Monday, January 26, 2015

The Detectives of the 87th Precinct Tackle a Case Involving Blood Relatives

Reviewed by James L. Thane
Four out of five stars

This book, which first appeared in 1975, is about halfway through the 87th Precinct series and it's one of the better books in the series. Two young female cousins, seventeen and fifteen, are walking home late one night after a party in a driving rainstorm. As they take refuge from the rain in an abandoned building, the elder of the two is viciously stabbed to death. The younger, though cut in several places, manages to run to the 87th Precinct station house where she reports the crime.

The younger girl is able to give the detectives a fairly detailed description of the man she says attacked them, and the detectives' first step is to interview known sex offenders. They find one who closely matches the description the girl has given them and the guy has the world's worst alibi for the time of the attack. But when the young girl looks at a lineup, instead of identifying the known perv, she mistakenly picks out a detective.

Her mistake totally destroys the girl's value as an eyewitness and so Steve Carella and the other detectives on the case are forced to fall back on other, much more pain-staking and difficult methods in their attempt to capture the guilty party. There's more than the usual amount of police procedure in this book, and it's fascinating to watch the way in which the detectives would work a case like this--or at least the way they would have worked it forty years ago, before the advent of DNA testing and other more modern investigatory tools.

It's a very entertaining book that takes a number of totally unexpected twists and turns, one that's sure to appeal to any fan of the series and to most readers who enjoy crime fiction.

Jerk Of Arc

The Red Queen (The Cousins' War, #2)The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now is the Spring of this woman's discontent...
Cause, I mean, talk about bitter!

In Philippa Gregory's The Red Queen the prominent historical figure from the War of the Roses period and eventual mother of King Henry VII, Margaret Beaufort is portrayed as one who felt God had destined her for a higher calling, of which she was robbed, and for which she was forever after embittered.

The story follows Margaret from when she was a little girl daydreaming about becoming the next Joan of Arc, an English version of the virginal saint. Historical fiction writer and avid researcher Gregory gives us a probable glimpse into what it might have been like to be a very young, very highly placed lady within the court of England during the 15th Century. A very young lady who is contracted to marriage before she can speak, who is married off by the age of 12 to a man twice her age and who is made to give birth - preferably to a male heir - by the tender age of 13, there is no place in such a girl's life for dreams of Joan of Arc.

While the crux of the story hinges upon the trials of Margaret, it is the War of the Roses, fought between the Houses of Lancaster and of York that moves the action forward in this tale. Without the war, the narrative would bog down into a long-winded list of Margaret's complaints. At times they take a tiresome turn nonetheless. However, Gregory does do an excellent job of building characters, whether it be the complex Margaret or the light but exacting hand with which the author draws up more two dimensional players.

I say "players" because while reading this, one can't help but think of the Shakespeare play King Richard III, being that Richard - that son/sun of York - is such an important figure in this tale. You may remember Richard is not portrayed kindly in the play. In fact, because of that play he is often lumped in with some of the more reviled historical figures ever to soil the Earth. In The Red Queen Richard is given somewhat of a reprieve. Don't get me wrong, you'll still be rooting against him, however, Gregory removes some of the heavy load of pure evil that Shakespeare dumped upon his poor, humped back.

Speaking of dual natures, Margaret herself is not always seen in the best of lights. As a story's heroine, there are times where she is hardly likable. Kudos to Gregory for maintaining character, and thus story, integrity. Tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may! Sometimes that makes for the best fiction, and The Red Queen, as a historical fiction, definitely ranks right up there!

Rating: 4.5 stars

View all my reviews

Some Readers May Need More Persuading

PersuasionPersuasion by Jane Austen
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Talk about persuasion! In Jane Austen's Persuasion our hero and heroine are neither interesting nor do they have an obvious magnetic attraction for one another. As readers we always knew they'd get together in the end, and yet we're still glad they do. That's the power of Jane Austen's persuasion!

Unlike in some of Austen's better work, there is a twist, but not much of a triangle. And I felt the twist to be more Bronte-esque, as in the revealing of a horrible secret. Persuasion lacks a complicated plot, and what it does have doesn't come even remotely close to that of Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility. There's plenty of irritating busybodies, ala Emma, but Austen thankfully refrained from making them too irritating. No, here there is a good balance of silly characters and solid salts-of-the-earth.

On a personal note, I found it refreshing to read so much about the navy in this book. During the Napoleonic Wars, in which Britain fought France over two decades, their superior navy was an integral part of their eventual success. Some of Austen's books are meant to take place during this tumultuous time and yet the war is hardly ever mentioned. Occasionally the female characters will fawn over some officer or other, but that's about it. In Persuasion, a naval captain is our heroine's love interest, an admiral takes lodging at her stately home and numerous other gentlemen of the navy fill out the periphery. Heck, a ship or two is even referred by name! I don't demand, or even think a book whose focus is meant to be on women finding love should be all about what the men are doing during a war, but it's nice to see that the women at least realize their country is at war, as it's nice to see Austen was not completely insensible of it either. It is quite correct that she should devote the bulk of her work to describing the home front war women of her society fought...the war to conquer a suitable man.

View all my reviews