Wednesday, October 29, 2014

There is never a wrong time to curl up with a good book.

Perfidia by James Ellroy

Though it pivots on the Pearl Harbor attack, this worm’s-eye view from thoroughly corrupt Los Angeles is a war novel like no other.

It’s complicated, and the author (The Hilliker Curse, 2010, etc.) wouldn’t have it any other way. There's no telling the good guys from the bad in Ellroy's Los Angeles, because there are no good guys. The major distinction between cops and criminals is that the former have the power to frame the latter and kill the innocent with impunity, which they (or at least some) do without conscience or moral compunction, often in complicity with the government and even the Catholic Church.

The plot follows a tick-tock progression over the course of three weeks, in which “dark desires sizzle” and explode with a furious climax.

Ellroy is not only back in form—he's raised the stakes.





Robert B. Parker's Blind Spot (Jesse Stone Series #13) by Reed Farrel Coleman

Coleman (The Hollow Girl, 2014, etc.) follows Michael Brandman (Robert B. Parker’s Damned If You Do, 2013, etc.) into the Jesse Stone franchise, with results that couldn’t be more different.

Before Jesse Stone was police chief of Paradise, Massachusetts, or put in his time on the LAPD, he was a shortstop with the Albuquerque Dukes, the Dodgers’ Triple A club, his dreams of big-league glory canceled when a double-play ball relayed by second baseman Vic Prado and a runner’s hard slide into second took out his shoulder for good. Now Prado, of all people, is hosting a Dukes reunion in New York that Jesse feels honor-bound to attend. He’s never been close to the golden boy who stole his girlfriend Kayla, married her, became a major league All Star and retired to become a wealthy venture capitalist, and he has no idea Prado organized this event just so he could involve Jesse in his latest venture. Although Jesse does take the time to bed Kayla’s friend Dee Harrington, Prado’s scheme to rope him in never gets off the ground because Jesse has to scuttle back home to investigate the murder of Tufts student Martina Penworth, 18, and the disappearance of her boyfriend, Benjamin Salter, the only suspect. He has no idea that the crimes in his backyard are as closely linked to Prado as his failure to make it to the majors. Meanwhile, Prado’s mobbed-up colleagues decide they overreached in kidnapping Ben Salter to bend his father, Harlan Salter IV, to their will and offer to make peace by withdrawing the demand they’d made on him. Dad has other ideas. If this all sounds more like Coleman than Parker, wait till you hear the dialogue. More densely and diffusely plotted and less punchy than its original, with characters who often speak in complete sentences.

If the Parker estate keeps pouring new wine into old bottles, who’ll be the next vintner? Mary Higgins Clark? Andrew Vachss? Janet Evanovich?



Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (Mitford Series #10) by Jan Karon

Father Tim Kavanagh ponders the past and looks to the future in Mitford, his beloved North Carolina mountain town.

A few years into his retirement, following a trip to his hometown—where he discovered an unknown half brother—and a journey to Ireland, Father Tim and his wife, Cynthia, are back in Mitford, and he has to decide what to do with his future. Cynthia, a beloved author of children’s books, is always busy, but Father Tim is a bit at sea. A humble man who believes in the power of prayer, he knows God will provide. He turns down the bishop’s request that he return to his old parish after the incumbent admits to adultery and attempts suicide, but he does take on the job of running the village bookstore while the owner is on bed rest for a dangerous pregnancy. Dooley Barlowe, the young man he raised as his own, is well on his way to becoming a veterinarian after a dysfunctional childhood that left some of his scattered siblings still in need of help. Father Tim especially worries for Dooley’s brother Sammy, who seems lost and bitter. Father Tim lunches with old friends, continues to raise money for a children’s hospital, encourages Sammy’s interest in landscaping and fights to control the diabetes that caused his retirement. As he helps out the many friends and neighbors he has known for so many years, his path becomes clearer; as Christmas approaches, his heart is filled with joy despite the problems and doubts that beset them all.

After a long hiatus, Karon (Light From Heaven, 2005, etc.) has returned with a novel that offers something for those who believe and those who do not. All the beloved quirky characters are here, the past is neatly summarized and the future, full of hope.




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