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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: Darkest Fear by Harlan Coben

Myron Bolitar is one of my favorite characters. The series has a fine sense of humor laced with a good mystery. The beginning starts off well with Myron trying to be nice to his mother, a lawyer who never, ever cooks, but who has just turned out a pastry that Myron thinks tastes just like urinal cakes.

In this novel, Coben mixes the serious with levity. He is contacted by an ex-girlfriend who had ultimately married his arch rival on the basketball court and whom he blames for his career-destroying knee injury. It seems her son has a life-threatening disease that can only be cured with a bone marrow transplant and the one match in the registry has disappeared. She wants Myron to find the donor and save her son’s life. From there it gets really complicated mixing a serial killer with a discredited journalist whose being staked out by the FBI and a very rich family who has a secret they refuse to reveal.

Coben ties it together very nicely, but I sometimes wonder if the excellent narration by Jonathan Marosz doesn’t make the difference between 3 and 4 stars.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Review: Extreme Prey by John Sandford

Sandford is in top form and Ferrone again reads magnificently in this politically-based story. No longer a police procedural, Lucas has resigned as the top BCI cop and is working on his cabin when he is called by the governor’s staff to come help out with a thorny problem. Henderson, womanizer that he is, is running for Veep and has been approached by several weird people all conveying the message that he needs to move to the center in case something happens to Bowdin (the woman running for president whose VP he would like to be.) As with many thrillers, some suspension of reality is required, as Lucas, hyper-observant as usual, is soon on the track of some old radicals with an agenda that’s not quite clear and may be related to an older unsolved crime.

Many of the other Sandford series protagonists make cameo appearances in the book: Virgil Flowers (my favorite series) and Kidd (also a great series but very dated now) to name but a couple. The last chapter portends an interesting new track for Lucas Davenport. I think it has promise.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Quinn Checks In by LH Thomson

This is the first in the eponymic series about an ex-art forger who know works for an insurance company as an investigatory. His father and brother are cops (the father is actually retired). In this case a Vermeer is stolen along with a copy of a minor work. What’s unclear is why the copy was stolen in the first place as it had virtually no value.

That minor mystery soon becomes a much larger one linked to a bank heist and the Philadelphia mob enters the scene with its own agenda. It’s a reasonably good start to the series and I’ll move on to the second in spite of an overly convoluted plot.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Transgender rant

I will never understand the fuss over transgenders using whatever bathroom they feel comfortable using. We had a case at the college where I worked. I was the EEO officer in addition to my other responsibilities, so I became involved with the issues and conflicts such a situation engenders (pun intended.)

It was a case where a guy we had known for years had apparently been tortured by having to be a man and decided the hormonal pressures were (and the scientific evidence is clear that it is indeed a hormonal condition)** too much to bear and had decided to undergo therapy and then have a sex-change operation. As part of that process, he had to “become” a woman, dress and “act” the part. I can only imagine how incredibly difficult it was for him, and I was dismayed by the lack of compassion and understanding on the part of a few otherwise intelligent and ostensibly religious people. Believe me, this is not something anyone would put themselves through willingly without a lot of biological pressure. I’m not suggesting the situation wasn’t awkward, but it was nice to see how he was supported and accepted by some, but sad to witness evil and vindictiveness in others.

The fuss over bathroom use is just childish. Congressional advocates in North Carolina who passed the law requiring everyone to use the bathroom consistent with the gender on their birth certificate are either completely ignorant, just plain mean, or playing politics. (In one of the great ironies associated with the legislation, those purporting to advocate “states’ rights” took away a city’s right to prevent discrimination.) How they could ever enforce the law is beyond me. Perhaps matrons at the door checking birth certificates and equipment? And what to do with post-op transgenders?

Women’s bathrooms with more than one toilet have stalls. Those stalls lock. They are quite private. Rapists just are not going to dress up as women so they can pick on little girls in ladies rooms. If they want to rape or molest little kids, all they need to do is go to seminary as we’ve learned from the scandals in the Catholic Church. If some woman walked into men’s bathroom and started using a urinal, the overwhelming response will be a big yawn. If someone dressed as a woman walked into a woman’s bathroom and used a stall, the response would be another yawn.

Gender is much more than physical attributes. Let’s stop playing politics with people’s lives. On , the other hand, as we grow up, and older less forgiving and compassionate people die off, perhaps the problem will solve itself. I’m old enough to remember whites only bathrooms.

**An excellent, but very sad, case study is As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl by John Colapinto. One of the more interesting little tidbits in this book is that 1/1000 children is born with indeterminate gender. Read the book to discover what the common practice to fix this was not too long ago. My review at

See also the review article in Endocrine Practice:

And by all means read this story and watch the video.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review: A Conflict of Interest by Adam Mitzner

I had read A Case of Redemption and enjoyed it so I thought I’d follow through with the first in the series (backwards, I know). It features attorney Alex Miller, a partner at a large law firm who agrees to take on a securities fraud case for an old friend of the family, Michael Ohlig. Ohlig it turns out was an old family friend and that’s when things begin to get complicated as Alex develops a hard-on for the associate working on the case. That causes lots of repercussions, and I should stop now before descending into that nether-world of spoilers. Conflicts, indeed.

There must be something about lawyers who write books about the law. They all seem so cynical and dispiriting. E.g.,

"Finally, three weeks after my initial meeting with Ohlig, the first meeting of the joint defense group convenes. Every lawyer is accompanied to the meeting by an associate, all of whom are women. Quick math tells you that, with ten lawyers at a blended hourly rate north of $1,000, these meetings cost more than ten grand every sixty minutes. This meeting will last about an hour, but I’m sure everyone will bill it at two, including travel and rounding up, and then the associates will all write memos recounting what happened, which the partners will review, and then the memos will never be looked at again. All in, this meeting will cost Ohlig about $40,000.”