Controversial ultra-liberal comedian Maher follows his acerbic New Rules collection with more irreverent musings adapted from his popular weekly HBO show Real Time. Addressing his pet peeves from 2005 to the present, the book tackles everything from The Jersey Shore, to Ted Haggard, to porn addiction, to Rick Perry, as Maher traverses what things irritates him most and ruin his American experience. His alphabetized rules are interrupted by longer screeds, including his 2005 foresight about the financial and foreclosure crises of 2008, and a get-out-now letter to Levi Johnston, who fathered Bristol Palin's baby, around the time of the 2008 Republican National Convention. The nonlinear nature of the book takes readers back and forth through the later years of the Bush Administration and the first three of the Obama Administration, showcasing Maher's consistently unforgiving wordplay, snark, and strangely self-aware humility. His satire can be surprisingly humane, though he never misses the opportunity to pun, which makes every entry capable of surprise. The fearless and honest Maher remains the best cultural critic since George Carlin, and his most recent effort is as hilarious as it is precise.
MWA Grand Master Grafton’s finely tuned 22nd Kinsey Millhone novel (after 2009’s U Is for Undertow) finds the sharp-witted California PI filled with remorse after the apparent suicide of Audrey Vance, a woman she helped arrest for shoplifting. When Audrey’s perplexed fiancé, Marvin Striker, hires Kinsey to further investigate her death, Kinsey’s astute and relentless prying opens a Pandora’s box. Was Audrey tied to major crime lords? Are these racketeers linked to corrupt cops? Kinsey’s prickly personality and tart tongue antagonize just about everyone, including Marvin, several loan sharks, a stone-cold killer, and a hapless burglar who knows more than is healthy for him. For good measure, Kinsey gets punched in the face on her 38th birthday. An engrossing subplot involves an illicit love affair that neatly dovetails into the main story. This being 1988, Kinsey relies on her Rolodex, file cards, and land line, but her intuition is her chief asset. Readers will wish her well on her feisty and independent way to the end of the alphabet.