Through a screen, darkly

From time to time, my younger son, a Navy officer, contributes a review. This one is particularly timely, not to mention thought-provoking.

Reviewed by Lt. Samuel Brinson

LIKEWAR: The Weaponization of Social Media. By P. W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 416 pages. $28

Over the last few years, the internet and specifically social media have grown to be the most prevalent form of interaction between the newsmakers and news consumers in our society. This change has led to lots of thought pieces and handwringing from those who view this as the beginning of the end for our properly informed Western society. In LikeWar, P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking, two high level National Security experts, take their swing at what has happened and where we are to go from here. If you read their book, your beliefs about the state of media, social interaction and society as a whole will be questioned, while your understanding of the events that have led us here will be greatly increased.

LikeWar explores many facets of our recent technological boom, taking us from the beginning of the internet through the current events of Russian meddling and even front-line battlefield issues of which the average reader is probably unaware. This book provides a playbook for the future by outlining the past, as all good military and strategic history books do. I wouldn’t be surprised if this book is soon referenced in college courses covering our current state of affairs and showing some views of how people should move forward.

Although thoroughly cited and well researched (as evidenced by its more than 100 pages of end notes), this book is shockingly easy to read and will keep the reader glued to the pages.

LikeWar lays out why we shouldn’t be looking at social media and our online presence in the innocent ways that we did when they began. Every tweet, every post and every click on the internet can actually be interpreted as a shot fired in the new 21stcentury war, which is waged in the airwaves. Singer and Brooking do an excellent job of illustrating this by showing comparisons between modern issues and historic lessons as old as the “Allegory of the Cave” from Plato’s Republic.

This book is a must read for any person who wishes to be an involved citizen in the 21stcentury, as it makes us all aware of just how important every action we take in our day-to-day lives is, even those occurring through a screen. While I can’t promise that you’ll feel better about our current state of affairs after reading LikeWar, I believe it is vitally important that every American read this book and take to heart what it lays before us.

Posted in American History, Contemporary Nonfiction, Current Events, Military, Politics, Social Media | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Driving out the dark spirits

Don’t you just love it when a reviewer introduces you to a promising-sounding series with a lot of books in it?

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

DESOLATION MOUNTAIN. By William Kent Krueger. Atria Books. 320 pages. $26

When the mining company moved out of the Iron Lake area, it left behind a ravaged landscape and a devastated economy. Over time, however, the land began to recover and the people of the Ojibwe Reservation lived through it, as they have lived through so much. Now, however, the mining company wants to move back in, and Cork O’Connor’s son starts having visions of a great bird shot from the sky.

Then a  senator opposed to the mining dies in a plane crash on the mountain. Soon, the Minnesota landscape crawls with federal forces, black vehicles and dark spirits. Cork O’Connor, the mixed blood ex-sheriff at the heart of this series, starts his own investigation, aided by former agent Bo Thorson, imported from a previous stand-alone novel of William Kent Krueger’s, The Devil’s Bed. No one can account for conflicting agencies flooding the territory, and soon locals start disappearing. The pace picks up, and so do the visions of a dark beast in the woods.

Krueger has mined this territory steadily for some years (this is novel 17 in the series), and he has not exhausted the vein of authenticity he uncovered. He neither plays up the romanticism of the Native American life, nor plays down the spiritual reality of the people. It is only the innate sense of the peoples’ way of life and knowledge of the land that enables O’Connor to help bring the truth to light. It is only great skill at developing suspense while moving action along that enables Krueger to make this one of the most action-packed of the series.

By the end of the book, the dark spirits have been driven out, and the reader’s spirits have been lifted.

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A book for those who love books, bookshops and mysteries

I somehow misplaced this review when Bob Moyer submitted it last fall. He politely nudged me to find and post it.  And now I won’t rest until I have the book.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

THE BOOKSHOP OF YESTERDAYS. By Amy Meyerson. Park Row Books. 364 pages. $32.99.

Some books are scary.

Not Halloween or Stephen King scary, not even Nicholas Sparks scary. Scary because just as you settle in with a satisfying cast of characters, a comfortable setting and a good narrative flow, a suspicion surfaces — will the premise behind all this hold up? Will the resolution undermine this good feeling? In other words, will the sum be as good as the parts?

This book is one of those books. Miranda, who hasn’t seen her uncle since she was a child, flies home to his funeral in L.A. She had received a copy of The Tempest and a card that says Understanding prepares us for the future just before she left. She associated it with the scavenger hunts her uncle set up for her to learn different lessons. After the funeral, she learns that he left her his bookstore — Prospero’s Books. It’s a pre-gentrification landmark in Silver Lake, just below Griffith Park. It’s been there a long time, but apparently not much longer — it’s saddled with debt. She decides to stay, to try to shore it up, to at least sell it. It’s a place that makes any booklover feel at home, with books chosen to suit the owner, not the customer; with a manager who avoids hard financial questions; customers, including a retired doctor and a screenwriter, who hang out all day; and a tatted-up barista who has been there almost as long as she is old,

At the same time, Miranda follows the clues her uncle has set up, a literary scavenger hunt that leads her through the works of writers including Hemingway, Austen and Erica Jong, as well as Shakespeare. Like the games he set up for her as a child, these clues are not just clever verbal ones. They are contextual clues that force her to examine the setting, the subject matter, engaging her and the reader in figuring out just what her uncle wants her to find out — and her parents don’t.

That’s where the concern comes in. Can this question he keeps posing, that sends her across the Southern California countryside, have a big enough “reveal” to justify the time and commitment Miranda and the reader put into the quest?

The answer is yes. Besides being a bookstore-lover’s delight, the book pays off with a nicely unwound mystery that keeps the reader engaged right up to the denouement. And that is?  Well, you’ll have to visit The Bookshop to find out. Don’t expect anything but a grunt from the manager. And don’t forget to tip the barista.


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Stephanie Plum’s latest adventure is delicious

Reviewed by Linda C. Brinson

LOOK ALIVE TWENTY-FIVE. By Janet Evanovich. Penguin Audio. 7 hours; 6 CDs. Read by Lorelei King. $32. Also available in print from G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Stephanie Plum, the not-very-intrepid bounty hunter in Trenton, N.J., somehow finds new ways to career more or less unscathed through her zany, dangerous and outrageous life. That’s welcome news for fans of the prolific Janet Evanovich and Stephanie, her finest creation.

You’d think Evanovich would run out of crazy ways for Stephanie to get into trouble as she pursues the criminals who have run out on the bail her cousin Vinnie provided them. But her fertile imagination comes through again in “Look Alive Twenty-Five.”

Through a series of circumstances including her habitual shortage of money and Cousin Vinnie’s deal-making, Stephanie suddenly finds herself managing the Red River Deli in Trenton. Lula, the colorful former ho’ who’s her sidekick in the bond enforcement business, joins her with enthusiasm. After all, what’s not to like about a job that includes free food?

As it turns out, there’s a lot not to like, starting with the fact that Stephanie’s three most recent predecessors as deli manager have disappeared mysteriously, in quick succession, leaving only one shoe behind.

As the disappearances continue, Stephanie finds the two men in her life, her boyfriend, Joe Morelli, a homicide detective who’s working the disappearance cases, and Ranger, the mysterious and very sexy head of a security company with whom she has a – shall we say? – complicated relationship, teaming up to make sure she and her shoes are safe 24 hours a day.

Stephanie’s running pretty ragged trying to keep the deli functioning while pursuing her bail-jumpers as time allows. As usual, there are always unexpected complications surrounding the people she’s trying to haul into court, complications such as feral chickens and cat kidnapping.

After an employee Ranger assigns to protect Stephanie becomes one of the half-shod kidnap victims, Ranger, Stephanie and Morelli are all united in the quest to find out who’s doing the snatching, and why.  Oh, and Wolf, the man (or is he really human?) who appears from time to time in her locked apartment and then vanishes in a puff of smoke, is also involved in the quest. The stakes get higher as some corpses start to appear.

And Stephanie’s balancing act gets even more challenging when the disappearances and Lula’s unorthodox waitressing and sandwich-making talents turn the deli into a social media sensation.

Then there’s the breakfast burrito food truck incident. But really, there’s no need for spoilers. If you’re a fan of Stephanie’s grab this book. If you’re not, why not?

As always, Lorelei King does a terrific job of bringing the story to entertaining life in the audio version.  Her range of voices and accents is amazing.




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The never-ending war

Reviewed by Linda C. Brinson

THE RECKONING. By John Grisham. Random House Audio. 18 hours; 15 CDs. Read by Michael Beck. $45. Also available in print from Doubleday.

As John Grisham’s latest novel opens, Pete Banning, a highly decorated World War II hero, family man and scion of a respected cotton-farming family in northern Mississippi, decides he can’t put off what he must do any longer. Methodically, he drives into the small town of Clanton near his family’s farm, walks into the study of the the Methodist Church, and shoots dead the pastor, his longtime friend Dexter Bell.

When the sheriff comes for him, Pete goes quietly to jail. And quiet continues to be the operative word for Pete, who steadfastly refuses to say anything about the crime other than acknowledge that yes, he did it, and he knew what he was doing. He lets his old friend, the family’s lawyer, represent him, but he refuses either to explain his motivation or to plead insanity, his only possible defense.

Pete’s wife has been in an insane asylum since he had her committed months earlier, and their two children are away at college, where he orders them to stay. His only emotional support is his crusty sister, who lives alone on her half of the family farm.

It’s the fall of 1946, and Pete hasn’t long been home from World War II. For much of the war, he was missing and presumed dead in the Philippines, and he returned with serious wounds that required months of hospitalization and rehab.

A considerable chunk of the book is classic Grisham courtroom procedure and legal machinations, as his lawyers grasp at any straw to save his life or at least delay his execution, and eventually, try to save the family farm and home from legal claims.

As all this plays out, we come to know Pete’s family – his sister and children, and gradually, his wife.

Pete, though, remains mostly an enigma, who continues to insist: “I have nothing to say.”

Interspersed with the story of the legal battles and their effects on the family are the most gripping parts of the book, the story of what Pete experienced during the war. In a departure from his usual fare, Grisham gives us the vivid and unforgettable story of desperation, heroism and survival. Pete survived the Bataan death march and the starvation and other cruelties in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. Eventually, after more harrowing experiences, he becomes one of the many guerrilla fighters living in the jungle and mounting daring attacks on the Japanese.

Obviously well researched, Grisham’s tale is an eye-opening lesson in World War II history for those of us who know only the lighter, sanitized version.

The legal thriller part of the book and the war story part of the book seem almostdisconnected, which may be part of what Grisham is trying to say. We want what’s hinted at to become clear – that Pete’s wartime experiences led to his seemingly inexplicable decision to murder the preacher, that PTSD was a major factor. And we want that connection to be a mitigating factor that will spare Pete and his family from the worst consequences of his actions.

But PTSD wasn’t known at that time, and the closest we come to it in this novel is people speculating that Pete “went crazy.”

The jacket says that The Reckoning is in the Southern Gothic tradition, and that’s true as far as it goes. The novel is without a doubt a tragedy, and one in which the tragic flaws are not just in the main character but also in the entire society – that of Mississippi in the 1940s, with all the poisons of entrenched racism and other prejudice, hatreds, ignorance and destructive secrets.

Ably read by Michael Beck, the audio version of the book is compelling and, especially in the war narratives, unforgettable.


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America: Our founders, ourselves

Reviewed by Linda C. Brinson

AMERICAN DIALOGUE: The Founders and Us. By Joseph J. Ellis. Random House Audio. Read by Arthur Morey. 8 ½ hours; 7 CDs. $40. Also available in print from Knopf. 283 pages. $27.95.

I started listening to this book before the recent mid-term election, hoping for some antidote to my growing pessimism amid the negative ads, outrageous tweets and depressing news. Sometimes, reading American history is comforting, in that it reminds me that our country has survived dark times and fallen short of our ideals in the past.

To that end, this new book from the noted historian Joseph Ellis did provide some comfort and hope that this great experiment we call the United States will manage to survive the present dark times with its best ideals intact. But Ellis does not sugarcoat reality, and it’s also clear that at this moment, rational dialogue like that among the Founding Fathers is sorely lacking.

What Ellis is doing in this book, in a way, is to encourage 21stcentury Americans to have a thoughtful dialogue with our past – on “ongoing conversation between past and present” in which we consider what the debates and decisions of the founding era mean for our time.

He looks at how four key founders dealt with key issues: Washington and foreign policy, Jefferson and racism, Madison and constitutional law, and John Adams and economic inequality. Then he considers how these issues inform our problems and politics today, as we struggle to fulfill our role as a superpower, deal with an increasingly diverse but still racist society, argue over “originalism” and live in what he calls a new Gilded Age with extreme economic inequality.

As he has in earlier books, Ellis makes clear the shortcomings of the founders as well as their astonishingly great achievements.

He recognizes the remarkable, trailblazing accomplishments such as the separation of church and state and the Constitution’s checks and balances that avoided too much centralization of power. But he also analyzes the great failures – the treatment of the Native Americans and the inability or unwillingness to deal with the institution of slavery.

One of Ellis’ themes is that the Founders were not some sort of gods or infallible wise men. They were humans, with human flaws and shortcomings, and they were also a mix of idealism and pragmatism as they dealt with lofty values and contemporary realities.

Perhaps the greatest – and most dangerous – difference Ellis sees between the age of the founders and the current climate is today’s apparent inability to have reasoned dialogue. Instead, we have polarization, extremes, exaggerations and lies, refusals to listen to the other side, tweets and “arguments” that go nowhere and change no minds or hearts.

Most of the book is about the “then,” but Ellis also deals with the now. He minces no words as he talks about the Koch brothers, Robert Bork and Justice Antonin Scalia, the National Rifle Association and the distortions in the New Right’s arguments about such issues as the Second Amendment and the proper role of the federal government.

Donald Trump, he writes, represents the danger that always lurks in “political frameworks based on popular opinion” – they are vulnerable to “charismatic charlatans with a knack for exploiting popular fears.”  The “controversial” Trump presidency represents “the demagogic downside of democracy,” he writes.

Ellis offers, perhaps, some hope as he notes that “Much like meteors streaking across the horizon, demagogues tend to enjoy only limited life-spans, so the Trump presidency is likely to resemble the proverbial blip on the historical radar screen.”

But he goes on to observe, soberingly, that “the very fact that a person with Trump’s obvious mental, emotional, and moral limitations could be chosen to lead the free world casts a dark shadow of doubt over the credibility and reliability of the United States as the first democratic superpower.”

Not for Ellis the kind of patriotism that romanticizes and idealizes our past or our leaders. But he offers a truer kind of love for country as he helps us think clearly about the remarkable humans, circumstances and ideals that gave us the United States we have today – and about what we can gain from informed debates about our shared history and what it means today. The founders’ “greatest legacy,” he ventures, “is the recognition that argument itself is the answer.”

I listened to the audio version of Ellis’ book, ably read by Arthur Morey, because I feared I would not take the time to sit down and read the book myself. For a book with so much history, insight and thought-provoking analysis, it was remarkably easy to follow. I am able to offer direct quotations because I was also fortunate enough to have a print version, and that includes a valuable index and Notes section.

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Crime, life and most of all, books

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

THE MAN WHO CAME UPTOWN. By George Pelecanos. Little, Brown. 263 pages. $27.

Have you read the collection of Appalachian short stories Kentucky Straight?  How about westerns by Elmore Leonard, or The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien?  Michael Hudson has. In fact, he has read everything Anna the prison librarian has suggested. Incarcerated while awaiting trial, he’s developed a bad reading habit. To him, a book becomes “… like a piece of art … It made him see what he was reading. It was how he dreamed.”  When Michael leaves jail, he takes his habit with him, into a new life free of crime.

Maybe. He’s free because a private detective named Phil Ornazian used a little extra-legal leverage to get Michael’s victim to drop the charges. He needs Michael’s skills as a “wheelman” for some over-the-legal-line activities he’s slipped into. He uses blackmail to get Michael behind the wheel of a car. Michael struggles, but picks up a job, and a lot of books. Tension builds between Phil and Michael.

Then Michael bumps into Anna in the bar where he’s settled in as a staff member. Their bond carries over, and they meet a few times. Michael keeps up his reading habit, and Phil keeps involving Michael in his habit.

Will Anna stay with her husband even though “Her heart wanted many different things”?  Will Phil’s frenzy catch up to him?  Will Michael be pulled into a life of crime he desperately wants to leave behind?

Although George Pelecanos applies all his skills here, with sharp dialogue, and the evocative D.C. setting he’s known for, this book is actually about — books. Throughout, Anna — Pelecanos, duh — recommends books to prisoners, Michael keeps reading books she recommends, books that resonate with life and crime, a life of crime, and a life in crime. We get insight into the writing that the author values and honors. The greatest honor is paid to the master pulp writer John D. MacDonald. In her comments about The Deep Blue Good-Byeto her prison reading group,  “Anna had argued that (the book) was … about the complex nature of masculinity and the cost of retribution.”

So is this  book. After you finish it, go back and read the MacDonald. Two great books. Two great writers.


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A North Carolina marvel

Bob Moyer has visited my territory, reviewing a new novel set in coastal North Carolina. I’m glad he did. I’m eager to read this one myself. Now if we could just get Bob to come visit these marshes in person…

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING. By Delia Owens. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 384 pages.

Delia Owens did not write a North Carolina novel; she created a North Carolina marvel. She has dovetailed into a single book a coming of age novel, superb nature writing, a love story, a survival tale, a murder mystery and a courtroom drama, all set in the coastal marsh of North Carolina.

Out yonder, where ships crash “like paper hats,” an abusive man, damaged by World War II, moves his family into a ramshackle cabin. One by one, the family escapes, leaving the youngest child, Kya, alone with him. She survives “…like a minnow. Just keep out of the way, don’t let him see you, dart from sunspots to shadows.”  When Kya is only 10, he disappears as well, leaving her where the crawdads sing, “…far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters.”  Avoiding authorities “like a minnow,” she learns “…wonders and real-life knowledge she would’ve never learned in school— “The marsh became her mother.”

Into this world enters a boy, Tate, who encounters her just as her body shows “…inklings and foothills of womanhood.”  He provides her companionship she has never known, and the ability to read. During the time they spend together, her reading articulates what she carries in her blood and bones — the forces behind the deceptive flicker of fireflies that devour their own, the disguises that inferior males take on to prey on females and how a mother can leave her children.

Tate leaves her as well, but she has more than knowledge from her reading as solace — she has poetry to manifest her solitude. Quotes from Emily Dickinson, Galway Kinnell, and a woman named Amanda Hamilton punctuate the text. “I didn’t know a sentence could be so full,” she gasps when she first reads a poem. Indeed, the same can be said of the author’s writing. She fills the pages with lyrical phrasing:  “Death’s crude pluck, as always, stealing the show; “He whispered his hands against her inner thighs;” “I know feathers,” Kya says to Tate.

At the center of the book lies a murder that colors the narrative as it moves back and forth from the investigation and Kya’s backstory. Colors, informs, but does not distract — it is only a piece of the questions Kya encounters in her exploration of how “Some parts of us will always be what we were, what we had to be to survive way back yonder.”  The culminating courtroom drama develops with exceptional tension, leading a character to burst out when the verdict arrives: “Would somebody read it to us!”

What happens in the conclusion may not surprise you, but how it happens will. Most likely, it will send you back to re-read sections of the book, to savor in a new light what already was remarkable. Where The Crawdads Sing is a fine place to visit, and then reflect.

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Hope for our times

Reviewed by Linda C. Brinson

ALMOST EVERYTHING: Notes on Hope. By Anne Lamott. Read by the author. Penguin Audio. 3½ hours; 3 CDs. $34.

This little book from Anne Lamott is great medicine when things seem bleak and life is getting you down.

I popped the audio version into my car’s CD player one day not long ago when the news was full of horrible, hate-inspired violence and the airwaves were bristling with alarmist political ads. OK, Anne Lamott, I thought: See if you can give me any reason to hope.

She did.

I had never read anything by Lamott, who is a novelist as well the author of books that might be called spiritual or inspirational. My sister had talked about liking her books, but I didn’t really know much about her.

I’m also wary of self-help, shallow popular religion and feel-good pep talks.

I need not have worried. For the many people who are already fans of Anne Lamott, I’ll just point out that this brief book, written for the era of Trump in America, is here, offering a much-needed dose of what Lamott has to offer.

For others who might have missed her, I’ll say this book will not only cheer you, it will also make you want to go find some of her earlier works.

Anne Lamott recorded the audio version herself, so listening to it is a lot like having an enjoyable conversation with a friend – a lively, irreverent, funny friend who seems to have many of the same anxieties, insecurities and doubts that I do, but who finds reasons to keep going – with a zest for life – nonetheless.

Like a lunchtime conversation, this book jumps from subject to subject and doesn’t deal with any of them in great depth. You leave the table feeling much better, but it’s hard to pinpoint any one, profound thing she said that made a difference.

Lamott says she set out to write down all that she’s learned that’s worth passing on to her grandson.

One thing she’s obviously learned is that “hurt, loss and disaster” are common in life.  Definitely no holier-than-thou Christian, she speaks frankly and often with wry humor about her own troubled past and shortcomings. But a believing, churchgoing Christian she is, even if a left-wing, latter-day hippie who recognizes that not everyone’s idea of God – or whatever supreme force there might be – is the same.

In her very personal, honest, peripatetic musings, she touches on all sorts of topics: body image and eating disorders; family dynamics, birth order and the ways we never outgrow our childhood selves; the futility of trying to “fix” other people…. The anxieties she was grappling with as she wrote included a devastating fire in California, where she lives, and her fear each morning that she would learn upon waking that the U.S. had bombed North Korea.

“All truth really is paradox,” she writes. Her stories show us that life is full of change, so when things seem bleak, that’s all the more reason to keep going. She also reminds us that there are nuggets of hope and happiness even when things are bad. Acknowledging  that much in life is  hard, she offers not the brand of faith that promises if you just pray enough, everything will go your way, but the faith that says life is worth living despite very real problems and disappointments. She finds joy in teaching the diverse children in her Sunday school class and in visiting the church garden with an elderly friend.

When I finished Almost Everything, I found myself not only more hopeful but also wishing I could visit with Lamott again in a week or so. I’ll have to look for some of her earlier books. Meanwhile, remembering her stories about how doing something nice for someone is good for the soul, I ordered a copy of this new book to be delivered to the sister who’s been telling me about Anne Lamott for years.

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Spenser: The magic continues

Bob Moyer takes a look at the latest Spenser novel and finds it worthy of the tradition.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

ROBERT B. PARKER’S OLD BLACK MAGIC (SPENSER). By Ace Atkins. G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 336 pages. $27.

Spenser, the singularly named Boston P.I., shares both a name and a proclivity for poetic expression with the 16th century poet, first name Edmund.  Spenser’s been quoting and quipping ever since he replied to a beefy guy’s threats in The Godswulf Manuscript, “Be still my heart.”

In this latest book, when a gangster’s lawyer tells him he has to meet the boss in a particular place, Spenser replies, “I’m so excited.  I just don’t know what to wear.” The caustic comments have been consistent through 47 books.  What hasn’t been consistent is the author – Robert B. Parker wrote the first one, Ace Atkins the last one.  Atkins was anointed by the Parker estate to keep the franchise going upon Parker’s demise, and he’s done a remarkable job. Spenser still keeps in topnotch shape at his favorite gym, and stops just shy of being bulletproof.  He continues to prowl renowned Beantown dining spots, and he cooks the occasional gourmet meal for his main squeeze, Susan.  The two of them, as always, steam up the pages, but all the sex, keeping with tradition, happens between chapters.  Best of all, Atkins and Parker both belong to the Elmore Leonard Don’t-Write-the-Words-People-Don’t-Read School of Writing.  A Spenser novel sails right along.

In Old Black Magic, Parker is approached by a respected detective at death’s door.  Twenty years ago, an El Greco painting was stolen from the Winthrop Museum, a fictional museum modeled after Boston’s Gardiner Museum, where a similar heist took place.  It appears the painting has resurfaced.  As a favor, Spenser, who considers a Kane’s donut from nearby Saugus a work of art, takes the case.  He moves into the milieu of art world highlifes and underworld lowlifes searching for the painting.  Just when he thinks he’s located it, it disappears. Spenser spends the rest of the story playing a game of Mafia musical chairs, assisted by new crony Vinnie, a good bad guy.  With his help Spenser takes on the bad bad guys, cracking wise and skulls while quoting Shakespeare along the way.

It’s the Shakespeare quotes that mark Atkins’ mastery. They come with the same reflexive skill as the quips, throwing light from another time and temperament upon the mortal coil Spenser moves in.  No one, particularly Spenser, comments upon his penchant — except Susan.  And she nails it when she points out that no other detective quotes the Bard with such abandon.  It’s one of the things that appeal to her.

And to us, after all these years.  Cry havoc, and unleash the next book!


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