Monday, August 6, 2012

May Books

*Defending Jacob by William Landy is a gripping, multiple-faceted story with well-crafted plot twists and turns.  A 14-year-old boy is stabbed to death near his middle school in a Boston suburb, and Assistant DA Andy Barber takes the case, despite the fact that his son, Jacob, was a classmate of the victim. But when Jacob become the prime suspect, Andy is removed from the case and spends the next several months trying to understand his son and assist in his defense. I thought the work was a worthy heir of Scott Thurow at his best.

*The Social Conquest of Earth by E.O. Wilson is a panoramic view of how a hundred million years of evolution has shaped the history of civilization.  The acclaimed biologist discusses how morality, religion, and the creative arts are biological in nature and defends his theory that the origin of the human condition is due to group, not family, selection.  In addition to his scientific credentials,  Wilson is a talented writer with a sense of humor that almost kept me engaged through seemingly  endless millennia of evolutionary progress.

*Watergate: A Novel by Thomas Mallon is a richly detailed, engaging fictional re-examination of the most infamous political scandal of my lifetime. In the hands of a master historical novelist, the well-traveled story becomes a fresh page-turner.  Told from the perspectives of seven characters, we get lots of factual data, gossip and creative invention.

The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith isn’t Dostoyevsky, but about a superstar in the "information retrieval" business. Geiger's clients count on him to extract the truth from even the most reluctant subjects. He prefers to avoid bloodshed and never works with children. When his partner Harry brings a client who insists on interrogating a twelve-year-old boy, Geiger rescues the boy and promises to protect him from further harm. But Geiger and Harry may become the victims of an utterly ruthless adversary. Geiger remains superbly competent after being tortured, shot, stabbed, beaten and almost drowned--you get the picture.

*The Expats by Chris Palone is a stunningly confident, complex first novel by an ex-patriot editor. Dexter is offered a job in Luxembourg with a private bank, and his CIA agent wife Kate (who hasn’t told Dexter about her real job)  finds housework and lunches with other expats boring. Moreover, Dexter's new, uncharacteristic behavior and the curiosity of  friends Julia and Bill raise her suspicions. “Kate's character, her CIA experiences, and her new life are examined in granular detail, all of which helps drive an intricate, suspenseful plot that is only resolved in the final pages.”

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