Monday, November 10, 2014

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

The Children Act by Ian McEwan

The 1989 Children Act made a child’s welfare the top priority of English courts—easier said than done, given the complexities of modern life and the pervasiveness of human weakness, as Family Court Judge Fiona Maye discovers in McEwan’s 13th novel (after Sweet Tooth). Approaching 60, at the peak of her career, Fiona has a reputation for well-written, well-reasoned decisions. She is, in fact, more comfortable with cool judgment than her husband’s pleas for passion. 

As in Atonement, what doesn’t happen has the power to destroy; as in Amsterdam, McEwan probes the dread beneath civilized society. In spare prose, he examines cases, people, and situations, to reveal anger, sorrow, shame, impulse, and yearning. He rejects religious dogma that lacks compassion, but scrutinizes secular morality as well. Readers may dispute his most pessimistic inferences, but few will deny McEwan his place among the best of Britain’s living novelists.




The Eye of Heaven by Clive Cussler and Russell Blake

The Fargos are back, again going far.

Cussler’s (Zero Hour, 2013, etc.) blissfully wedded, globe-trotting treasure hunters Sam and Remi Fargo return for another round of stupendous discoveries, narrow escapes and relentless cheesy banter in this serviceable but unmemorable adventure. This time around, the pair is on the trail of the titular Eye of Heaven, a grapefruit-sized gem believed to adorn the tomb of fabled Toltec leader Quetzalcoatl. 

The historical context of the quest, which concerns a collision of Viking and Mesoamerican cultures, provides some interest, though it's inelegantly relayed in whopping great chunks of expository dialogue. 

An inane but inoffensive potboiler, to be quickly and pleasantly consumed and forgotten.



The Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman

Two masters of psychological suspense weave a sprawling contemporary whodunit steeped in religious mythology, gruesome violence and the supernatural.

But this father-son collaboration of Jonathan (the Alex Delaware mystery series) and Jesse (Potboiler, 2012, etc.) Kellerman has more on its mind than bizarro SoCal murder. The far-flung investigation by police detective (and rabbi's son) Jacob Lev, which takes him from Los Angeles to Prague and Oxford and back again, is interwoven with a tale, spanning eons, of ancient retribution and mystic transfiguration involving Jewish ritual and mythology; at its center, as the title implies, is a monstrous being built to render justice upon the wicked—including a serial killer or two. 

The snappy back and forth between characters works better in the contemporary segments than in the ancient ones. But what’s a few stray anachronisms in a story as ambitious and as entertaining as this?

Any mystery that leaves you as satisfied with its lingering questions as it does with its solutions is worth your patronage.

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