WHAT IS MINE – Anne Holt

Anne Holt writes wonderful boks that are very different from each other

First –

WHAT IS MINE – Anne Holt

Posted on October 7, 2010

“She was walking home from school.  It was nearly National Day.  It would be the first 17th of May without Mommy.  Her national costume was too short.  Mommy had already let the hem down twice….  ‘Selbu? That’s your name, isn’t it?’…Never talk to strangers.  Never go with anyone you don’t know.  Be polite to grown-ups….’Yes’, she whispered and tried to slip past.  Her shoe, her new sneaker with the pink stripes,sank into the mud and the dead leaves. Emilie nearly lost her balance.  The man caught her by the arm.  Then he put something over her face…An hour and a half later, Emilie Selbu was reported missing to the police.”

WHAT IS MINE is many stories centered on the same theme, the terror that lives in the back of every parents’ mind – the disappearance of a child.

The story also centers on two dedicated professionals who come to the story from different paths.  Johanne Vik is a lawyer, a psychologist and an FBI profiler.  She is deeply committed to proving that a man accused of the murder of an eight year-old girl in 1956 was unjustly convicted.  The story is complicated because Aksel Seier had applied for parole eight times, writing only two sentences, “I am innocent.  Therefore I request a pardon.”

Alvhild Sofienberg’s first job was as an executive officer for the Norwegian Correctional Services.  She was responsible for preparing applications for royal pardons and Aksel Seier’s application piqued her interest.  She sent for all the documents associated with his case and she concluded that he was innocent of the crime.  Seier wouldn’t meet with her, rather unusual under the circumstances, so she attempted to get the attention of those above her in the chain of command.  But the documentation, a yard high, disappeared.  The files were reportedly collected by the police.  And then she was told confidentially that Aksel Seier had been released.  Sofienberg is dying and she wants Johanne to find him, to prove that he is innocent.  The release gave him his freedom but it didn’t clear his name.

Detective Inspector Adam Sturbo wants Johanne to be an advisor, a profiler, on his team.  A second child has disappeared and Norwegians know well that this category of crime isn’t confined to the United States.  Johanne is more than reluctant but Adam isn’t giving up.  And then a dead child is delivered to his mother.

It is generally believed that the kidnapping of a child falls into three categories: ransom, parental custody disputes, and sexual abuse.  But the child’s body shows no signs of abuse, no ransom note was delivered, and the parents are together.  The pathologist cannot find a cause of death.  The police have nothing.  Johanne has nothing.  Then, gradually, Adam and Johanne begin to pick apart the lives of the parents to find common commonalities.

Anne Holt’s story lines include the death of a child in the 1950′s by a man who was unjustly convicted, released without notice, and has not been seen since the day he walked out of prison.  Children are disappearing in present day Oslo and bodies of the children show no cause of death.  The story is told from multiple view points, with changes in time and location, and nothing is lost in the reading.  The author glides from one character, to another location, to a different time without losing the reader at any point.

The book comes together for an ending that is satisfying to the reader and keeps the characters true to the personalities and principles with which the author has endowed them.

WHAT IS MINE is worth reading.

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DETROIT BREAKDOWN, another book in the Will Anderson series, will be availble September 4.  This is the review of the second book in the series which is set in the early years of the twentieth century.  Will Anderson witnesses the beginning of two of the biggest moments in American history: the century in which America emerges as a world power and a financial juggernaut and the birth of the automotive industry.  The internal combustion engine is the catalyst that creates the America that stretches from sea to shining sea.

Posted on October 26, 2011

MOTOR CITY SHAKEDOWN is the type of book I really enjoy: history and mystery blended so well that it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.  It had an extra hook as well.  The time period is 1911 and the city is Detroit, a time and a place I know very little about.  The author remedied my ignorance by offering plenty of information on both.

Will Anderson is the son of William Anderson, owner of Detroit Electric, a company on par with those other companies in the city that make vehicles using the internal combustion engine.  In the early 1900′s, there is real competition between the supporters of each and the competition is not played as a gentleman’s game.  Will is a survivor and an avenger.  His best friend,  Wesley McRae, was murdered in a particularly horrifying manner and Will lost the use of his hand, and some fingers, when he tried to save himself and his former fiancee, Elizabeth Hume, from being killed in another diabolical way.  These events led Will to develop an addiction to morphine, something easily purchased from a pharmacist, and about which no one seems to have much concern.

Will is certain that crime boss, Vito Adamo, had something to do with Wesley’s murder.  He wants to talk to Adamo and he figures the best way to make that happen is to have a talk with Carlo Moretti, Adamo’s driver.  Will has been following Moretti and on this hot summer night he makes up his mind that he won’t put off the conversation again.  Moretti has a routine that involves some time with a prostitute before he returns to Adamo’s bar.  On this night, the woman leaves in a hurry and Moretti doesn’t leave at all.  When Will goes to investigate, he finds Moretti dead, unmistakably a victim of homicide.  He knows he will be the first suspect and, when a woman identifies him as the man coming from Moretti’s room,  he is proved correct.

There is constant action in MOTOR CITY SHAKEDOWN, so much action that to tell a little is to tell too much.  Detroit is a city on the move.  The infant automotive industry has the power to push it to the top of American cities.  The money the industry brings to Detroit has the weight to pull it into the sewers.  The fascinating thing about the story and the historical background is how much the city has not changed in one hundred years. Drug addiction was rampant, crossed socio-economic lines, and gave rise to gangs competing for the lucrative trade.  The Teamsters Union was becoming a force to be reckoned with and that made it an attractive target for organized crime.  Crime families had roots in the villages of the “old country” and ethnicities dominated various parts of the city, each brutalizing their own people and any other people who challenged them.  The families of the automotive industry gave their names to their companies, fought to be on the top of the heap, and, in many cases, sold their souls for success.  It is interesting that Edsel Ford, whose name became a joke after a car was named for him, was actually a decent and warm human being, proving that on occasion the apple is smart enough to roll as far away from the tree as momentum will carry it.

The America of the early 1900′s was a place where all sorts of maladies were blamed on the “fast” life styles created by the speed of transportation, communication, and invention and where those maladies were cured by electroshock therapy.  How much creative genius was destroyed through medical “miracles”?

The author introduced me to “Taylorism”,  a “System of scientific management advocated by Fred W. Taylor. In Taylor’s view, the task of factory management was to determine the best way for the worker to do the job, to provide the proper tools and training, and to provide incentives for good performance. He broke each job down into its individual motions, analyzed these to determine which were essential, and timed the workers with a stopwatch. With unnecessary motion eliminated, the worker, following a machinelike routine, became far more productive.”  Eliminate the part about providing incentives for good performance and we have the “assembly line” made famous by Henry Ford.

MOTOR CITY SHAKEDOWN upended all my views about life at the turn of the century.  The Detroit of 1911 is the Detroit of Prohibition and, in its worst aspects, the Detroit of 2011.  The motor city has been taken down by the disappearance of the auto industry and the poverty continues.

This book is a must read for anyone interested in cars or American history.

I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours, a virtual tour posting a different review each day.

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THE FOURTH WATCHER – Timothy Hallinan

THE FOURTH WATCHER is the second book in the Poke Rafferty series.

Posted on August 15, 2010

  No matter how hard Poke Rafferty tries, even  when he isn’t looking for trouble,trouble comes looking for him.

Poke  is the author of the “LOOKING  FOR TROUBLE” travel books that give readers ideas on how to  escape the beaten path if they are willing to risk being beaten.  More than ready to settle down with Rose  and their adopted daughter, Miaow, Poke has decided to abandon the  series for the domestic life he craves.

In THE FOURTH WATCHER,  trouble shows up in the form of a US Secret Service
Agent, Richard Elson.  Peachy,  who manages Rose’s housekeeping business, has
been arrested for passing  counterfeit money, money she got from a bank.  Poke
learns from his  friend, Arnold Prettyman, a spy, maybe, that North Korea is
trying to flood the world with counterfeit American and Thai currency  that is
so good it is difficult for even experts to tell the  difference.  Clearly,
someone is passing the notes through reputable  banks and on to innocent
customers like Peachy.  Prettyman warns Poke to  stay clear of this mess; Poke,
of course, will not.

In the  meantime, Poke realizes that he is being followed by people who take
their roles very seriously.  When he is attacked and kidnapped, he wakes up in a
garage.  A young woman tells Poke someone wants to talk to  him.  “…Poke sees
an old man shuffle around the end of the van, his  feet in cheap carpet
slippers.  The edge of the light hits his knees,  and then, as he moves forward,
his waist, and then his shoulders, and  then his face, and Poke looks at the
face twice before he launches  himself from the chair, shaking off Leung’s hand,
and does his level  best to break his father’s nose.” (page  84).  Poke hasn’t
seen his father since he was 16.  Frank had abandoned Poke and his mother to
return to China, to the woman to whom he was all ready married.  Poke hasn’t
wanted to see him and Frank’s appearance isn’t changing Poke’s mind.  Frank
Rafferty introduces Poke to his female abductor, Ming Li, the half sister Poke
didn’t know he had, and to a  box of rubies that Poke doesn’t want to know
anything about.

From this point things get complicated.  When  Rose and Miaow become pawns, Poke
realizes that a family created by blood  isn’t the same as a family created bybonds, until Rose teaches him  something different.

THE FOURTH WATCHER is the second in the Poke  Rafferty series; Timothy  Hallinan
creates characters better than most authors.  He doesn’t  let the reader forget that Bangkok is a character, too

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A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF – Lawrence Block ( Reviewed By Ted Feit)

The Alcoholics Anonymous program is designed to provide sustenance and
guidance to those seeking to remain sober.  Its 12-Step program is
meant to provide them with a moral roadmap to atone for past abuse,
mistakes and sins.  In this early-days Matthew Scudder novel, it
instead leads to a series of murders.

An alcoholic himself, Matthews enters AA in an effort to stay away
from alcohol, which had basically ruined his life.  Soon he meets Jack
Ellery, another AA member with whom he grew up in The Bronx.  While
Matthew became a cop, Jack went the other way, living a life of crime.
Now he is trying to take the seventh and eighth steps of the Program
by making amends.  The effort gets him murdered, shot in the head and
mouth, presumably by someone who is afraid Jack’s endeavors would
expose the killer for an act done in the past.  Jack’s sponsor retains
Matthew to look into some of the people Jack went to in his attempts
to make amends, if only to eliminate the innocent.

The novel is a look into not only a murder investigation, but other
things as well: Matthew’s development as a sober person; love; loss;
nostalgia; and most importantly, human relationships.  Written with a
fine eye for dialog and penetrating insight into the characters, the
book is an excellent example of why the Matthew Scudder series is so
highly regarded, and it is recommended.

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THE MOST DANGEROUS THING – Laura Lippman (Reviewed by Gloria Feit)

The new standalone novel from Laura Lippman was, to this reader,
unlike anything this wonderful author had written to this point.
[Among her more recent ones, “I’d Know You Anywhere” and “What the
Dead Know” still stand out in my memory and resonate with me.]  The
present work is not really a mystery [although there is a death early
on in the book] nor procedural, but instead a series of in-depth
character studies which will be difficult to match.

The author takes her time recreating and juxtaposing scenes from the
past with those of the present, from the time when “everything was
perfect until the moment it wasn’t,” in the lives of five youngsters
in their early teens, three brothers and two young girls.  Ultimately
each of these, along with their parents and siblings and extended
families, will have their own chapters, describing events which took
place in 1980, in their native Baltimore, with p.o.v. changes from one
character to another and from those early years to the present time,
when most of them have grown children of their own, all of it shaped
by one pivotal ‘incident’ [insert your own euphemism] which changes
all of their lives forever.  The reality of the events of that night
is different for each of them, children and parents alike.  And
ultimately it is about secrets kept, or not.

One of the three brothers, Gordon (“Go-Go”) Halloran, nine years old
in 1980 and always the most reckless of the three, although presently
two years sober, leaves the bar at which he has just fallen off the
wagon and does not make it home alive, crashing into a wall at about
100 mph.  There is a question about whether it was a tragic accident,
or something somehow worse.

I found this book [in which, btw, Tess Monaghan makes a cameo
appearance] a departure for this author, and very thought-provoking.
I suspect it too will stay in my memory for a long while.
Parenthetically, I loved Ms. Lippman’s description of one perpetually
angry character who, when counting to ten, started at nine.  But there
are many memorable moments, and personalities, here.

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THE SHADOW OF THE WIND – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A second book featuring Daniel Semper, THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN, is now available.  THE SHADOW OF THE WIND ranks as one of the best I have read.

Posted on July 1, 2010

I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.  Has there ever been an opening sentence so calculated to ensnare the lovers of books?

The Cemetery of Forgotten books is a secret place in Barcelona; the knowledge of its existence is passed from generation to generation.  Daniel Sempere is taken their by his father, a bookseller.  Books, Daniel is told, have souls.  They contain the souls of the author and the souls of all who read them and for whom they inspire dreams. Every time a library or a bookstore closes, the guardians of the books rescue them and protect them until they can be brought back into the light of day.  The first time someone comes to the Cemetery of Forgotten books, they choose a book and it becomes the life-long responsibility of the person who takes it.  The book Daniel chooses is THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Julian Carax.

Daniel is so enthralled by the book that he is determined to find all the other books written by the author. But he finds that someone is ahead of him, finding Carax’s books and destroying them. One day, Daniel, as an adult, is confronted by the man who is determined to erase Carax’s name and existence. Now, Daniel becomes determined to discover the secrets of the man who wrote THE SHADOW OF THE WIND and the man who wants it destroyed.

THE SHADOW OF THE WIND is a story filled with joy. Carlos Ruiz Zafon places the narrative in the period after WWII when Spain is controlled by Francisco Franco and there are spies everywhere, watching every moment of an individuals life.  Daniel is shadowed by the police but he is also shadowed by the mysterious figure who wants his book. But this is a book about the power of words to transform lives, to broaden them, and make them richer. And so, there is joy and hope.

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Dave Gruley retired from the homicide unit of the New York City police department with the highest solve rate in the history of the department. When presented with a puzzle, he can’t leave it alone until he has worked his way through it.  There is a dearth of puzzles in his retirement existence on a small farm in upstate New York and boredom led him to give up the the quiet life and return, unofficially, to that most serious of puzzles, discovering the identity of those who decide they hold the power of life and death. One attempt to find such a person nearly cost him his life.   His wife, Madeleine, is happy in their quiet life but she knows that Dave is not.  When Kim Corazon asks Dave to “look over her shoulder” as she works on her graduate thesis, Madeleine encourages him to do so.  Kim’s mother, Connie Clarke, is a journalist whose article about Dave enshrined his reputation and Madeleine thinks  helping Kim is a way to repay the favor.

Kim’s video project is an analysis of the lives of the families who lost someone to the serial killer who called himself the Good Shepherd.  It has been ten years since the killings stopped and, in those years, no information has surfaced that could lead to an identification.  Kim has the ability to draw out her subjects, to humanize the victims, and to make people care  the survivors and to feel their loss.  The thesis is titled “Orphans of Murder.”  Her thesis adviser is so impressed with her project that he contacts RAM, the cable television network.  Kim’s project fits RAM’s demographic.  RAM does want it but Kim is appalled when she sees how the network has sensationalized her  story.  Dave’s role becomes much more than looking over Kim’s shoulder.  One of Kim’s faithful viewers is the Good Shepherd who comes out of the past and begins killing survivors of the original victims.

As he learns the details of these  murders, Dave discovers that the FBI had conducted a directionless investigation, a tragic oversight since the Good Shepherd had designed a plan guaranteed to point law enforcement in the wrong direction.  The Good Shepherd’s return is both a taunt to law enforcement who have never let the cases go completely cold and a chastisement to the media for not letting the devil sleep.

To frighten the greatest number of people, the Good Shepherd issues a
“Memorandum of Intent”. He identifies those with whom he is at war.

“1. If the love of money, which is greed, is the root of all evil, then it follows that the greatest good will be achieved by its eradication.

2. Since greed does not exist in a vacuum but exists in its human carriers, it follows that the way to eradicate greed is to eradicate its carriers.

3. t The good shepherd culls the flock, removing the diseased sheep from the healthy sheep, because it is good to stop the spread of infection.  It is good to protect the good animals from the bad.”

RAM plays a major role in the resurgence of the Good Shepherd in the public eye and ear.  Television demands that both senses be engaged and RAM demands it more than other networks.

LET THE DEVIL SLEEP is the third book in the Dave Gurney series.  the characters are people a reader will want to meet again and again. The stories take a different path even though the series are essentially police procedurals.  Each book is a reflection on a part of the American psyche in the twenty-first century. ” Let the devil sleep ” is an old saying that warns that stirring things up may lead to problems no one sees lurking in the shadows.  But in creating the fictional RAM, the author squares off against one of the most destructive mind sets in the US today.  It doesn’t take a leap of imagination to see that RAM is the belligerent cousin of the sly and sneaky Fox.  Manufacturing enemies and drumming up hysteria is the MO of Fox.  Convince the viewers that their greatest enemy is their neighbor and badger people into believing that the Founding Fathers really meant handguns when putting “the right to bear arms”into the Constitution. Divorcing history from politics guarantees that no one notices that the phrase refers to the event that started the American Revolution – the British army collecting the arms of the local militia from the armory leaving the colonists in Boston defenseless against an invading army.

In service to ad revenue and audience numbers, “RAM coverage of the Good Shepherd case created the ultimate trash model for cable: endless mindless debates, amplification of conflict, ugly conspiracy theories, the glorification of outrage,  blame based explanations for everything”.  The Bible says we must love our neighbor.  The “RAM” model also appeals to our emotions.  “”…emotion created its own logic, how anger was invariably the mother of certainty.  It is surely one of the great ironies of human nature that when our passions most severely disorient us, we are most positive that we see things clearly.”  Does anyone manufacture phony outrage better than the talking head with the initials S. H.?

In a book about the misuse of the media, John Verdon writes a brilliant indictment of those who swallow everything that is placed in front of them without question because to question requires effort.  The far right in the United States has adopted the politics of a billionaire Australian who moved across the Atlantic after he pulled the rug out from under the British body politic.  The far right insists they are the true American patriots not realizing that they parrot the politics of Rupert Murdoch who increases his wealth at the expense of truth, justice, and the American way.

LET THE DEVIL SLEEP is a must read for anyone with a scintilla of curiosity about the sleeping devil that is a media outlet without conscience,  the only source of information for the majority of Americans.  It is a book that is so good that once started the reader won’t want to put it down until the last page is turned.

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