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All That Remains

This Kay Scarpetta novel was a bit more interesting than some of the others I’ve read lately. Couples are murdered, no one knows by who. Unlike many of Cornwell’s other books, you literally have little or no idea whodunit until the very last pages. The novel is slightly outdated and you think to yourself “Gee a few cell phones would have taken care of a lot of this...” but the story is sharp, the characters are their usual selves and the mystery is fairly interesting of not totally absorbing.

The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine

This book was, to the best of my knowledge, Donald Barthelme’s only book for children. It is also the last one of his books that I got to read in book form since it has been out of print since forever and damned near impossible to find a copy of. I tracked this one down vial inter-library loan so I got to revel in the weird layouts, colors and font faces and sizes, more commonplace now but positively wacky in 1971.

The story, such as it is, concerns a girl who wakes up one day and finds a little Chinese house in her back yard. She enters it and meets a djinn who shows her around the place. When I read the story to some fourth graders a few years back, it sparked a lively discussion about the three wish problem and was it or was it not fair to wish for more wishes. In any case, the book is illustrated in Barthelme style with the characters played by old engravings that he found who knows where. The layout is playful and interesting and the story is lively. It is one of the world’s great sadnesses that this book is so hard to find and is not required reading for children everywhere.

A Case of Need

Crichton theoretically wrote this book under an assumed name the year I was born and I wasn’t aware of it until it turned up in my super-teeny library when I was looking for a paperback to bring on the trip. It’s a medical mystery with a large cast of characters that takes place in Boston. The main character is a doctor whose colleague is arrested for a botched abortion he didn’t commit.This was pre Roe v. Wade and this was a serious offense, especially in super-Catholic Boston. The protagonist tries to clear his friend before he goes on trial for the abortion and subsequent death of the woman involved, which will surely ruin his career if not wind him up in jail. There’s a cast of likely suspects, and a lot of medical clues and trivia. It’s no Andromeda Strain, but it’s definitely an improvement over standard trade paperback mysteries.

Tourist Season

Hiaasen got a write up in Smithsonian magazine basically calling him some sort of an ecomystery writer intent on saving Florida from itself, so I picked up this book at my library. My library seems to have almost all of Hiaasen’s novels which means he must be really popular with the 60-90 year old set who mostly use the library. While Hiaasen is pretty amusing, and it was easy to tease out his personal opinions from the sort of Everglades romp that this book turns into, I just didn’t really like it. I think there’s something crass about “light” murder mysteries and his insistence on having many of the soon-to-be-murdered victims engage in some witty repartee with their killers just made my blood run cold. His other characters are likable and he’s a great writer, but I find the humor-mystery genre to really not be my cup of tea.

The Da Vinci Code

You’d never think there would be a subgenre as specific as religious spy thrillers, or possibly “men of the cloth with guns” but this book follow the time-honored tradition of books like Eco’s Name of the Rose and more popular novels by David Morrell. It also has an intriguing code aspect and a very alluring history aspect. Plus, even more tantalizingly, it includes a very short preface entitled fact which lets you know that a large amount of detail in the book is, in fact, true.

In retrospect, an interesting thing about the story in this book -- which covers topics such as the templars, the Holy grail, the fate of Mary Magdalene and the status of Victor Hugo among other things -- is that the entire central plot of the book takes place over less than 24 hours, starting from the moment the museum curator is shot to the final resolution the next afternoon. Additionally despite the fact that the book is chock full of historical tidbits, it doesn’t feel heavy. The raw facts never overshadow the central characters and the plot moves ahead speedily. Though the book only took a day to read, I could understand what all the fuss was about and I will now return it to the amazingly overlong hold queue at my public library.

From Potter’s Field

Another completely fine book in the Kay Scarpetta series. A bit gorey, a bit mysterious, not super challenging, good forensics. I like these books for travel reading but I honestly can’t remember a thing about them once I’ve put them down, including how to differentiate one from the other. This mystery has Temple Grandin, superevilman, as the central character.