a play we had not yet discussed. And suddenly, varying her procedure, she told me to start reading. With a mental sigh I started reading, and to my utter fascination the words suddenly were totally understandable, and the dialogue was totally understandable - and fascinating. I read with growing enthusiasm, and I didn’t stop for about four pages. I had totally left the class - I was living in that play! For some reason I paused, came back to earth, and looked at the teacher. She was watching me with a giant smile. “You,” she said with utter delight, “understand it!” And indeed, my world had changed again.
 Smith,S.; Chasing Shakespeares;$24;337pp;Atria Books;NY;2003; ISBN 0-7434-64282-6    

Cordelia Underwood: Or the Marvelous Beginnings of the Moosepath League; Van  Reid                                                                                                                            (Series)
          Several weeks ago I read, in the Baltimore Sun, some brief comments about a number of books. This was one of them. I had never encountered the book or the author, but the reviewer indicated that it was an unusual, very pleasant, well written narration that would make a great beach read. He noted that is was reminiscent of Dickens. So I got it from the library, and I will here echo those comments! The author is the assistant manager of a bookstore in Maine, and the current work is centered in Maine, in 1896. It is reminiscent in many ways of “The Pickwick Papers,” and is just as hard to categorize. There are really three basic stories, with a large number of characters (including a bear named Maude), a goodly collection of eccentrics, and the insertion of smaller stories and mini adventures. One story involves Cordelia Underwood, and her family, after they are visited by an old sailor who says he was a friend of a seaman who was Cordelia’s uncle Basil - her father’s brother. Basil had died, and the visitor had brought back his sea chest. When the chest is opened, Cordelia finds that she has inherited a sizable piece of property, and she and her family set out to inspect the land. Another story puts forth the adventures of Tobias Walton,  an older, short, rotund, jolly man who has returned to his family home after many years away. He and Cordelia meet by chance at the customs’ pier when Toby’s  hat blows off. He and Cordelia’s family cross paths in many adventures as the book unfolds. Then there are the three VERY eccentric types: Ephram, Eagleton, and Trump. This trio, while wandering around, gradually created a Club with themselves as members. Their story also twists around the other two stories - for example, they elect Toby Walton as the head of the Club - although he doesn’t know it, and is unaware that there is a club! The three founders decide after an interesting event, to call their new organization “The Moosepath League.” Oh by the way: Cordelia Underwood has essentially nothing to do with the Club, despite the title of the book! Part of the story revolves around a possible treasure, presumably that of Captain Kidd, which is buried in the land that Cordelia has inherited. The story rambles along with, as I have said, side excursions, and the reader has a wonderful time. No steamy sex - in fact no non-steamy sex either - no expletives, no love affairs, no murders, and only a slight mystery or so. It is well written, and I found it a delightful romp. I shall read others in the series that followed this one.
 NOTE: The Author’s Note at the end is a fascinating one, which casually suggests here and there that there really IS a Moosepath League! I am reminded of a great yarn that completely convinced me the historical tale I was reading was based on fact. But when I went to look it up, I found that the entire story was fiction! I shall see what later books in the series have to say.
Reid,V.; Cordelia Underwood; $24.95; 400pp; Penguin Putnam, Inc.; NY; 1998; ISBN 0-670-88097-3

Dirty Work; Stuart Woods                                                                                  (Series)
            This is described as a Stone Barrington novel. That means the story centers around an attorney, Stone Barrington. At the beginning of the story Barrington takes a commission from a suspicious wife, and gets a young man to attempt to take a picture of the woman’s husband misbehaving with a woman. In an eminently unbelievable event, the photographer falls through a skylight onto the man he has been trailing. The man dies. The young man has a picture of the woman however. Enter “Carpenter,” a woman who works for some British super spook organization. She knows who the woman is, and the picture is the only one ever taken of the woman. The woman is an extraordinary assassin, who’s name is Marie-Therese, known as La Biche. She works free lance for various Arab organizations, but is currently following her private agendum, which means killing people who she feels were responsible for the death of her brother. “Carpenter” is one of them. The tale is another cat and mouse tale where the mouse is a super mouse, and the cats are very, very smart. Barrington gets to meet Marie-Therese, is actually retained by her, and the story gradually slides into following the assassin as she engages and terminates her various target. The reader is intrigued into gradually siding with the assassin, as Barrington also moves in that direction. The first part of the book almost turned me off. Then it got intriguing, but then ended up somewhat unsatisfactorily. Dirty work indeed.
 Woods,S.; Dirty Work; $25.95;322pp; G.P. Putnam’s Sons;NY; 2003; ISBN 0-399-14982-1

Eleventh Hour: An FBI Thriller; Catherine Coulter                                                      Series
          A Catholic priest is murdered in San Francisco; in a confessional. His twin brother, Dane Carver,  is an FBI operative, and he gets involved in finding the murderer. He is assisted by the series regulars: Dillon Savitch and his wife Lacie Sherlock. There is a witness. She calls herself Nick Jones, and is on the run. She is a thereat to the murderer, so she has to be protected - by  Dane. The story wanders around the background and present of Dane and Nick, as well as Hollywood characters, and crazy killers. - and has an unexpected ending. Good routine yarn in the series. Seems a bit long. Coulter,C.; Eleventh Hour; $24.95;385pp;G.P. Putnam’s Sons;NY;2002; ISBN  0-399-14877-9

Final Justice; W.E.B. Griffin                                                                                            (Series)
         This is the latest (eighth) in Griffin’s “Badge of Honor” series starring the Philadelphia Police Force, and one of its members: Matt Payne. I haven’t read any of these for quite a while, so I’m not sure how it might compare with the others. It is a VERY detailed police procedural, and a very detailed picture of the entire police force, the rules by which it works, and the political problems it has. There is a fairly large cast of characters who will be familiar to the follower of the series, but who will take the new reader quite a while to cotton to. The author covers many pages in telling the reader about the past history of all his characters Those pages are interspersed in the narration of three cases in which the hero is involved, and there are another large number of pages that deal with the emotions of the hero and his friends, and near the end of the book there is a detailed - probably incorrect - psychoanalysis of the hero by his sister, a psychiatrist. The end impression I came away with was a rambling, somewhat confusing, overlong, tale. I shall nit attempt to recount the adventures of the hero and his friends, but it is fair to say that when the clutter is absent the tale moves along quite well. And of course Griffen’s storytelling is great. He simply seems to have continued a complicated series to the point where the stories are getting difficult to read. Mind you, I am a Griffen fan, especially of his “Brotherhood of War” series, but this police series has become somewhat more that I care to face into.
 Griffen, W.E.B.; Final Justice; $26.95;466pp;G.P. Putnam’s Sons; NY; 2003; ISBN 0-399-14926-0

First Lady: A Novel;  Michael Malone                                                                  (series?)
         Malone has resumed writing North Carolina police novels that are beautifully integrated into the changing world of the South. This stars many of the same characters as “Times Witness,” but the story this time is narrated by Lt. Justin Savile,V, rather than by Chief Cuddy Magnum.  A serial killer of young women is operating in Hillston, NC. One body had a message tag on her toe. The message was addressed to Savile, and asked him to please deliver the body to Cuddy. The young woman cannot be identified. As the story starts Cuddy and the department are being attacked from all angles for their lack of progress in the case of the murders, and seem to be losing what was  thought was an airtight case in the courtroom: a young mathematics professor at Haver University, and the son of one of the most eminent families in the area, was arrested by Cuddy and is being tried for killing his wife. His defense is being handled by Isaac Rosenthorn, mentor of Cuddy, and a character in the earlier book. Cuddy and the department are being attacked for bringing charges against the young man. All in all, it is not a good time for the department. Cuddy is still involved in a hopeless love for the wife of the governor of the state, and Justin’s wife is back with her family because of problems that developed after the death of their infant son. Cuddy announces that the murder cases will be solved by the fourth of July - about two weeks away. And the story is off and running, picking up momentum all the way. Savile gets involved with an alcoholic, female, Irish, rock star, and starts using alcohol again (he is an alcoholic) and smoking again. Two experienced, female, FBI agents join in the chase. The attorney general, along with the governor’s public relations man, foul up a crime scene because they think they are trying to cover up something for the governor. Then it starts to get complicated. Malone is a fabulous story teller, and weaves a convoluted plot, social commentary, political savvy, and striking characterization into what is basically a gripping police procedural, and produces something outstanding. And indeed, the crimes are solved by the fourth of July, in a startling climax.
 Malone,M.; First Lady; $24;Sourcebooks,Inc.; Napersville, IL; 2001; ISBN 1-57071-743-5

Foul Matter; Martha Grimes  
          Couldn’t believe it.  Grimes has written about 20 novels starring Richard Jury. This one does not. In fact it is a wicked diatribe about the world of book publishing! After reading the book, I discovered that the publishing house that had been printing her novels decided that they would quit doing so. She had to find another publisher. And then she wrote this book - in which the publishing world does not come off very well. Unfortunately, for me the story does not come off very well either. The story revolves around the attempt by a very successful author to demonstrate that the industry is rotten. He approaches a publisher, indicates the publisher can have his next (sure to be a best seller) book if the publisher will dump one of his clients, a really good writer who is not yet famous. The publisher decides that it is actually necessary to have the author killed, and puts out a mob contract on him. The hit men turn out to be readers, and decide to find out if they really want to do the job! The successful author finds that he has essentially set up the death of the author he wanted dumped, and attempts to set up a mob bodyguard! This didn’t work for me. It is sort of “foul matter” (a technical term in the publishing world!) that turned me off. I hope it worked for the author.
 Grimes,M.; Foul Matter; $25.95; 372pp; Viking; NY; 2003; ISBN 0-670-03259-X

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America; Firoozeh Dumas         NF
        This is an engaging account of the members of an Iranian family that first visited the USA for several years, then immigrated. Firoozeh (my word processor won’t reproduce several of the characters in her name) tells of her experiences that started when she was seven years old and entering kindergarten - and unable to speak English. Of course her mother couldn’t either, and after a while Firoozeh realized her well educated father, who had spent years in English-speaking countries, was not very good at it either! The book is delightful, although the story line is almost random in time and place, and a great deal of it is about her father - a very interesting guy. The reader sees our culture through Iranian eyes, and a great deal of Iranian culture through Iranian eyes that are awash with Western concepts.
 Dumas,F.; Funny in Farsi; $21.95; 187pp; Villard Books; NY; 2003; ISBN 1-4000-6040-0         

George Washington Carver: An American Biography; Rackham Holt                           BIO
             A spellbinding book published sixty years ago. It is the property of a friend, who recommended it; he was right. It is a very well told, detailed story of the life of the famous, black, botanical expert, who started in poverty, left home as a youngster, worked his way into and through education, to end up as an internationally known name. The early peregrinations, activities, accomplishments, and acquisitions of education are almost unbelievable. This reader was  worn out in just reading of them. Carver ended up on the staff at Tuskegee Institute, the creation of another truly remarkable black man, Booker T. Washington. The two became friends, and Mr. Washington frequently consulted with Mr. Carver. The book also tells us a great deal about Washington, and the Institute he started. The story reveals in detail the driving force behind Carver: To make the South, and the farmers, and blacks, self sufficient. His efforts and accomplishments are mind boggling, and utterly fascinating. The very readable book has a bibliography, and an index. It is occasionally confusing as to time, and is anecdotal at times. The author spent three years with Dr. Carver as the book developed, and the anecdotal style probably reflects that.  Unfortunately Carver died just before the book was published, but it remains as a great tribute. The book is still available to the public; AMAZON sells used copies. Our public library has at least a dozen biographies about Carter, but this one is not listed.
 Holt;R.; George Washington Carver; $?; 342pp; Doubleday,Doran; Garden City, NY; 1943

I Heard the Owl Call My Name; Margaret Craven                                                       (pb)  
          This is a tiny book. It is a small sized paperback with only 159 pages. Yet it contains a quietly intense, stirring, touching story of a small Christian Indian village, Kingcome, in British Colombia, Canada, and the new pastor who is assigned to the village. The new vicar, young Mark Brian, has only a few years to live - a fact which his Bishop knows, but Mark doesn’t. He also has no experience at all with the Indians - their language, or their culture. The story simply recounts how, as the season’s change, Mark and the villagers gradually find their lives entwining, and find increasing mutual respect and finally love. It is a wonderful presentation of the disappearing Indian world, as its young people are sent to the white man’s world, and many of them stay there. The village is, in fact real, and Craven lived in the village for some time. Her hero, Mark, is a fictional creation, and she avoided using real villagers in the story; but she knows whereof she speaks when she describes the peoples and the activities.  The book was published 30 years ago, and became an instant best seller. Take a few hours and find out why! Seven years after the publication, Craven wrote another tiny book, a slim autobiography “Again Calls the Owl.” I found the latter in the library here at the retirement community in which we live, and I was so taken with it that I sought out the first book, this one. I suggest that you read this one first, then go to the autobiography and find out what happened to Kingcome!
 Craven,M.; I Heard the Owl Call My Name; $6.50; 159pp; Dell Publishing; NY;1980; ISBN 0-440-37369

In a Strange City; Laura Lippman
          Lippman writes mysteries that star Tess Monaghan, PI, a resident of Baltimore. The city of Baltimore is directly across the fence from where we live in Baltimore County, and I can vouch for the fact that it is indeed a strange city! This story centers around a unique Baltimore event: the annual nighttime visit to the tomb of Edgar Allen Poe, on the anniversary of Poe’s birthday, by a cloaked Visitor, the Poe Toaster (Cheez..), who leaves roses and a half bottle of cognac. The story starts on the day before Poe’s birthday as Monaghan is asked by a very strange, potential client, to help unmask the Visitor, who, he says, has cheated him. Tess won’t take the case - she is not about to interfere with such an event - but the next night she and her live-in boyfriend, Crow, brave the winter weather at the churchyard, to spot the visitor. This time TWO visitors arrive. One deposits the mementos and leaves, the other is shot, and stays! Tess has no reason to be involved in the case, and the cop who caught the call is no friend of hers, but someone, who seemingly knows her movements well, starts leaving roses and cognac on her doorstep, and leaving cryptic notes that suggest areas to be investigated. Tess gets involved, and the story weaves a  complicated pattern of greed, deception, and danger, much centering around possible valuable Poe memorabilia. There are asides on Poe, and the legends that have arisen around him, and a great deal of local “color” that make the book intriguing to Baltimoreans. It is a good story too.
 Lippman,L.; In a Strange City; $24;306pp;Harper Collins; NY;2001; ISBN 0-380-97818-0

In Search of Klingsor; Jorge Volpi; translated by Kristini Cordero     
                I had never heard of Volpi before picking up this very unusual novel. The jacket describes him as an author, scholar, and diplomat (Mexican) who has written nine novels “and collections.” This one is a tour de force in speculative science history, and is described by the jacket as an “internationally best selling novel.” That I think is remarkable. Mind you I find it a good novel (with a problem or two), a superb translation, and I read it slowly with fascination, but I’m surprised that it is a best seller. The reason is that it is intensive in details of the pre WWII world of particle and theoretical physics - not your usual attention grabber! More that you ever wanted to know about theoretical physics. The book alternates between the world of Francis Bacon, a very good theoretical physicist who at a very early age was invited to become a member of the super prestigious Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, and Gustov Links, a German, who was a survivor of the attempt to assassinate Adolph Hitler. Bacon is sent to Europe, to Germany, to try to locate “Klingsor” who seems to have been the top advisor to Hitler on scientific research, but whose identity is not known - it was a carefully guarded secret. He crosses path with Links early on, and Links cooperates with Bacon in attempting to identify the mysterious Klingsor. The story is narrated by Links. When the first detailed presentation of Bacon’s activities appears, Links notes smoothly that Bacon was so sharing that he, Links, had no trouble recreating Bacon’s activities. It is a ridiculous structure, but I think the author wants to add to the uncertainty of the reader, and this helps him. In the course of trying to locate Klingsor, the two deal with practically every famous name in Physics in the twenties and thirties. As far as I can tell, the historical accounts are in fact very valid, and the presentation of the individuals and their characteristics seems authentic within my knowledge. I found it a fascinating presentation of an intellectually stimulating game, but I am (used to be) a physicist, and when I was studying Physics the characters here were active and famous. The state of German Physics and the interaction of physicists with the Nazi regime are well presented. I found It an intriguing cat and mouse story of deceit, intrigue, and mystery. The structure I found irritating, but I finally simply ignored it.
 Volpi,J.; In Search of Klingsor; $26; 414pp; Simon $ Schuster; NY; 2002; ISBN 0-7432-0118-3

In This Mountain; Jan Karon                                                                                   Series
    Another in Karon’s saga of Father Tim Kavanagh; the series is  now known collectively as “The Mitford Years.” In this one Father Tim, retired as a Presbyterian minister, and his wife, Cynthia, a very successful author (and illustrator) of children’s books are back in Mitford - a small town. Life in the small town “hums” along, to use a term on the jacket. However, every once in a while it is more “ho hums.” The story, of course, centers around Father Tim, a diabetic who is in his seventies. In the course of the story he experiences a significant envy of his wife’s growing fame as an author, some unfounded jealousy, and a struggle with a variety of emotions that are, in fact, exactly right as described. His illness, and his attitude toward it, his actions in regard to it, and his clinical depression are frankly realistic. I was impressed. He also gets involved in with trying to find siblings of the young man, Dooly,  whom he regards as a son. Dooly is now in college. The local characters appear in vignettes, so there are a number of related stories going on at once. I suspect it will appear rather episodic to the reader who has not encountered this sort of extended family before, but the author is determined to keep the reader abreast of all the things - and people - in the town. There continues to be what for me is a jarring note concerning the hate relationship between Edith Mallory, the town’s wealthiest citizen and Father Tim, who has thwarted Mallory’s schemes in the business life of the town. In this one, Tim’s feelings are well explored, and somewhat convincing, but the end of the story dumps in a deus-ex-machina device relative to Mallory, and it seems wrong to me. So, there are good sections of the story, and not so good sections. There is a lot of emphasis and discussion on belief in God, and prayer. Generally I enjoyed most of the story, and feel that the character and feelings of Father Tim are well portrayed.  However, I would not advise anyone to make this the first book read in the interesting, and good, series.
 Karon, J.; In This Mountain; $25.95; 382pp Viking Penguin; NY; ISBN 0-670-03104-6

Isle of Dogs; Patricia Cornwell ,                                                                      (series)
          VERY bewildering. Cornwell is the author of an interesting murder mystery series starring Kay Scarpetta, Virginia state medical examiner. Then she started a series (Hornet’s Nest) starring two police women. When I last met them Police Chief Judy Hammer, Assistant Chief Virginia West, and assistant Andy Brazil were in Richmond Virginia, running the police department. I did not care for the story (Southern Cross), and in fact did not finish it. I tried it because I enjoyed “Hornet’s Nest.” This one follows the same people, except that Hammer is now head of the Virginia State Police, and Brazil is a Trooper. West seems to have vanished. Scarpetta makes a cameo appearance. It was hard for me to understand how Cornwell could have written such a poor story in “Southern Cross,”  but I am totally baffled about how she could create this mind boggling disaster. The cover indicates, excitedly, that she has evolved her new genre - identified as black comedy - and compares her to Carl Hiaasen. Hiassen she ain’t, but the comparison is reasonable. But compare it with Hiaasen’s delightful “Sick Puppy” - also about a small island. This book involves Tangier Island ( in the Chesapeake Bay) and a dentist who has been ripping off the Islanders for years; the visually (and seemingly mentally) impaired Governor of the state, his guide pony, and his weird family; the felonious assistant to the Governor, who has been poisoning the Governor for some years, and controlling the departments; a crazy female slasher; a small street gang of thugs; strange Tangier Islanders; and other remarkable things, including an anonymous Internet page which has essays written by Brazil as Trooper Truth. By page 100 I was so totally baffled that I skipped through the rest of the book to see if I liked it better. I didn't   Cornwell,P.; isle of Dogs;$26.95; 421pp;G.P. Putnam’s Sons;NY; 2001; ISBN 0-399-14739

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1888; Simon Winchester   (NonF)
         Don’t buy it; get it from the library if you wish to read it! It is a remarkable book in the sense that it is a well written, sloppy hodgepodge. Yes, he does describe the Krakatoa eruption - ultimately - after about 200 pages. In the meantime the reader is exposed to everything that popped into the author’s mind about the area, the people, the politics, the history, random events etc.. There are tales of a circus - which has essentially nothing to do with Krakatoa. Also included is a long series of lectures on plate tectonics, and volcanism. I challenge the reader to understand the illustrated explanation that is given to explain the reason that Krakatoa exploded; a reason based on plate tectonics - it says.  There is also an intrinsic challenge: try to find out exactly where Krakatoa was (is) located. As far as I can see It is not, for example, pointed out on any of the maps in the book. And although there are a number of spellings, the author never tells the reader how the name is pronounced. Among the conclusions of the author is the belief that the explosion was the start of the shift to political Islam in the area. I use that term to mean the radical version of the Arabic Muslim world. I don’t think the evidence warrants it. All in all, I guess I did not care for the book, and that now gives me pause about the author. We shall see. There is a bibliography, and an index. However, it is not a scholarly book.
 Winchester;S.; Krakatoa;$25.95;416pp;Harper Collins;NY; 2003; ISBN 0-06-621285-5          

Lost Light; Michael Connelly                                                                                     (Series)
              The latest in Connelly’s wonderful series that stars Hieronomous (Harry) Bosch. Harry has been out of the LAPD for some months, but he took with him some files. One covered the four year old killing of a young female movie producer a few days before a spectacular heist of two million dollars on a movie set, where Harry was looking into the murder. A call from a badly disabled former police officer helps start Harry into reexamining the old case. The LAPD   hears of it, and he is told to leave it alone. Of course he doesn’t. And we follow Harry (first person) as the intricate, unusual, surprising story unfolds. Harry takes on the LAPD, the FBI, and everyone else who gives him a hard time. You will be totally engrossed in a great yarn, and as it ends, find yourself stunned twice.
 NOTE: This story is completely readable even if you have never met Harry Bosch before. But if you haven’t, start now to read into the series. You will be completely hooked. Connelly is GOOD.
 Connelly, M.; Lost Light; $29.95; 360pp; Little, Brown, &Co.; NY; 2003; ISBN: 0-316-154601   

Milk Glass Moon; Adriana Trigiani    
    It appears that Trigiani is writing a “Big Stone Gap” series, starring her heroine, Ave Maria Mulligan, currently married to Jack McChesney, and in this book with her daughter, Etta, at the age of twelve at the start of the book. The rest of the book follows the two to Etta’s age of eighteen, and it is essentially the trials and tribulations of a mother and her teen aged daughter. I found it a chore to go through. I enjoyed the first book in the series, haven’t read the second (Big Cherry Holler) and this one is the last I shall read. The series involves imagined people in Big Stone Gap ( a real place), plus a host of Italian relatives, and visits to Italy. Dare I say that this seems to be a “woman’s” book?
 Trigiani,A.; Milk Glass Moon;$24.95;254pp;Random House;NY; 2002; ISBN 0-375-50618

No Graves As Yet; Anne Perry  
        On the cover, the book is described as a novel of World War I, which is true, but can be misleading. The story is about two sets of brothers, in Cambridge, England, in the summer of 1914. Joseph Reavley is a clergyman, and a professor at the University. His brother, Michael, works for British Intelligence - SIS, the Secret Intelligence Service. As the story starts, their parents are killed in an automobile accident, near Cambridge. Michael says that their father was taking to London a paper that outlined a secret plan that would upset the civilized world of England and the continent. No paper was found in the wreck. The other set of brothers includes Elwyn and Sebastian Allard. The latter is an antiwar peacenik (in today’s terms), and Joseph Reavley’s best student. He is found, by Elwyn, shot to death. Investigation indicates that the automobile accident was not an accident - the parents were deliberately killed. The story revolves around the determination of who set up the fatal accident, who killed Sebastian, and whether a secret document exists, and if so where it is. In the mean time the events in Europe are moving toward war. The plot is a tangled one. There is a sizable cast of characters. And except for the reminders of the potential war in Europe, the time could be anytime! There is almost nothing that seems specific to England of 90 years ago! It is almost eerie. There is a lot of dialogue, a lot of ratiocination, and a lack of excitement. I thought it a very strange, slow moving story that I read through completely without quite getting involved. Different from the other two series that Perry has been writing, and according to the jacket it is the first in a new series. We shall see.              
 Note: The title comes from a quotation citing G.K. Chesterton. It is given on a frontispiece, and if I understand it correctly, it is a startling one!
 Perry,A.; No Graves As Yet; $25.95;339pp; Ballantine Books;NY; 2003; ISBN 0-345-45652-1

Open Book; Michael Dirda                                                                         NF    (AutoBio)
           Dirda writes and edits for the Washington Post Book World , and has won a Pulitzer prize as a book critic. He decided, for reasons that escape me, to write a detailed story of his growing up - and reading - in the Midwest steel town of Loraine, Ohio, and this is that story. He notes casually in the preface that he has good prior examples, and modestly identifies with Cellini, Rousseau, and Eudora Welty! I do, and have done, a lot of reading, and this account leaves me feeling pretty much illiterate compared to Dirda. And he happily throws in lots of words that I had never seen before. He did not have a happy home life. His father was unpleasant, and relatively abusive. Dirda insists that he loved his father, and  that his father (mostly) loved him, yet he states that, if asked, he would say he had an unhappy childhood.  He recounts his growing up as a nerd, his attitudes in school, his activities at home and in school, individuals who influenced his intellectual growth, and some of his adventures with girls.  It is written in four parts, each with an excellent, telling picture of the author at about his age during the four parts. The book ends as he finishes college - although there is an interesting afterward. And continuously through this he tells us of the books that he read. I read this through, and I am not sure why. I didn’t identify in any way with the young Dirda, and I was numbed by the reading that he did. The book was interesting in some ways, disturbing in others, and presented more of Dirda than I wanted to know. I gradually developed the feeling that I don’t think I would like the man.  
 NOTE: The book has a very interesting and impressive list of books that he had read by age 16, and also an index. Most of the index entries are names of books or authors. There are some interesting - and cogent - comments on some authors and books.
  Dirda,M.; An Open Book; $24.95; 335pp; W.W. Norton; NY; 2003; ISBN 0-393-05756-9

Oryx and Crake; Margaret Atwood                                                                        (SF)
              A very strange tale about the end of civilization as we know it, and the made-to-specification people who may be the start of another. As the story starts, most of the people in the world have died from a vicious virus plague. We meet and follow “Snowman” who is living in a now desolate area that was once occupied by large corporate enclaves. The only people alive in the area are a group of humanoids that Snowman calls “Crakers.” These people were created by an individual Snowman calls Crake, and while they are human in appearance, they are very different from us. Snowman interacts with the Crakers, who think him some sort of wise man. He tells them stories about Crake, who is thought of reverentially by them, and of Oryx, a woman who originally lived with the Crakes to teach them about the world. They of course had no history, or knowledge of anything. Oryx too is revered by the Crakers. Snowman was originally Jimmy, and he and Crake were friends from the time they were about 12 years old. The story flips back and forth in time, switching from Snowman today, to Jimmy and his world as he grew up. That world was a strange one. The area outside cities was taken by huge, corporate compounds, self sufficient complexes in which research, development, and manufacturing took place. The names of these places are mostly homonym puns; e.g. OrganInc Farms - where Jimmy’s father once worked; HelthWyzer, where he moved to. HelthWyzer had a subdivision. NooSkins, concerned with skin related biotech. The compounds have paranoid management - ideas may be stolen - and when Jimmy’s mother vanishes, it is feared that she may reveal secrets to others. We watch Jimmy and Crake grow up, go to school, get jobs. Then Oryx appears, a woman who was sold into pornography when she was six. She takes up with Crake, but sleeps with Jimmy quite frequently. We follow this group as Crake decides to create a better type of human (VERY strange by our standards), and develops the Crakers, then lets loose the virus that destroys almost everyone in the world. Jimmy was immunized by Crake, and the Crakers are also not vulnerable. After the deaths of Crake and Oryx, Jimmy is left in that part of the world with only the Crakers, and he becomes Snowman. This is morbidly-fascinating, excellent story telling, with clever phrasing and dead pan humor. It will, I think, become another famous Apocalypse story. Atwood is good.
Atwood,M.; Oryx and Crake; $26; 376pp; Nan A. Talese; NY; 2003; ISBN 0-385-540538-7   

Oaxaca Journal; Oliver Sacks                                                                                     NF
           Sacks, of course, is a famous neurologist/author. He also has a background in chemistry, mineralogy, archaeology, and I discovered with this book that he is fascinated by ferns! This interesting, but often eye-glazing book, is a recounting of a several weeks adventure in the district of Oaxaca, Mexico, as part of a group of world-class experts who are there to explore the profusion of ferns that can be found nowhere else. There is FAR more than you ever want to know about the world of ferns! As Sacks notes, this is basically a journal that he kept, and to which he later added a number of things about the history of Mesoamerica, chocolate, etc. To make, I think, the small book a bit more attractive to the general reader. Sacks found, to his surprise, that he, a strongly “alone” type, found himself identifying with the group of sociable, diverse, and interesting people who were obsessed with ferns - and birds, and other things. The obsessions are sympathetically presented by Sachs. The little book is illustrated by sketches of some rare ferns. An unusual creation - and of appeal primarily, I think, to those who are collectors - of anything!
 NOTE: This is one of a set that National Geographic is publishing as The Literary Travel Series. I shall watch for others.
 Oaxaca Journal; Sachs,O.;$20;159pp,; National Geographic;DC;2002; ISBN 0-7922-6521-1     

Patience & Fortitude: A Roving Chronicle of Book People, Book Places, and Book Culture; Nicholas A. Basbanes                                                                                    NF  
         Patience & Fortitude are the (unofficial) names of the two lions that stand outside the doors of the New York Public library. In a book named after them, the author, who has written books about books and their collectors, has produced a dense, erudite, scholarly chronicle indicated by his subtitle. He is concerned with collections of books, be they libraries ancient or modern, special or ordinary, bookstores housing hundreds of thousands of books, or spectacular private collections. He also comments on those involved in such accumulations, on problems and activities related to assembling and maintaining a vast collection, on the decisions about “pruning” collections, and just about anything else you might (or might not) be aware of. Every book lover will enjoy many parts of this somewhat ponderous, somewhat anecdotally narrated, sometimes too-detailed discourse. However, It can be picked up and put down when the mood seizes, and is fascinating. There are a number of intriguing amateur photographs, and some excellent sketches, as well as a good set of notes, a bibliography, and a good index. A great one to while away winter evenings.
 Basbanes,N.A.; Patience & Fortitude; $35; 636pp;Harper Collins; NY; 2001; ISBN 0-06-019695-5

Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death Of Enron; Robert Bryce                            NF                           Fascinating, even if hard reading at times. Bryce describes himself (appropriately, given his books) as a muckraker, and here he tries to explain to the average reader the true but unbelievable story of the rise and fall of Enron, and the story of those who brought it about. There are difficult parts. Gosh, if Congress couldn’t understand what went wrong, how is the average reader to? Still, I actually did understand some of the arcane shenanigans, and many of the larger concepts are readily understood. Bryce observes that the whole Enron fiasco is simply
explained: the “...leadership was morally, ethically, and financially corrupt.” There is something missing from this however - at least as I read the events. First: the leadership made a major blunder by taking Enron out of  running a business - or businesses - and turning it into a trading company, pretty much trading businesses. Then having lost  people who knew about business, the management made absolutely stupid, but very large scale business decisions about the businesses they owned. And Lay (“Kenny Boy” to President Bush) was a total disaster as CEO, he simply ignored the business, left it to others, and would tolerate no criticism of his ultimately corrupt honchos. Bryce follows the money, but he presents excellent, devastating information about the panoply of players. His observations about how the White House backed Enron in all its interests, and how the President was involved, are very unsettling. He notes that the Texas bankruptcy laws are extraordinarily kind to those who declare bankruptcy, thus allowing the Enron types to keep almost all their ill begotten gains. And notes further that Bush is adamant about keeping things that way. I found it informative, chilling, scary, and guaranteed to raise the reader’s blood pressure. So beware. The writer can’t help throwing in smartalec quips from time to time, but he includes a good set of reference notes, a bibliography, and a good index, so I forgive him the quips.
 Bryce,R. Pipe Dreams; $27.5; 394pp; Public Affairs; NY; 2002; ISBN 1-58648-138-X

Q is for Quarry; Sue Grafton                                                                          Series
           The latest (that I have read, at least) in the alphabetic series starring Kinsey Millhone, private detective, currently in Santa Teresa, California, and thirty-seven years old. This story was based on a true case, as detailed in a long, VERY interesting note at the end. Perhaps that has somehow affected the story telling, because it is my impression that this is a really fascinating tale,  better than many of the others in the series. It starts with a visit from an acquaintance, Con Dolan, former head of the homicide division in Santa Teresa, currently out on disability. He comes with a very strange request: He and Stacey Oliphant, eight years retired from the Sheriff's Department, want Kinsey’s help in reopening an eighteen  year old case. Dolan and Oliphant were involved in the mystery of a murdered female, whose decomposing body had been found, but who had never been identified. The case was listed as unsolved. Oliphant, in bad physical condition, wants to reopen it and see if  it can be solved before he dies. Dolan, a very old and deep friend, wants to help him, although his medical condition is also not good. Will Kinsey join in to do all the leg work that the old-timers are no longer capable of? Kinsey will. What follows is a neat unfolding of how one might approach such a task, and the unexpected dangers that might, and do, ensue. It is also a gradually unfolding narrative of the main individuals involved, and the reader comes to be strongly immersed in their characters and activities. It is a good yarn; what more can I say.
 Grafton,S.; Q is for Quarry; $26.95; 387pp; G.P. Putnam’s Sons; N.Y.; 2002; ISBN 0-399-14915-5
Reading Lolita in Teheran; Azar Nafisi                                                    BIO
       This amazing, mesmerizing book fits into no single genre. It is a partial biography, an account of the history of Iran leading up to and after the takeover of the country by Islamic zealots, a detailed look at the unbelievable treatment of anyone thought to be an enemy of the religious, authoritarian regime, the special oppression of and nastiness toward women, and the corruption of universities. In addition, it is a detailed look at, analysis of, and critique of a number of well known classic novels. Add to this a first person recounting of the activities, worries, triumphs, and despair - at times - of the author, and a detailed picture of the coping strategies of a number of Iranian women. The result is not very classifiable! Professor Nafisi is director of the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies. She seems to be of the old Persian stock. She uses the word Persian regularly, especially when she notes the Persian language - Farsi is the correct term I think. She was a fellow at Oxford, has taught at three universities in Iran, contributed articles to a variety of upscale journals, and has written a book about Vladimir Nabokov's novels. She writes very well (a bit of trouble with wake, waken and awaking -  probably a result of Oxford!) About five years before  the end of her last stay in Iran (she left in 1997), she selected a group of students from those she had encountered in the past, and they set up regular meetings, at her home, for discussion of famous novels (including Lolita.) The novels were proscribed by the censors. She tells us of the group, their meetings and discussions, their growing friendship, and the growing intimacy of the group. And she tells of their individual encounters with, and troubles with the regime's enforcers. We learn she was married, with children, but she does not spend a great deal of time telling us that part of her life, except at the time when she decides to leave Iran. Her husband does not want to leave, and that must be straightened out. It is a little hard at times to keep track of the time line as the story is told - there are skips back and forth, and there are interruptions as new aspects of the author appear. But the reader comes to be interested in her students - now friends - and in her; and to be frustrated, angry, and depressed about the treatment of women. It is also enlightening to see the regime at work, twenty years ago, to depict the USA as a the mortal enemy of Muslim culture, determined to make the Iranian culture like that of America; like the current noises in Iraq. Not an easy read, often a distressing read, perhaps more than you ever wanted to know about a number of authors and novels, but do not pass it up.    
 NOTE: The day after I read it, there was an article in the Baltimore SUN newspaper about the increasing oppression of women in Afghanistan; the situation was described as becoming worse than under the Taliban!
 Nafisi, A.; Reading Lolita in Teheran; $23.95; 347pp;RandomHouse; NY;2003; ISBN 0-375-50490

Second Spring: A Love Story; Andrew M. Greeley                                             (Series)
        Father Greeley continues his tale of the Chicago O’Malleys in the twentieth century. Here it is in the late seventies. Charles (Chucky) O’Malley is a renowned photographer who has covered many subjects, and in addition has produced many portraits of top level, famous people. He has entered a mid-life crisis in which he doubts his ability and his work; depression is the word. His wife, Rosemarie, a recovering alcoholic, and author, is devoted to helping him overcome this. In this story, the two spend time in Rome, at the Vatican, in the “Year of the Three Popes” where Chuck photographs Popes, their assistants, and the surround. Then time in Washington, where he photographs President Carter. And of course there is time at home, in Chicago. And near the end, Chuck has a striking encounter. Again, the book is about equally divided between castigating the organization and blindness of the Roman Catholic Church, and hot sex times of the two main characters (see the opening paragraphs for example!). The long time in Rome is basically a polemic on politics in the Church, and is based  on a non fictional book of Greeley: “The Making of the Popes-1978.” It is an examination of the process of selecting a Pope - a process for which Father Greeley has little liking. I found it far too political for my liking. Readers of earlier books in this series will enjoy it - but not as much as they enjoyed earlier ones (I predict). Don’t try it if you have not read earlier (and, I think, better) ones in the series.
 Greeley;A.M.; Second Spring; $24.95; 347pp; Tom Doherty, Ass.; NY; 2003; ISBN 0-765-30236-5    

Separation of Power; Vince Flynn   
            Flynn seems to writing adventure, suspense, intrigue, action stories, and this is one of them. The hero is an assassin - but a good one of course: He works for a very secret arm of the US government. However, he wants out, and plans to get married. During his last mission he discovered there was a leak, that he was known, and in fact an accomplice tried to kill him and frame him for an authorized assassination. He had traced the man who had hired the persons who tried to kill him, and found that man murdered. A spy camera revealed the killing was done by a former colleague and lover - Donatella Rahn - an Israeli, Mossad agent. All this before the story starts! He goes to Europe with his fiancé. He finds his ex lover, gets dumped by his fiancé after she encounters the voluptuous Rahn, learns of insidious doings and corruption at high levels in the US government, and in Mossad, and romps around getting everything taken care of, with the help of the new CIA head, an old friend. Almost nothing you haven’t run into before, but well told, and a good beach read. It is noted here for only one reason however: The last assassination he carries out takes place by poisoning in - of all places - the Cosmos Club in Washington, of which I am a member! HAD to note it here. The author has Club details correct - including one thing that is not well known at all. Wow...
 Flynn,V.; Separation of Power;$25; 356pp.; Pocket Books; NY; 2001; ISBN 0-671-04733-7

Shakespeare’s Counselor; Charlaine Harris                                                          (series)
          The author has written a dozen other novels (none of which I have read), four of which are about Shakespeare and Lily Bard. Shakespeare is a town in Arkansas, and Lily Bard - in this book at least - is a professional housekeeper who is learning to be a private investigator. Her mentor, Jack,  is the private eye that she lives with. It appears that the books are mystery stories, and that Lily is the sleuth. This one fits that pattern. But believe me: This is not your usual mystery story, and Lily is not your usual sleuth. As the first person narration starts, Lily has an episode that convinces her she needs psychological help, and when she learns that a relative newcomer to the town, Tamsin Lynd, has weekly group therapy sessions for rape victims, she becomes a member of the group. She had been brutally gang-raped some years before. She is stunned by the group of women who have suffered rape trauma. Lily recounts for us her cleaning duties, and her private eye efforts. But the tale abruptly changes when the group assembles for a session and finds a viciously murdered woman on the scene. The identity of the killer remains a mystery; one not solved till the end. In the meantime, it becomes clear that Tamsin Lynd and her husband fled to Shakespeare to avoid someone who was stalking Tamsin, but that the stalker seems to have located them. There are two newcomers to the police force, and one was a police officer who had worked on  the Lynd stalker case in the preceding city. As the story proceeds, Lily has a miscarriage. NOT your usual detective story. There are a number of interesting characters (the therapy group members circle through the story), and an intriguing plot. I read the thing right through with great pleasure - to my great amazement. If one had told me that I’d  go through therapy sessions for rape victims, and stay with a detective through a miscarriage, I’d have hooted. But I did. First class tale, first class story telling, and a truly intriguing sleuth. I’m headed for the library for others in the series!
 Harris,C.; Shakespeare’s Counselor; $22.95;232pp; St. Martin’s Press;NY;2001;ISBN 0-312-27762-8

Shrink Wrap; Robert Parker                                                                                            Series
             Parker has (at least) two private eye type series going. On involves Spenser, a male, and the other is this one, which stars Sunny Randall (female) a resident of Boston. In this one, Sunny takes on a job of watching over, and bodyguarding(?) an author, Melanie Hall, who has to make a book-signing tour. The author is afraid of her ex-husband  who happens to be a psychotherapist, and who appears to be stalking her. The story relates the events that occur, and Sunny’s involvement with the author, the author’s husband, a psychiatrist whom Sunny visits first as a technical consultant - and with her ex-husband, towards whom she has very conflicting emotions. I was a tad surprised to find this to be a very intriguing story - better that the recent Spenser yarns. I was intrigued by the fact that the line spacing in the book seems greater than the normal spacing - so the story is considerably shorter than the page count would suggest.
 Parker,R.; Shrink Wrap; $24.95; 289pp; G.P. Putnam’s Sons; NY; 2002; ISBN 0-399-14930-9       

Sick Puppy
; Carl Hiaasen                                                                                           (pb)
           Hiaasen is still an angry conservationist, and a teller of sardonic satire. His books are remarkable, rolling yarns of black humor that leaves the reader anxious to read bits aloud to someone, sudden deadpan descriptions and remarks that neatly skewer developers, bankers, politicians, lobbyists, and other groups that the author hates - especially those in Florida. Many of the characters are weird, some are kinky, and most seem to have bad childhoods! The events are exaggerated, some happenings are unbelievable, and yet the reader (this one at least) buys into most of the characters and the zany events with little trouble. This one again examines Florida, this time the gradual destruction of its coast, and the coastal islands, by the tide of development. It examines the role of sleazy politics, sleazy lobbying, and crime in the onslaught, and the nature of the characters that are involved in it. The hero - or anti-hero - is Twilly Spree, a 26 year old college dropout, an ardent conservationist, and a multimillionaire. He also has a brief history of psychological problems - and took a course in anger management. He gets VERY angry when he sees people casually littering the countryside by throwing stuff from their cars. And he usually does something to punish them! This reader came to side with Twilly. The sick puppy is not really a puppy, he is a black Labrador owned by lobbyist Palmer Stoat, and his wife Desy. Stoat is one who heaves all sorts of stuff out the window of his car, and Twilly decides to teach him a lesson. He kidnaps the dog. Stoat is also a big game hunter - except that the big game is found within a Florida enclave, and consists of aged animals that used to belong to carnivals or zoos. Stoat is also a lobbyist greasing the way for the development of Toad Island, a tiny offshore Florida Island. His wife, Stesy, joins Twilly, and they both get involved with the ex-governor of Florida, Clinton Tyree, now known as “Skink,” who lives in a Florida swamp (and cooks road kill). He is also an ardent conservationist; one that Hiaasen introduced in earlier books.  There is the usual host of strange characters that the author again makes fairly believable, in a bizarre plot that is too complicated to cover here. The ending is an almost grotesque series of events that are made to seem almost believable. Maybe it is just me, but I enjoyed the triumph of Justice?.  And gradually I realized that, again, Hiaasen has portrayed an exaggerated but accurate world of greed and corruption. A serious book for all the humor. There are problems: the themes have been visited before; Skink has been much better in earlier books; and the last half of the book seems less inspired than the first half. A good beach read. And I suspect that readers either like Hiasson, or dislike him - no in between!
 Hiassen,C.; Sick Puppy;$7.99; 515pp; Warner Books; NY; 1999; no ISBN

Stolen Figs: And Other Adventures in Calabria; Mark Rotella                                       NF
           Calabria is the  toe of the boot that is  southern Italy. Rotella is the grandson of Calabrian immigrants to the USA, and the book is a recounting of his attempt to learn about, to experience, and to understand Calabria and its people, and thus to develop the half of his heritage that is Calabrian. He persuades his father to return to Calabria for the first time in thirty years, and he goes along to discover his relatives. After that he returned, alone,  to the area once a year for ten years. The author says more US immigrants of Italian descent trace their roots to Calabria than to any other place in Italy. He fills the book with information about the area, and its history of being overrun by every group that moved through the Mediterranean, and some famous historical figure who spent time there.  It is far more than I ever wanted to know. He discusses the dialects in the area, and their development. Far more than you ever wanted to know. And he is a enthused  about Calabrian food as well. It all fascinates him, but this reader was no means as fascinated. The author has read a great deal about the history and culture (there is a bibliography at the end) and has learned a great deal from his visits, and it shows. When he cuts back on the details the reader begins to enjoy the visits.  A cousin escorts him around the country, and we see close at hand the almost marginal existence of the area, and the patterns of living. This reader found it a mixed bag. Fairly erratic, far too much detail in many spots, and a feeling that in ten years the author seems to have not quite been with it. His explorations are with the cousin, a greeting cards salesman, and there is not much about relatives. He seems to have had bad timing in many places. There were several parts I enjoyed, but on the whole I would not recommend it. Oh yes: a great pastime in the country seems to be stealing ripe figs from some one else’s orchard - hence the title!
 Rotella,M.; Stolen Figs; $25; 308pp; North Point Press; NY; 2003; ISBN 0-86547-627-6

Street Dreams; Faye Kellerman                                 (Series)
          This is the second of two stories that involve Cindy Decker, daughter of  LAPD Detective Peter Decker who is currently married to Rina Lazarus. Cindy is an officer in the LAPD. The story is  actually two or three stories. One, about Cindy’s adventures on the LA streets, starts when she rescues a newly born infant from a dumpster.  She hauls it to the hospital - where she meets a male nurse. She starts a hunt for the mother, and gradually uncovers a gang rape situation as she works with various members of the LAPD, and she gets running advice from her father. The second story is that of her increasing involvement with the black, Jewish male nurse. The third story seems a total misfit. It is of Rina’s search, through old papers that she got in Munich, for old Holocaust-era records concerning the killing of her grandmother. That story wanders around sort of aimlessly, and is essentially a net zero. I think that this irrelevant stuff was put in to have Rina as a presence. The book will please those familiar with the characters. I suspect that others may find it less interesting. Some of the story is told in the firat person by Cindy. Then there are sections that are in the third person. It is somewhat erratic. I did not enjoy this story as much as I have enjoyed others by Kellerman about these characters.  
  Kellerman,F.; Street Dreams; $25.95;420pp; Warner Books; NY; 2003; ISBN 0-446-53131-6

The Da Vinci Code; Dan Brown                                     (pb)
          The reader should know that my comments on this book may be biased strongly by my unalloyed joy in books that detail a “quest;” and this one is a dandy example of the genre. And in fact the quest is the ultimate classic one: In search of the Holy Grail! The curator of the Louvre is killed in the Louvre, after hours. The body is found in a strange position, with cryptic  messages that the curator left. One of them cited the name of Robert Langdon, an American professor, and an expert on religious pictures and symbolism. He is awakened by the Paris police, and taken to the Louvre. As he is at the site, with the chief of police, a young woman enters. She is from the Cryptography Department - there to examine the cryptic messages - she says. In fact, the Department didn’t send her. She is there to warn Langdon that the police believe he is the killer, and to help him escape. The story follows the two, as they escape the police, seek help from a crippled authority whom Langdon knows, fly to Great Britain, and wander around trying to understand the messages left by the curator - who, it turns out, was the cryptographers grandfather! The curator, it turns out, was the last person who knew a fantastic secret that had been kept for years - since the time of Jesus, and the adventures of the protagonists gradually lead them to the secret. There is a malevolent force opposing them - that group wants the secret information too. And so they all romp through a complicated plot, with much deduction and adventure and DETAILS! It is hard to tell what items are fact, and what are fiction, but it doesn’t really matter. Except that it might matter to those who might be called “right wing” Roman Catholics. There is quite a bit in the story that suggests the Church carefully removed women from any power in the Church, and that there is a strong effort to get the current Church back into the anti-feminine position it presumably had in ancient times. Note that the author is incorrect about a number of historical details related to the shaping of the Church. The Holy Grail is also examined, and a startling version is suggested, and the secrets that the Knights Templar may have had about it are entered in the story. The Templar story also has some incorrect history, and segues into the version of the Templars presented in a fascinating book of questionable history: “The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail.” Much more detail than is needed in spots, and in places my mind reeled, but I thoroughly enjoyed the yarn.
 NOTE: I took a look at an Internet Roman Catholic Church page, and found a LONG negative discussion of the book. It included words like bigot, blasphemous, lies etc. Not a happy reviewer! I also took another look at Da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” and by George some of what the author notes seems correct!
 Brown,D.; The Da Vinci Code;$?; 454pp; Doubleday;NY; 2003; ISBN 0-385-50420-9

The Fifth Angel; Tim Green
            The title is suggested by Revelation 16:10, when the fifth of seven avenging angels of God: “...poured out his vial [a plague] upon the seat of the beast... Men were biting their tongues...”  This book is a story of retribution, and revenge. There is a famous saying of Leclos, which translated from the French, says: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” That is the vengeance in this story. Jack Ruskin is an attorney. His young daughter is in a mental institution, suffering from the trauma of kidnapping and sexual molestation. Ruskin decides to emulate the Fifth Angel, and we follow him as he murders sex offenders like the man who assaulted his daughter, and falls in love with someone from the nursing home where his daughter is. The other protagonist is Amanda Lee, a brilliant FBI operative, who messes up a case, and is assigned the job of finding the person who has been killing sex offenders around the country - Jack Ruskin, although she doesn’t know it. The tale follows Jack, and those, including Amanda, who are seeking to find who he is.  Then comes the twist. Amanda’s family  gets targeted by a sex offender, and, as she finds Ruskin, they suddenly seem to be on the same side.  The story leaves the reader - and the protagonists - with questions of right and wrong, and ethics. I think it could have been told better, and it can be an uncomfortable read at times., but it is a gripping book.             
 Green,T.; The Fifth Angel;$24.95;372pp; Warner Books;NY; 2003; ISBN 0-446-53085-9

The Kalahari Typing School For Men; Alexander McCall Smith            (Series)
             Another good chance picking. It appears that Smith, a professor of medical law, who was born in Africa, and lived and taught in Botswana, is writing a series of novels about heavyset Mma. Precious Ramotswe, and The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency which she started. It was the only private detective agency in Botswana!  This is the fourth in a series, and the first I have read. I picked it up in the Public Library, and took it because of the title! I had never heard of Smith or his series. I lucked out again. I have thoroughly enjoyed the book. I must say that if anyone had suggested that I would be captured by a story laid in relatively primitive land, whose inhabitants, mores, and culture are  totally foreign to me, and which contains no derring-do, mystery, or romance, I’d have laughed out loud. I am not sure how to describe this tale - which is wonderfully told, with love and affection, by a first class writer. It is a charming, humorous, intriguing tale that gently seduces the reader into the different culture, and into a delight in the different characters. In this book, Mma. Ramotswe, and her assistant, Mma. Makutski, the best typist who ever graduated from the Botswana Secretarial College, are still running the Detective Agency. Mma.’s fiancé, Mr. J.L.B Matakoni,  has recovered from a bout of depression, during which  Mma. Makutski rand Makatoni’s garage: Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. As the tale unfolds, another detective agency opens as competition, Mma. Makutski starts a typing school for men, and Precious takes on several cases. I got very interested in the story, and the characters, and gradually realized that simpler world being described was appealing. Note that Precious bemoans the passing of the “old” ways in Botswana! But what permeates the book is kindness, love, appreciation, and all those wonderful things that our world may be beginning to lose. As I was enjoying the pleasures, Precious got a new client, and suddenly I was caught up short in a series of emotions about the man’s problems and his conscience. Not all sweet and light in the story. I will head to the library to get the other books in the series. I recommend this story highly, and I bet the others are just as delightful.
 NOTE: I am told that the term Maa. above is an honorific, and it is pronounced “MAH.” There is a corresponding male term: Rra., pronounced “RAHR.”  ( I belong to a club whose members have been everywhere!)         
 Smith,A.M.;The Kalahari Typing School For Men; $19.95; 186pp; Pantheon Books; NY; 2002;  ISBN  0-375-42217-X

The Lake House; James Patterson                                                                            (Series)
           It appears that in a preceding novel Patterson invented children who can fly - the result of crossing avian DNA with human... In this one, there is a legal battle that involves custody of six children. An FBI agent and a female physician are closer to the “kids” than anyone, and are trying to gain custody. I didn’t read it. I started, read hastily to page 100, through a morass of  place, time, and character switches, and decided I didn’t like this book. I skimmed through later bits, and found nothing to change my mind. It doesn’t sound like the storyteller that Patterson is in earlier books that I have read. Sorry
 Patterson,J.; The Lake House; $27.95; 376pp; Little, Brown & Co.; NY; 2003; ISBN 0-316-60328-7
The Luck Factor: Changing Your Luck, Changing Your Life: The Four Essential Principles; Dr. Richard Wiseman                                                                            NF
            Well: maybe. Dr. Wiseman has made - is making - a “scientific” study of Luck. He believes that there are indeed lucky people, and also unlucky people. He is a psychologist, in England, and he has been interviewing hundreds of people for the past three or four years. He notes here various “cases” of lucky individuals, as well as unlucky ones. He has decided that it is in fact possible to change your luck; to become luckier. He has distilled from all his work four principles: Creating chance opportunities; Thinking lucky; Feeling Lucky; and Denying Fate. Key to most of this is - how strange - your mental point of view. If you are upbeat, see good in the bad, look on the bright side, you tend to see more good opportunities: Your luck is good! The book is interesting, fun in places, and has all sorts of tests and exercises for those who would like to improve their luck. I have been lucky all my life, but currently I am “unlucky” about physical movements. I have become a thorough “klutz.” Things will fall over even if I don’t touch them. And if I do touch them, they skid, fall, turn over, lids come off, and of course the buttered bread falls buttered side down. It is truly phenomenal. Now: how can I change THAT luck? Hm....
 Wiseman,R.; The Luck Factor; $23.95;209pp;Hyperion;NY;2003; ISBN 0-7868-6914-3

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency; Alexander McCall Smith                       pb       (Series)
          This is the first in a series, but it is not the one I read first. That was the delightful “The Kalihari Typing School For Men,” about the fourth in the series. The stories are laid in Gaborone, Botswana and the central character is fat, 60 year old Precious Ramotswe, whose inheritance from her father, Obed,  provided the funds to start a detective agency - the only one in Botswana. This is the story of Mma Ramotswe and her father before his death,  her story after his death, and her experiences as a private detective. Chapter one lets us watch Precious at work on a case.  Chapter two is in the voice of  Obed, who had been a miner, recounting his life as Precious thinks he might have done it. Chapters three and four tell of the childhood, the growing up, and the unhappy marriage of Precious. By this time the reader (this one at least) is totally hooked on Precious and her world. The story goes on to tell of the cases that Precious undertakes, and her personal life that revolves around her activity as a self-taught ( with a do-it-yourself book “Principles of Private Investigation”), shrewd, private detective. Totally charming, with humor, sadness, touching events, and downright funny at times. It is a delight to watch this clever woman deal with the interesting cases that are brought to her. Do try it.
 NOTE: I am told that the title Mma is an honorific, and is pronounced “Mah.”
 Smith,A.M., The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency; $?; 235pp; Anchor Books; NY; NNY; 2002; ISBN 1-4000-3477-9

The Probable Future; Alice Hoffman  
            Hoffman has written more than a dozen books. I have read several that I thoroughly enjoyed, and tried one or two that I couldn’t finish. I thought I’d give her new one a try. By page 70 or so I decided I really didn’t want to read a story about several dysfunctional families in which daughters hated their mothers plus a few other things. But I do try to read to page 100 - and I did. There was a  shift in the tale, and it seemed a bit more interesting, so I kept on - at a slow pace - and I finished the story. And I am glad I did. It is a very different kind of story. The jacket describes it as: “ ...poignant, arresting, unsettling...” - a very apt description. The story to some degree centers around Stella Sparrow, daughter of Jenny, granddaughter of Elinor, and the 13th female in the Sparrow line. The line started with the mysterious Rebecca, nicknamed “The Sparrow” by the villagers in the New England village. Rebecca could not feel physical pain. The villagers decided she was a witch. The generations of subsequent Sparrow women had varying, unusual abilities. In Boston, Stella, at age 13, discovers that her “gift” is to foresee the deaths of people! Her mother, Jenny, on her thirteenth birthday, discovered that she could see other peoples dreams. Her mother, Elinor can tell when she hears a lie. When Jenny’s marriage to Will Avery came apart, and Will left, Stella blamed her mother - and hated her from that day on. Jenny in turn had hated HER mother and had run away from home with Will. The reader learns these things and others about the characters, but the story really starts when Stella cannot return to her Boston school, and ends up in the village with her grandmother. A murder, that she foresaw, causes the problem. Hoffman weaves a fascinating tale of the lives, the thoughts, and the emotions of three generations of unusual women, and their interactions with each other and with other interesting people in the village. And there is a shadowy killer to boot. The prose is lyrical in many places, and the shimmering emotions are beautifully portrayed. I found myself choked up in spots as the tale spun to a fitting climax. First class as always; and with some of the “magic” that appears meaningfully in her stories. Dare I say it is a bewitching story?
Hoffman,A.; The Probable Future; $24.95;322pp; Doubleday; NY;2003; ISBN 0-385-50760-7

The Sinister Pig; Tony Hillerman                                                                     (Series)
          Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navaho Tribal Police, and Joe Leaphorn, the “legendary lieutenant” retired from the same organization, again work an unusual case in the Southwest.  The story starts in Washington, where in the first chapter we meet a man who is being given a false identity, and a task to go to the Southwest and look into the activities of an outfit called Seamless Weld, and its owner, Rawley Winsor, who may be smuggling drugs in some way. At the end of the chapter the investigator is shot in the back, and it becomes a case for Jim Chee. When Chee tracks down the credit card the man had, the case is suddenly clamped down on because of orders from Washington - obviously high levels are involved. The story revolves around Chee and Leaphorn, Bernadette Manuelito a rookie border patrol officer who had once worked for Chee, as well as  Winsor, and Budge, his head honcho. The really neat idea is the manner by which Winsor smuggles drug; it is the basis for the somewhat cutsey title of the story.
 Hillerman, T.; The Sinister Pig; 25.95; 228pp; Harper Collins; NY; 2003; ISBN 0-06-019443-X

The Vanished Man: A Lincoln Rhyme Novel; Jeffrey Deaver                     (Series)
              If you have read any of Deaver’s books, you know that they are complex yarns. That includes this series, which involves the paraplegic criminologist, forensic expert Lincoln Rhyme. The series has changed gradually. Rhyme has a policewoman as a lover, and  the stories now include her doings. For those not familiar with the series, Rhyme is a consultant to the police department, which uses him for very perplexing cases. All the crime information is brought to Rhyme, who is surrounded now by voice-operated equipment. He can use his voice, and move one finger. About like Christopher Reeve is in real life. This adventure is a real “now you see it, now you don’t” story that centers on crimes that are being committed by an unknown, professionally expert illusionist. The police get Rhyme on the first case, and he quickly decides that he needs a specialist in illusion stagecraft. His amour, Policewoman, Amelia Sachs, runs into Kara, a young woman who has just the inside information that Rhyme needs, and the rest of the story follows the criminal, Rhyme, Sachs, and Kara as they waltz  through increasingly bewildering scenes of “smoke and mirrors.” We watch as Rhyme gradually learns the key ingredients of illusions, and with the help of Kara and Sachs, finally apprehends the criminal, only to have him escape with ease. Then the story proceeds to a fascinating conclusion. Great yarn - if you can survive being pulled into and out of illusions - some of which are dandy ones!
 Deaver, Jeffrey; The Vanished Man; $25; 399pp; Simon & Schuster; NY; 2003; ISBN 0-7432-2200-8

To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian; Stephen E. Ambrose                 (NF)
      This is a recounting of some of Ambrose’s life, and his writing, and his opinions on people and events in the history of the USA. It is, to a large degree, a quick overview of many of his books, and a recounting of what he learned as a somewhat rebellious young history student, and how much of that he later decided was incorrect. He is a good story teller, and although the process is a bit jerky, the reader has no trouble. Some of the ideas and quotes could have been read with profit - I THINK - by the current set of White House sad sacks. I was struck by several of the chance happenings that changed the man’s life; I have recently become interested in serendipitous events that cause tremendous life changes. He starts with the founding fathers, and moves along to Nixon, and then the state of the country and the world. In between he talks about transcontinental railroads, the Indians, several wars,  and fascinating people. He also discusses his wife and children, and their involvement with his profession. The 9-11 disaster is not mentioned. You will probably remember the big blowup, in early 2002, about Ambrose as a plagiarizer. He recently died and that has been forgot. It certainly won’t matter to any of his lay readers of this or any of his books. It is an interesting portrait of the development of the man’s intellect, and of the man. I’m not sure that I would have liked him!
 Ambrose, S.E; To America; $24; 265pp; Simon & Schuster; NY; 2002; ISBN 0-7432-0275-9

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith; Jon Krakauer                   NF
            A powerful, scary, and depressing tale of  events related to The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) - the Mormons; a very strange organization with a very strange set of beliefs (by my standards, and those of others!). The Church has problems, not the least of which is the existence of a large, excommunicated sect  known as the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) - who practice polygamy. The groups were started surreptitiously by the LDS, but are now officially considered an anathema. Krakauer has written a book that focuses on two  FLDS, the Lafferty brothers, who in 1984 killed a woman and her child because God told them to do it. He tells us of the backgrounds of the men, their families, and the LDS oriented world that they grew up in. We see their communities, and chilling beliefs that are afloat there. He follows the men in succeeding sections, which are interspersed with other sections that follow the histories of various FLDS prophets and the regimes that they established and controlled, and sections on the generation of the LDS and sections of its history. It is packed with the names of individuals, and can be slow going at times. He notes the various problems that the LDS have had over the years, and those that the FLDS have had. I was somewhat ticked off to find that the polygamous groups are, generally, careful to avoid bigamy by legally marrying only one woman, but arranging “spiritual” marriages with others. Each “wife” has as many children as possible, and since the “wives” are not legally married, they all qualify for welfare, food stamps, etc. And the taxpayer is busy paying for the “polygamous” families. Large amounts of dough too! Both the LDS and the FLDS are, to me, very scary people.  They are right; God tells them they are right. God tells them that “gentiles” - non Mormons - are wrong, and of no importance. Women are to serve men, Negroes are spawns of the Devil, and God reveals his intent by direct revelation. It can be, and has been a violent religion, and it is interesting to watch the legal system deal with people who have had a divine revelation to commit murder, yet are diagnosed as completely sane! The tale is periodically reentrant, and is at times hard to keep track of. It can be quite distressing. So beware. It is not really a scholarly book, despite a set of notes, a bibliography, and an index. Most of the findings relative to history are secondary. The comments about the two Lafferty brothers are, however, primary.
 Krakauer; J; Under the Banner of Heaven; 26$; 372pp; Doubleday; NY; 2003; ISBN 0-385-50951-0

Winners & Losers: Battles, Retreats, Gains Losses and Ruins from the Vietnam War; Gloria Emerson                                                                                            (pb) NF     Winners & Losers; Gloria Emerson   
            I found this 1976 edition of a prize winning 1972 book on the shelves of our retirement community library. I skimmed through it, and found it was a dumb idea to awaken old emotions in myself. Emerson was a New York Times reporter who spent a lot of time in Viet Nam, and won a prize in 1971 for reporting from there. She seems to have covered it from the point of view of a dedicated  war protester - which she was. It is essentially a disjointed collection of expanded notes, held together with some narration. There are text notes, and a poor index. The author felt passionately about the war, and that certainly comes through strongly. The US could do no right, the Vietnamese did not much bad, and the US officer corps was glory bound, ignoring the grunts, and penalizing any military person who expressed doubts about the war. I found it very depressing. That I didn’t need.
 Emerson, G.; Winners & Losers; $?; 422pp; Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; NY; 1976; ISBN 0-15-697212-3   

                        TITLE INDEX

Absolute Rage; Robert K. Tanenbaum, 1
An Open Book; Michael Dirda, 11, 19
Beyond Belief; Elaine Pagels, 1
Blind Side; Catherine Coulter, 1
Brotherhood of the Bomb; Gregg Herkin, 2

Changing Woman; Aimée & David Thurlo, 2
Channeling Cleopatra; Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, 3
Chasing Shakespeares; Sarah Smith, 3
Cordelia Underwood; Van Reid, 4
Dirty Work; Stuart Woods, 5

Eleventh Hour; Catherine Coulter, 5
Final Justice; W.E.B. Griffin, 5
First Lady; Michael Malone, 6
Foul Matter; Martha Grimes, 6
Funny in Farsi; Firoozeh Dumas, 7

George Washington Carver; Rackham Colt, 7
I Heard the Owl Call My Name; Margaret Craven, 7
In a Strange City; Laura Lippman, 8
In Search of Klingsor; Jorge Volpi, 8
In This Mountain; Jan Karon, 9

Isle of Dogs; Patricia Cornwell, 9
Krakatoa; Simon Winchester, 9
Lost Light; Michael Connelly, 10
Milk Glass Moon; Adriana Trigiani, 10
No Graves As Yet; Anne Perry, 10

Oaxaca Journal; Oliver Sacks, 12
Oryx and Crake; Margaret Atwood, 11
Patience & Fortitude; Nicholas A. Basbanes, 12
Pipe Dreams; Robert Bryce, 12
Q is for Quarry; Sue Grafton, 13

Reading Lolita in Teheran; Azar Nafisi, 13
Second Spring; Andrew M. Greeley, 14
Separation of Power; Vince Flynn, 14
Shakespeare’s Counselor; Charlaine Harris, 15
Shrink Wrap; Robert Parker, 15
Sick Puppy; Carl Hiaasen, 15
Stolen Figs; Mark Rotella, 16
Street Dreams; Faye Kellerman, 16
The Da Vinci Code; Dan Brown, 17
The Fifth Angel; Tim Green, 17

The Kalihari Typing School For Men; Alexander McCall Smith, 18
The Lake House; James Patterson, 18
The Luck Factor; Dr. Richard Wiseman, 19
The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency; Alexander McCall Smith, 19
The Sinister Pig; Tony Hillerman, 20

The Vanished Man; Jeffrey Deaver, 20
To America; Stephen E. Ambrose, 20
Under the Banner of Heaven; Jon Krakaurer, 21
Winners & Losers; Gloria Emerson, 21